The Secretary of State is “currently exploring his options for reducing MPs’ salaries”, a UK spokesman for the Northern Ireland office confirmed on Tuesday.
On this day last month, Brandon Lewis told the Belfast Telegraph that he could move quickly to cut MPs’ salaries if the DUP does not lift its block on the appointment of a Stormont Speaker, to allow the Assembly to function.
TUV chief Jim Allister told BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan program on Tuesday morning that he would ‘understand’ why Mr Lewis would cut MPs’ pay, but confirmed he was prepared to donate of the percentage of the pay cut for “fighting protocol”.
Mr Allister said: “I would support it as long as I understand why it would happen and I have made it clear publicly that if and when he cuts pay I will backdate it to the date of the Assembly and I will donation of all that increased from that date until the Secretary of State cut it off, to the cause of the fight against protocol, in regards to a donation to the case fund of the Supreme Court, which will hopefully disrupt and suppress the protocol.”
The North Antrim Assembly Member explained that if Mr Lewis were to set aside the MP’s salary by, say, 30 per cent, he would calculate the 30 per cent he received from the date of the election to the date on which the Secretary of State would reduce the salary.
“I would give that number to the fight against protocol, because that is the problem that prevents the Assembly from functioning,” he added.
Alliance Party MP Eoin Tennyson was also on the agenda and reiterated his belief that the first step Brandon Lewis must take is to halt the salaries of MPs who refuse to sit in the Assembly.
“In any other profession, if you don’t show up for work, you’re the person who doesn’t get paid and I think that’s fair and just,” he commented.
“I actually think there’s something the secretary of state could consider for that.”
He thinks it would spur the DUP and TUV to ‘get back to work’ if they weren’t getting any pay.
Mr Allister replied: ‘The criteria for reducing pay would be because MPs are not performing the legislative function of being an MP. This applies to all 90s, not just 30s or whatever… Everyone has to get along.
He added that if it were true that only some MPs are seeing their salaries cut, then ‘you are in the untenable position of saying, ‘you only get paid if you have the right political views – you only get paid if you are pro-Protocol’”.
Mr Tennyson agreed it is ‘untenable’ for MPs to receive their full salaries if they are ‘in this long-term suspended animation, but first and foremost the Secretary of State should penalize those who refuse to do their jobs”.
Mr Lewis’ predecessor, Karen Bradley, slashed MPs’ pay after 18 months of Stormont’s latest standoff, but indicated he would act much sooner.
The UK spokesperson continued: “The government’s firm position is that the parties have a responsibility to provide the people of Northern Ireland with the stable, devolved government they deserve.
“The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland remains in close contact with the parties and continues to stress the need to restore full functioning of the Assembly and the executive as soon as possible.”