Belfast Telegraph

Secretary of State should cut MLA pay again, says Lady Sylvia Hermon

Sylvia Hermon speaking during the debate in the House of Commons.
Sylvia Hermon speaking during the debate in the House of Commons.

Lady Sylvia Hermon has called for the Secretary of State to cut MLA pay again in light of events at Stormont on Monday.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, the Independent MP for North Down asked what consideration the Secretary of State had given to cutting salaries as MLAs 'continue to be unable to fulfil their responsibilities'

She said: ""As members of the legislative assembly at Stormont continue to be unable to fulfil their responsibilities, what consideration has the Secretary of State given to cutting their salaries yet again?"

Julian Smith replied: "I plan to review all elements relating to the Assembly if we're unable to move things forwards over the coming days."

MLA salaries have been reduced from £49,500 to £35,888 in two stages since last September because they are not performing the full range of their legislative functions while Stormont is mothballed.

The first meeting of the Assembly since 2017 descended into farce on Monday with parties walking out of the chamber one by one.

An attempt by DUP MLAs to push through a Defence of the Unborn Child bill was blocked by the Speaker Robin Newton who said that legal advice told him Assembly business could not proceed without the election of a new Speaker and deputies on a cross-community basis.

Arlene Foster said it was "not the end of the matter" and her party would be exploring options to repeal the new legislation.

The sitting was attended by MLAs from the DUP, UUP and SDLP, alongside TUV leader Jim Allister and Independent unionist Claire Sugden. Sinn Fein and the Alliance Party did not attend, branding the recall of the Assembly a "stunt".

Chairman of the Commons Northern Ireland select committee Simon Hoare said the UK Parliament should consider legislating on the Irish Language Act to get the talks at Stormont moving.

He added: "The Secretary of State has provided a window which could possibly see this House overcome the hurdle which seems insurmountable for the parties in Northern Ireland and that is to legislate for the Irish Language Act.

"Therefore taking it out of the debate between the principal parties in Northern Ireland and in my judgment removing the hurdle which the roadblock, sorry to mix my metaphors, to getting Stormont back up and running."

Responding, Mr Smith said: "The Irish Language Act is one of a number of issues that are being discussed in the talks process.

"I'd say again the most important and the best way to resolve these issues is through the Stormont talks."

DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds accused the Government of sitting on its hands over restoring powersharing to Northern Ireland.

He added: "On health, education, crime, policing, investment and all the rest of it still the Government sits on its hands and allows no government for Northern Ireland. Is he now realising that with Brexit coming we have to have power in the hands of ministers whether in the assembly or here? We can't go on abdicating that decision?"

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