Secretary of State threatens to cut MLA's salaries if Stormont not up and running soon

Secretary of State threatens to cut MLA's salaries if Stormont not up and running soon

THE SECRETARY of State for Northern Ireland has threatened to cut MLA's salaries if power-sharing isn't restored at Stormont soon.

Brandon Lewis told BBC Northern Ireland's Sunday Politics programme that he understood people's frustration over the Stormont stalemate.

Assembly elections took place in May with Sinn Féin emerging as the largest party, however a new executive has yet to be formed after the DUP refused to engage in the process, citing concerns over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Tomorrow sees the second reading of the government's controversial Protocol Bill, which Lewis says will address the concerns of unionist parties.

But if the impasse continues for much longer, Lewis says he may be forced to follow the example of former NI Secretary Karen Bradley and cut MLA's £51,500 salaries.

'We need to deal with it'

"Last time round this was about 18 months into the Stormont collapse before we dealt with MLA pay," Lewis told Sunday Politics host Mark Carruthers.

"I have absolutely heard what people have been saying about MLA pay. I do think we need to deal with it, we can't wait that long.

"I do require legislation to deal with that but yes, if Stormont is not back up and running soon, I think that is something we need to deal with and I will be looking to bring in legislation in order to deal with MLA pay, absolutely."

Then Secretary of State Bradley announced in September 2018 that MLA's pay would be cut by 15 per cent in November 2018 and a further 12.5 per cent in January 2019.

It followed 18 months without a devolved government in Northern Ireland after the collapse of Stormont in January 2017.

Lewis refused to put a timeframe on any salary cuts but said action was needed sooner rather than later.

'Taxpayers' money'

"I'm not going to put an arbitrary deadline on it but I don't think we can wait very long, people want to see Stormont up and running," he said.

"This is taxpayers' money and if MLAs aren't sitting then we need to make those decisions fairly soon."

The DUP believes the Protocol threatens Northern Ireland's place within the United Kingdom and will re-engage with the political process when their concerns are addressed.

The British Government claims the Protocol Bill will allow it to address the practical problems the Protocol has created in Northern Ireland in four key areas — customs processes, regulation, tax and spend discrepancies and democratic governance issues.

However, critics of the Bill have questioned its legality.