According to the UTV report the Northern Ireland Assembly Members Bill, currently at the report stage in the House of Lords, has been amended to “prevent local elected representatives from earning a salary from sitting at both Westminster and in the Northern Ireland Assembly.” According to the UTV report
The move follows pressure from Tories and Liberal Democrats, and would prevent a politician who receives a salary from sitting in either the Commons or the Lords from also being paid as an assembly member. Lords Leader Baroness Royall, speaking during the report stage debate, said she hoped the provision would be a “catalyst” for politicians to decide whether they wanted to sit in Westminster or in the assembly.
Clause 1 : Salaries and allowances
Moved by Baroness Royall of Blaisdon
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 17, leave out subsection (5) and insert
( ) For subsection (4) substitute
(4) Provision under subsection (2A) must ensure that, if a salary is payable to a member of the Assembly (M) as a member of either House of Parliament or as a member of the European Parliament
(a) if M does not hold an office within subsection (9A), no salary is payable to M under this section;
(b) if M holds an office within subsection (9A), the salary which would otherwise be payable to M under this section is reduced by the appropriate amount.
(4A) The appropriate amount is the amount of the salary payable under this section to members of the Assembly generally.?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, in moving Amendment 1, I will speak also to the other government amendment in this group. This amendment deals with the issue of dual mandates, which was clearly a matter of concern on Second Reading and in Committee. I am sure that the debate this afternoon will give another clear indication, if one were needed, that this issue remains important.
I think it would be appropriate if I briefly mention the political process before turning to the detail of the amendments before us today. The Hillsborough talks established by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach last week have now continued for eight days. With good political will, we believe that the parties should soon be able to reach a reasonable agreement.
Turning to the amendments, I listened carefully to the debate in Grand Committee and undertook to reflect on the issues raised by noble Lords. Since Grand Committee we have drafted two amendments that I believe are an appropriate way of using this Bill to address the issue of dual mandates and that offer a reasonable compromise.
The amendments tabled in my name would mean that if a salary is payable to an MLA as a Member of either House of Parliament or as a Member of the European Parliament, he or she will not receive a salary as an MLA. This would mean that politicians are unable to benefit financially purely as a result of being elected to two legislatures. The reduction in salary would take effect as soon as the Bills provisions are commenced: it is not predicated upon the establishment of the independent body. The amendments would also have an effect on pensions. For any period when an MLAs salary is reduced to zero, he or she will not accrue pension benefits. The amendment would apply only to salaries, not allowances.
I believe that consensus is of particular importance today. It is important in relation to the talks that will continue this afternoon at Hillsborough and it is important in relation to the issues that we are debating in this House. As I said at the outset, the Government believe that these amendments offer a basis for consensus. Sending a message that we in this House are able to reach agreement on this sensitive issue of dual mandates would be most valuable. I beg to move.