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Julian Smith given '£17k payoff' after sacking as Secretary of State

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Former Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith

AFP via Getty Images

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith has been given a payoff of nearly £17,000 after being unceremoniously sacked by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, according to reports.

News of the popular secretary of state's sacking was met with shock and dismay across Northern Ireland on Thursday.

Mr Smith was replaced by former Conservative Party Chairman Brandon Lewis.

The Times has revealed that the blow will be cushioned as Mr Smith is set to receive a payoff of £16,875 after just 204 days in the role. Former Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers was given the same amount after being sacked as Environment Secretary.

Karen Bradley received a similar payoff upon leaving the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) in July 2019.

The Belfast Telegraph attempted to find out exactly how much Mrs Bradley had been paid through a Freedom of Information request to the NIO.

In response the NIO said that while it had the information it would not release it saying it was not in the public interest to do so.

It will be published in future as part of the NIO's annual report and accounts.

"In this case, I have concluded that the public interest favours withholding the information," an NIO spokesperson said.

The NIO's 2018/19 annual report and accounts show that James Brokenshire was given £16,876 when he resigned as NI Secretary due to health reasons in January 2018.

Shailesh Vara was awarded £8,408 when he resigned as Minister of State for Northern Ireland in January 2018, the accounts show.

He left the Cabinet due to a disagreement over Theresa May's Brexit withdrawal agreement.

Former Conservative leadership candidate Andrea Leadsom was also awarded just short of £17,000 after being sacked as Business Secretary on Thursday, and marked the occasion by taking her staff to London's Goring Hotel for a champagne lunch.

Former Attorney General Geoffrey Cox is entitled to a £23,610 payout after being relieved from his role, which came with the highest yearly salary in the Cabinet at £94,450.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson told the Belfast Telegraph that under the terms of the Ministerial and other Pensions and Salaries Act 1991 (section 4), all ministers under the age of 65 who leave the government and are not appointed to a new ministerial position within three weeks are entitled to severance payments.

"Relevant departments' severance payments to ministers are set out in their annual report and accounts," the spokesperson said.

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New Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis leaves 10 Downing Street during the reshuffle

New Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis leaves 10 Downing Street during the reshuffle

AFP via Getty Images

New Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis leaves 10 Downing Street during the reshuffle

Meanwhile, incoming Secretary of State Mr Lewis wasted no time in getting to grips with his new role.

He spoke with First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill on Friday morning and said he was looking forward to working with them and their Executive team.

He also spoke with PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne in what he described as a "very useful catch up" and spoke to Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney about "building on the good work already done".

"Ireland is our nearest neighbour and a key partner," the Secretary of State said.

Sinn Fein vice-president Ms O'Neill said that she agreed to hold an "urgent early meeting" with Mr Lewis to discuss a range of issues, including "legacy, bad faith on pensions, Brexit and political and financial commitments to make the Assembly and Executive sustainable".

Mr Coveney said he had a "very positive" first call with Mr Lewis.

"Looking forward to working with Brandon Lewis for as long as I hold my role in government," he said.

"Northern Ireland deserves and needs a strong and positive relationship with UK and Irish Governments."

The NIO was approached for comment, but declined.

Belfast Telegraph


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