With the UUP / Conservative Party working group in session, no doubt there will be discussion of policy where the Ulster Unionists could claim substantial input, or derive benefit. Preventing double jobbing between Westminster and the Northern Ireland Assembly would substantially weaken the DUP and ask serious questions of Sinn Féin's abstentionism whilst simultaneously offering unambiguous benefits to constituents. It should be the type of idea which the UUP is pushing.
Of course double jobbing is actually not legally prevented in the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly either, so whether the UUP are proposing such measures or not, this is at best a tentative suggestion. Does it, however, provide an insight into some of the substance which the working group might be discussing? Does it represent the type of benefit which the UUP and Northern Ireland might be able to derive from their link-up?
Update: It is my understanding that the issue HAS been under discussion in the working group and that the UUP will endorse the notion later today.
Further update: Danny Kennedy has supported Conservative proposals to tackle double jobbing.
“I welcome this indication that an incoming Conservative administration will consider legislating against double-jobbing. Northern Ireland deserves full-time MPs, such as Lady Sylvia Hermon. For those of us who believe that Westminster is actually very important, the prospect of the present situation conti nuing – of at best part-time MPs splitting their time between the Northern Ireland Assembly and Parliament – is both worrying and shameful.
“There is, of course, the fact that this problem particularly afflicts Northern Ireland . Across the UK , there are only 17 double-jobbers in the devolved institutions in Belfast , Cardiff and Edinburgh . No Members of the Welsh Assembly are MPs. Only one Member of the Scottish Parliament is a MP. By contrast, 16 Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly are MPs, including – ridiculously – 7 Ministers and 1 Junior Minister. It is also worth noting that the DUP and Sinn Fein are the real problem parties on this matter. Of the 17 double-jobbers throughout the UK , 9 are DUP and 5 are Sinn Fein.
“Our fellow-citizens in Scotland and Wales do not suffer from this plague of double-jobbers. Nor should we in this part of the United Kingdom .
“Restoring integrity to Northern Ireland ’s representation at Westminster is surely something dear to any unionist, to those who believe in the significance of the Westminster Parliament, and to those who value good government. I fully expect the parties packed with the double-jobbers to disagree and drag their heels. I trust, however, that the next Government will see things differently – and move to restore integrity to Northern Ireland ’s representation at Westminster ”.