Don’t cut MLA pay, says Labour

Owen Smith said pay cuts would undermine the ability of the parties to negotiate

Labour has urged the secretary of state not to cut MLAs’ pay, despite the continuing impasse at Stormont.

Speaking in the Commons on Thursday, Secretary of State James Brokenshire again hinted at cutting MLA pay but gave no commitment or deadline as to when he would do so.

Echoing what he had told the media the previous day, Mr Brokenshire told MPs: “As I recently told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, in the continued absence of a functioning Assembly the status quo is not tenable and therefore I will be seeking independent advice on MLA pay on what steps may be taken to reflect the current circumstances.”

As the News Letter revealed a fortnight ago, MLAs have cost taxpayers more than £10 million in salaries, expenses (largely office expenses) and other payments since Stormont collapsed in January.

There has been mounting pressure in Northern Ireland for pay to be cut or stopped, with several MLAs saying publicly that they are “embarrassed” to be paid while not doing a key part of their jobs.

However, speaking in the Commons yesterday Labour shadow Secretary of State Owen Smith pressed Mr Brokenshire in the opposite direction.

He said: “Can I also urge him to resist, given what he’s said today, short term pressure to cut MLAs’ pay? Cutting politician pay is always a popular thing to argue for. But we need, Mr deputy speaker, this generation of Northern Irish politicians to work and talk together to try and bring about power-sharing.

“While he’s right that patience is wearing thin in Northern Ireland, he should resist steps that would undermine the ability of the parties to negotiate and engage, particularly smaller parties.”

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