Legislation to extend power-sharing deadline and cut MLAs' pay to be introduced today

Legislation to extend power-sharing deadline and cut MLAs' pay to be introduced today

LEGISLATION WILL today be introduced in Westminster to allow for the extension of the deadline for parties in Northern Ireland to return to a power-sharing government.

The law will also see a pay cut to MLAs' salaries, which is viewed as a way to entice a return to power-sharing.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris had vowed to call a new election before Christmas if power-sharing was not restored by a minute past midnight on 28 October but failed to do so.

Speaking in the House of Commons earlier this month, he said the legislation will allow Northern Ireland's departments to support public services, and that extra powers are to be given to Stormont civil servants to enable them to run public services.

Extra provisions are also being made to allow a regional rate to be set, should an executive not be in place, as well as powers for the approval of some public appointments.

If the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) refuses to end its boycott of the Stormont institutions by 8 December, Mr Heaton-Harris has the option to either call an election - which would be for some time between mid-January and the beginning of March - or extend the deadline by six weeks to 19 January.

If nothing changes by then, an election could take place by 13 April.

The pay cut for MLAs is expected to be as much as a third of their current salary, which currently stands at a basic salary of £51,000 (€58,119).

It is hoped that the reduction will entice those causing the current impasse to re-enter negotiations, particularly the DUP who are refusing to return to power-sharing until their issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol are addressed.

Speaking ahead of the Bill's introduction today, Mr Heaton-Harris urged the parties to "come together and deliver for the interests of all people in Northern Ireland, particularly in this time of rising costs".

He added:

"At present, MLAs are not in a position to fulfil the full range of their duties, so it is right that we take steps to reduce their salaries, especially in the current economic climate and in view of the £660 million black hole in the public finances created by poor decisions made by outgoing Ministers.

"Furthermore, Northern Ireland's people are being denied full democratic representation. The government's priority is to see politicians elected to return to fulfil their roles in a strong, devolved and locally accountable government, as laid out by the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement."