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Brandon Lewis ‘currently exploring’ options to cut MLA salaries while Jim Allister pledges percentage of pay to ‘fighting protocol’

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Secretary of State for NI Brandon Lewis. Picture date: Sunday June 12, 2022. Photo credit: Jeff Overs/BBC/PA Wire

Secretary of State for NI Brandon Lewis. Picture date: Sunday June 12, 2022. Photo credit: Jeff Overs/BBC/PA Wire

PA

Secretary of State for NI Brandon Lewis. Picture date: Sunday June 12, 2022. Photo credit: Jeff Overs/BBC/PA Wire

The Secretary of State is “currently exploring the options available to him to cut MLA salaries”, a UK spokesperson from the Northern Ireland Office confirmed on Tuesday.

On this day last month, Brandon Lewis told the Belfast Telegraph that he could act swiftly to cut MLAs’ salaries if the DUP doesn’t lift its block on nominating a Stormont Speaker, to allow the Assembly to function.

On Tuesday morning, TUV leader Jim Allister told BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan programme he “would understand” why Mr Lewis would cut MLAs’ pay, but reinforced that he is prepared to donate the percentage of the pay cut to “fight against the protocol”. 

Mr Allister said: “I would support it in that I understand why it would happen and I’ve made it publicly clear that if and when he does cut the pay, I will backdate that to the date of the Assembly and donate whatever has risen from that date up until the Secretary of State cuts it, to the cause of fighting the protocol, in respect to a donation to the fund of the Supreme Court Case, which hopefully will unsettle and remove the protocol”.

The North Antrim Assembly member explained that if Mr Lewis were to dock MLA pay by 30% for example, that he would calculate the 30% that he has received from the date of the election to the date the Secretary of State does reduce the pay.

"I would donate that figure to the fight against the protocol, because it is the issue that is preventing the Assembly from functioning,” he added. 

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MLA for the Alliance Party Eoin Tennyson, was also on the programme and reiterated his belief that the first step Brandon Lewis must take is to stop the salaries of MLAs who are refusing to sit in the Assembly.

“In any other line of work, if you don’t turn up for work, you are the person who doesn’t get paid and I think that’s fair and just,” he commented. 

“I actually think there is something that the Secretary of State could look at for that.”

He believes it would entice the DUP and TUV to “get back to work” if they were at the receiving end of no pay.

Mr Allister responded: “The criteria for cutting salaries would be because MLAs are not doing the legislative function of being an MLA. That applies to all 90, not just 30, or whatever… It has to cut across for everyone.”

He added that if it were the case that only select MLAs had their salaries reduced, then “you’re into the untenable position of saying, ‘you only get paid if you hold the right political views – you only get paid if you’re pro-Protocol’”. 

Mr Tennyson agreed that it is “untenable” for MLAs to be paid their full salaries if they are “in this suspended animation in the long-term, but in the first instance, the Secretary of State should be penalising who who are refusing to do their jobs”.

Mr Lewis’ predecessor Karen Bradley cut MLAs’ pay after 18 months of the last Stormont stalemate, but he indicated he would act much sooner.

The UK spokesperson continued: "The Government's firm view is that the parties have a responsibility to provide the people of Northern Ireland with the stable, devolved government they deserve.

"The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland remains in close contact with the parties and continues to stress the need for the full functioning of the Assembly and Executive to be restored as soon as possible.”


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