Peter Robinson: expenses row
Published 08/05/2009 | 12:58
First Minister Peter Robinson has hit out strongly against criticism of his expenses — and revealed that he has turned down better-paid jobs outside politics.
The DUP leader also said he was not prepared to employ by open competition.
He made his comments in a tersely-worded email to a member of the public, which has been passed on the blog site Slugger O’Toole.
Mr Robinson has faced criticism in recent weeks over the remuneration from his Stormont and House of Commons jobs.
His letter stated: “When I entered politics I took a reduction in salary in order to serve my community.
“I have twice been offered employment in the private sector at salaries significantly more attractive than that which I presently receive for a job that has required a much greater sacrifice in time and stress. I do the job I do because I am in politics because of conviction.”
The First Minister and his politician wife employ all three of their children and a daughter-in-law from their office-running allowances.
His letter said: “I make no apology for employing my own family and those who are the family of friends. I have been an elected representative for more than 30 years and have worked through the conflict that our society has faced. Those who work in my office know where I am and when I will attend meetings and events. I am not prepared to employ by open competition.
“My life depends on those who I have around me but even if it were not so, there are distinct advantages in employing those who are completely loyal and in tune with the position I adopt.”
Critics have pointed out that the pay and allowances received by Mr and Mrs Robinson from their Assembly and Commons jobs add up to more than £550,000.
His letter said: “Is this a sexist suggestion that my wife should not be an MP because I am an MP or the equally ludicrous suggestion that she should earn less and spend less in serving her constituents because she is married to an MP?”
Mr Robinson also hit out at “inaccurate trash” and “nonsense” in the press about his expenses.
The person who wrote the critical letter to the DUP leader had suggested that MPs should not also be MLAs and councillors
Mr Robinson’s reply stated: “In principal this is a sensible position to adopt. My only caveat is that it was felt essential by all the political parties that the most experienced politicians should be in the Assembly in its early years to assist in bedding down the institutions.”
Email in full
> > From: Rebekah Robinson
> Sent: 29 April 2009 10:45
> Subject: Re: Your email to Peter Robinson MP MLA
> I have been asked to pass on the following from The Rt Hon Peter
> Robinson MP MLA:
> > Dear XXXXXXX
> I note the comments in your email. It might be better to look at
> the facts rather than repeating the nonsense in the press. Do you
> believe that an elected representative should be available to those
> who elect him/her?
> > Should constituents be able to contact their MP when in need?
> Parliament believes they should and if you agree then an office is
> necessary and so is staffing. Parliament has set the level for this
> function and I note that my wife and I claimed less than any other
> Northern Ireland MP.
> > Why do you add my wife’s salary and expenses to mine. Is this a
> sexist suggestion that my wife should not be an MP because I am an
> MP or the equally ludicrous suggestion that she should earn less and
> spend less in serving her constituents because she is married to an
> MP. As for the preposterous proposition that somehow the expenses
> of my wife for running Strangford should be added to mine for
> running East Belfast - are the people of East Belfast to travel to
> Ards or Comber to visit advice centres? These expenses are paid out
> directly by the House of Commons and are not sent to the MP. The
> suggestion that this equates to income for the MP is deliberate
> > So why do you add the cost of running constituency offices to our
> > In no other area of life would you do so. Do you suggest that the
> cost of running a doctor’s surgery including staff should be equated
> to the doctor’s income? To do so for MP’s is mischievous and
> dishonest. I suspect that the newspaper editors who for newspaper
> sales like lurid headline, no matter how fraudulent, do not add the
> salaries of their secretaries and assistants or the costs of renting
> offices, heating and lighting etc along with their own salary when
> talking about their income but hypocritically they do so when
> writing about MPs.
> > I intend to continue to provide the people of East Belfast with the
> best services that I can in spite of the rubbish in the newspapers.
> I am glad that only two people have written to me about this issue.
> It gives me encouragement that so few are fooled into believing the
> inaccurate trash in some papers.
> > There were three other issues raised in some reports which I will
> also take the opportunity to comment upon even though you did not
> raise them (but in case you read them). Firstly it was suggested
> that someone who is an MP should not be an Assembly Member or
> Councillor. In principal this is a sensible position to adopt. My
> only caveat is that it was felt essential by all the political
> parties that the most experienced politicians should be in the
> Assembly in its early years to assist in bedding down the
> > I expect that this dual mandate position will be phased out by all the
> > parties as the Assembly stabilises. Some time ago all the political
> > parties committed themselves in an Assembly Committee to this course
> of action. I can assure you that working 16 hour days to carry out
> all the work needing to be done is not something I want to long
> > The other issue related to the employment of family members by
> elected representatives. I make no apology for employing my own
> family and those who are the family of friends. I have been an
> elected representative for more than thirty years and have worked
> through the conflict that our society has faced. Those who work in
> my office know where I am and when I will attend meetings and
> events. I am not prepared to employ by open competition.
> > My life depends on those who I have around me but even if it were
> not so there are distinct advantages in employing those who are
> completely loyal and in tune with the position I adopt. The
> critical requirement here is that the people employed are capable of
> doing the job and actually give the time to do it. On both of these
> counts I am satisfied I have the right people working for me. I
> only add that when my daughter carried a parcel bomb with ball-
> bearings attached to the explosives out of my office I didn’t see
> anyone queuing up for her job and when my son opened a letter bomb
> at my home there was nobody pushing him out of the way to take over.
> > References have been made to the Second Home Allowance. My home is
> in Northern Ireland and when I am staying in London clearly I need
> suitable accommodation. I have no problem what scheme the House of
> Commons adopts for the payment of this accommodation. I shall
> continue to operate within the rules. As far as the actual Second
> Home costs of staying in London are concerned it is apportioned
> between my wife and myself.
> > I am more than happy that we have transparency in how elected
> representatives are remunerated but I believe you and I both have a
> right to expect honest reporting of the facts.
> > When I entered politics I took a reduction in salary in order to
> serve my community. I have twice been offered employment in the
> private sector at salaries significantly more attractive than that
> which I presently receive for a job that has required a much greater
> sacrifice in time and stress. I do the job I do because I am in
> politics because of conviction. You may not share my views but I am
> in politics to serve, to the best of my ability, and have never once
> put remuneration before duty. My family has sacrificed more than
> you and others will ever know and I deeply resent the suggestion
> that money has been the motivating factor.
> > As for your comment, “I am not sure if you are aware but there is
> currently a recession on”. Perhaps next time you decide to look at
> the BBC web site you might look for the many meetings I have had
> with banks, energy companies, business and community organisations
> about the economic downturn.
> > I have travelled the globe trying to encourage companies to come to
> Northern Ireland to bring jobs here and I have placed the recession
> on the agenda of every Executive meeting. Recently I chaired the
> first meeting of the Cross Sector Advisory Forum which is bringing
> forward recommendations as to how we can best take Northern Ireland
> through the downturn. Yes, I am aware of the recession and I have
> and intend to continue to do all that I can to deal with its impact
> on those I serve.
> > Yours sincerely
> > Peter Robinson
> > I trust this is satisfactory.
> > Best wishes
> > Ms Rebekah Robinson
> Office Manager & Private Secretary to
> The Rt Hon Peter Robinson MP MLA