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Paterson vows to crack down on MP double-jobbing

By Tom Moseley

Secretary of State Owen Paterson has issued a new warning to Northern Ireland MPs who also sit at Stormont as MLAs.

Addressing the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Mr Paterson vowed to introduce laws to stamp out controversial “double-jobbing” if the political parties continue to drag their feet.

He also announced a new investigation into the consequences of a cut in Northern Ireland's corporation tax rate.

Mr Paterson also defended the coalition's spending cuts, claiming they had been less severe in Northern Ireland than elsewhere in the UK, and said the Government would “never be neutral” on Northern Ireland's place in the union.

Mr Paterson was applauded by delegates when he tackled the issue of double-jobbing, which the political parties involved have pledged to address.

He said: “I don't believe that anybody can be a full-time MP and a full-time Assembly Member.

“And so I will give you this commitment today — by agreement if possible but by law if necessary, we will end double-jobbing.”

Last month the Committee on Standards in Public Life hit out at double-jobbing by Assembly politicians in its annual report, prompting the Northern Ireland Office to reiterate its stance.

In a wide-ranging speech, Mr Paterson said he would be part of a new “joint ministerial working group” chaired by Exchequer Secretary David Gauke, to look further at the proposals to devolve the ability to set corporation tax.

There is cross-party support for the move, which would lead to a reduction in Northern Ireland's rate to allow it to compete with the Republic. Northern Ireland Minister Hugo Swire and Stormont executive ministers will also join the committee.

Its formation is recognition by officials that the consultation into the change, which ended in July, has not settled various key issues relating to devolving power to set the tax — namely how much it would cost and how it could be introduced.

It comes days after Labour's Northern Ireland spokesman used his conference address to urge Mr Paterson to “look before he leaps”, warning of the potential impact of a grant cut on public sector jobs.

The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association welcomed the announcement of a Joint Ministerial Working on Corporation Tax.

Speaking from the Conservative conference where he was lobbying for change, NIIRTA chief executive Glyn Roberts said: “This is a welcome move and hopefully is another step toward the devolution of Corporation Tax to Northern Ireland.

Mr Roberts added: “During various meetings this week at the conference I will be raising this issue and how Northern Ireland can be given the status of an Enterprise Zone.”

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