Northern Ireland Assembly Members Bill [ Lords]

Part of Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:37 pm on 11th March 2010.

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Photo of David Simpson David Simpson Shadow Spokesperson (Education), Shadow Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills) 3:37 pm, 11th March 2010

I should like to start by making reference to the Minister's welcome for the decision taken by the Assembly at the vote on policing and justice. I have to put it on the record that there is a lot of disappointment in Northern Ireland today at the stance of the Ulster Unionist party, now a sister party of the Conservative party. It did not support policing and justice. That seems very hypocritical and it is very sad that the party should have taken that decision. But we are where we are.

On the face of it, the Bill is short and fairly technical. It amends section 47 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 to allow the Northern Ireland Assembly, if it so wishes, to delegate responsibility for the salaries and allowances of its Members. I think, and my party believes, that that is a wise move that will be widely welcomed. Politicians should not be responsible for setting the level of their salaries or allowances.

The Bill makes another important amendment to section 47. Clause 1(5) will amend section 47 to ensure that a Member of the Legislative Assembly who is also a Member of either House of this Parliament or of the European Parliament will not receive a salary from the Assembly. That is already my party's position; it has made that very clear. Even before that proposal, the Democratic Unionist party had, of its own volition, stated that any Member of this House who would be a Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly after this election would not take any salary whatever from the Assembly. I therefore warmly welcome the proposed change, which will put into legislation what we had already said we would do voluntarily. Other parties had not set out their position as clearly. If a Member of this House is also a Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, he or she should not be paid for the latter. For my part, since being elected to this House I have donated my Assembly salary to many causes and youth organisations in my constituency. That is on the record in the Assembly and in the press, and I am glad to say that this year alone my elected friends and my donations have contributed well over £20,000 to Upper Bann.

The reputation of this Parliament, of the United Kingdom's Assemblies and of politics in general has been seriously damaged by the recent controversy and the heated debate throughout the nation about politicians' expenses and so on.