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DUP set to lose key MLAs as double-jobbing is phased out

The DUP is ready to lose some of its best-known faces from its Assembly team as it bids to head off criticism over double-jobbing.

The party has announced that just one of its General Election candidates — leader Peter Robinson — will remain an MLA if returned to the Commons.

Mr Robinson yesterday confirmed that he will again be defending his East Belfast parliamentary seat.

Anyone else elected as an MP from the DUP will promptly quit Stormont, the party pledged.

That means some of its biggest names are prepared to vacate their Assembly roles — including deputy leader Nigel Dodds, the current Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson, Jeffrey Donaldson, Gregory Campbell, Rev William McCrea and Ian Paisley Jnr.

Mr Robinson said the MLA resignations are expected to take effect by the summer recess.

The UUP was expected to make the issue of double-jobbing a major line of attack on the DUP in the General Election campaign.

Mr Robinson announced the party’s move in a speech yesterday, which also included a carefully-worded, limited apology in relation to parliamentary expenses.

The speech at the Waterfront Hall launched the DUP's General Election slogan: “Let's keep Northern Ireland moving forward.”

He said: “Our party executive last night approved an officer recommendation that will mean any of our Assembly Members elected to Westminster will give up their Assembly seats.

“However the party believe that it is important, especially at this time, with the prospect of a hung Parliament that the party leader should remain at Westminster.”

The expenses apology related to the general system in place at Parliament, rather than any claims made by DUP members.

While stressing that he had been required to repay none of his own expenses by an audit review, He said: “No politician from any party comes out of this with credit.

“We focused and concentrated on other political issues and have to accept that we did not act to alter the systemic defects surrounding the issue of expenses.”

The DUP leader's double jobbing comments drew swift responses from his two unionist rivals for the east Belfast — Tory-UUP candidate Trevor Ringland and David Vance of the TUV.

Mr Ringland welcomed what he termed the “capitulation to pressure applied by the Conservatives and Unionists on the scandal of double jobbing”.

Mr Vance said East Belfast voters will be presented with a clear choice. He asked: “Do they want a part-time MP who will only turn up to Parliament sporadically on days when he has nothing better to do or do they want someone who will ensure that East Belfast has a vocal, full-time voice in the Commons?”

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