Stop MLAs' pay under direct rule, Brokenshire urged

MLAs should only be paid for a maximum of three months if direct rule from Westminster become necessary.

Monday, 6th March 2017, 1:49 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 11:07 am
Alan McQuillan, Pat McCartan, and Etta Campbell

In a letter addressed to Secretary of State James Brokenshire, the former members of the Independent Financial Review Panel in the NI Assembly also recommend “immediate protective notice” for MLAs’ employees.

There is currently no panel in place to examine MLAs salaries.

In the letter to the NI Secretary, the former panel members explain: “The Panel was set up by the Assembly Speaker and Commission in 2011. Over its lifetime it radically reformed the expenses system. The IFRP awarded MLAs a substantial pay rise – the first in almost 12 years – but funded this through changes in the arrangements for MLA expenses and pensions and reducing waste.

File photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

“We also delivered a net cash saving of over £0.5m per annum

“Panel members collectively left post in June 2016 when our appointments expired. In law the Panel still exists but all the posts are vacant.

“The Assembly Commission has failed to start any process to replace us. We understand that this is because the two major parties are unable to agree on how this should be done or what the future shape of the system might be.

“The impact is that there is now no external oversight on the arrangements to pay salaries and expenses to MLAs and Ministers, nor is there any ability to change the existing system which will continue until legislation is changed or a new Determination issued by a revised panel.”

File photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

The letter continues: “Given our work and the general public disquiet expressed to the IFRP in every public consultation the Panel undertook, we must strongly suggest that payments to MLAs in the absence of a functioning Assembly and Executive would be publically regarded as unjustifiable. Also, that any future system for payments to MLAs needs strong and independent administration, supervision, and audit.

“If the Government is therefore forced to suspend the Assembly by Order in Council we strongly recommend that you consider strictly limiting the period for which members may draw salaries and expenses – perhaps to a period of three months to allow completion of any negotiations.

“We do not even see why expenses should be paid for this period as these are supposed to relate to the management of MLAs constituency offices and without a functioning Assembly the work that can be done in these is very limited.”

The letter is signed by former panel members Pat McCartan CBE, Dr Etta Campbell CB and Alan McQuillan OBE