Tuesday, 21 April 2009

NI MPs should be treated the same as GB counterparts.

A statement from Harriet Harman contains detail of measures through which the Prime Minister intends to give the system of expenses for MPs some running repairs, pending a more thorough renovation. The most striking proposal would scrap the controversial second homes’ allowance and replace it with a simpler overnight allowance linked to attendance at the House of Commons.

Which is a sensible and necessary expedient. But, as Pete Baker on Slugger and Jonathan Isaby on ConHome have already noted, it may not apply to Northern Irish MPs. A passage of the statement reads,

“H. We will ask the Committee on Standards in Public Life to look at the circumstances applying in Northern Ireland before final application of the flat rate allowance for MPs representing Northern Ireland.”

One circumstance, which conspicuously applies in Northern Ireland, is that 5 Members of Parliament, elected by the province’s voters, refuse to take their seats. Sinn Féin’s abstentionism, shamefully, does not prevent it from claiming monies which are intended to enable MPs to represent their constituents in the House of Commons.

It would seem that, whilst Labour is prepared to link expenses to the purposes for which they are intended in the rest of the United Kingdom, in Northern Ireland it may continue simply to allow them to be used to top up party funds.

There is no doubt that Northern Ireland’s MPs should be treated like their counterparts in the rest of Britain. It will be interesting to see whether the DUP is prepared to argue against special treatment, because, with its double and triple mandates, it also benefits considerably from a system whereby expenses are not connected to attendance.

If the DUP is not prepared to launch such an argument, we need to know why not. Why does it believe a system which gives allowances for work which is not being done is appropriate? What does it feel should be the general rule in the House of Commons and should Northern Ireland be exempt from that rule? If so, why should Northern Ireland, once again, be the exception?

Speaking of which, I see Peter Weir has been dispensing his wisdom on the economy, through a DUP press release. It consists of the usual stuff. Conservatives believe cuts are necessary, cuts will effect Northern Ireland, UUP and Conservatives are aligned, ergo UUP believes Northern Ireland’s block grant should be cut.

Let me reframe the questions I asked last night. Does the DUP believe that the United Kingdom needs to cut its expenditure? If it does, is it seriously proposing that every part of the Kingdom, other than Northern Ireland, should foot the bill? If it does not believe cuts are necessary, what is its alternative economic analysis?

Or couldn’t it care less either way, so long as Northern Ireland continues to get as much money as possible?


Anonymous said...

Is there anything at all in what Weir said that is inaccurate?

Anonymous said...

Furthermore, you must be delighted that the DUP has tabled an EDM calling for all MPs to be treated the same? I look forward to resding your congratulatory post, because of course, you wouldn't be an utterly cynical "damned if you do, damned if you don't" type of a fellow, would you now?

Anonymous said...

I have little time for the people who said my children were legitimate targets for their murderous activities, but the Sinn Fein funding situation is not quite as you make out. They do have a need to maintain London offices from which to talk to policy makers.

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