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.

Alert me about debates like this

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 thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. Of course, I agree 100 per cent., and our party is on the record as having said that.

Every political party has had cause to be embarrassed by the events of last year. Sometimes that embarrassment has been the result of guilt, and on other occasions it has been the result of wrongdoing, but none the less politicians need to understand that the world has changed. Expectations have changed. Politics and politicians need to change, too, and some time ago my party set out a series of proposals that were aimed at reform. Our suggestions incorporated salaries, allowances, accommodation, the employment of staff, MPs' outside employment and the operation and oversight of the Fees Office. We were attacked by our political opponents even as we did so, yet many of those who attacked us were content to take little or no action themselves. We made a full submission to the Kelly inquiry, and we are totally committed to supporting the implementation of its recommendations in full.

The DUP remains fully committed to ending dual mandates, and we have taken the lead on that matter. Unfortunately, other parties in Northern Ireland have not committed themselves. Ours is a growing and thriving party, and many in the ranks of the DUP have the potential to play a significant part in politics in Northern Ireland. We want to nurture and develop that rich and diverse pool of talent, and that is what we are doing.

It is clear that we have already embraced the spirit of the Bill. We are already moving towards implementing one of its core provisions-and going beyond it. the same cannot be said for other political parties in Northern Ireland. While they snipe at the Democratic Unionist party, they are, it seems, quite prepared to maintain a double-jobbing mentality. The Ulster Unionist party contains in its ranks several representatives who have more than one job. Some are farmers, some are antique dealers and their party leader is a councillor and an MLA. Indeed, in the past we had double-jobbers, such as my predecessor, Lord Trimble, who was an MP, an MLA and the First Minister. Not a single person ever raised a single criticism of him on that matter from these Benches-not one. There are, however, many people back at home in my constituency of Upper Bann who are very critical of the fact that despite holding so many offices and having access to many allowances, he decided that a single part-time constituency office on double yellow lines at the busiest set of traffic lights in the town of Lurgan in my constituency was sufficient constituency provision. As can be seen from that, there are serious issues about in how many Chambers politicians represent their constituents. However, there are also very important issues about the level of provision and the kind of representation politicians give to their constituents.

In conclusion, as I said at the start of my speech, the Bill is a step in the right direction. More steps will be needed, whether we make them through legislation in this House or through some other mechanism for another day, but I and my party are on record as welcoming this step forward and I am more than happy to support the Bill.