I joined this place, as did many others, because I want to move politics forward, not turn back the clock and bring back a firmly discredited practice. Double-jobbing was banned in Northern Ireland many years ago, and it should remain so. Being an MLA and doing it properly is a full-time job, as is being an MP. People in Northern Ireland deserve MLAs who are firmly committed to making devolution work, not part-time MLAs who are also keeping their foot in Westminster, shamelessly hedging their bets on the future of Stormont and depending on how their party performs and how they want this place to work.
In 2022, we ought to be about enhancing the diverse range of politicians across Northern Ireland who represent the people, whether it be in district councils, the Assembly or Westminster, not about a few hogging multiple top jobs.
When Stephen Farry was elected an MP, he legally had to give up his MLA seat, and that is what happened. I replaced him as MLA for North Down. That was the right thing to do. It was also right that I gave up my full-time job and was disqualified from and gave up my role as a councillor. I am dedicated, on a full-time basis, to making devolution work, and others should be likewise.
The Owen Paterson scandal again shed a light on MPs taking on professional work while being a full-time elected representative. That also needs to be addressed. People should be here full-time, dedicated to the Assembly. Stormont should not be seen as a plaything for some people. Everyone in this place should be focused on the people and on serving them, not on themselves and their party.
I again urge the UK Government to withdraw the proposals. All along, we have been told that nothing in the New Decade, New Approach package could be amended by the legislation in Westminster, despite many worthwhile amendments, but why this? Why now? I think that we all know the answers. It stinks, and the proposals need to be withdrawn.