Lady Hermon attacks right of absentee Sinn Féin MPs to claim expenses

North Down MP, Lady Hermon
North Down MP, Lady Hermon

The right of Sinn Fein MPs to claim parliamentary expenses despite not taking their seats at Westminster has come under fire in the Commons.

Independent MP Lady Hermon (North Down) raised questions about the ability of absentee MPs to access public funds, despite Sinn Fein’s historic refusal to take seats in Parliament.

The comments came as MPs discussed emergency powers to allow Northern Ireland’s rowing parties further time to reach a powersharing agreement.

Lady Hermon said: “Is this Government prepared to take a hardline approach, a hard-headed approach and a proper approach towards Sinn Fein, who do not take their seats but are still able to take advantage of a huge amount of public funding from this House for administrative and secretarial assistance?

“I say that with great passion. I sit here as an independent, I don’t have a party. I receive no allowances in support of additional secretarial or administrative and I’m hugely resentful of the absentee MPs who claim to represent constituencies in Northern Ireland ... able to be paid thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money.”

Northern Ireland minister Kris Hopkins acknowledged that he had spoken against the practice in the past but he would not engage in “partisan debate” during talks to encourage co-operation between the parties.

He said: “My first ever point of order was actually around why do Sinn Fein get paid and don’t come here, so I’m not going to contradict myself on that issue.

“You know my view on this but it is about making sure we create the right political space... in which people can find agreement and then come together to offer the leadership which Northern Ireland (needs).”