Northern Ireland news

Karen Bradley denies MLA pay cut was to deflect from RHI inquiry

Secretary of state Karen Bradley speaking yesterday in the Commons
Brendan Hughes

SECRETARY of state Karen Bradley has denied announcing a pay cut for MLAs yesterday to deflect attention from a former DUP minister's evidence before the RHI inquiry.

Ms Bradley confirmed the decision on the same day that Jonathan Bell appeared for the first time at the inquiry and made explosive claims against his former party.

The Conservatives' minority government at Westminster is being propped up with votes from the DUP's 10 MPs through a confidence-and-supply deal.

But Ms Bradley dismissed concerns over the timing of the announcement, which came nine months after a report recommended the salary reduction for assembly members amid the continuing Stormont deadlock.

When it was put to the Northern Ireland secretary that some believe yesterday was chosen for the announcement to deflect attention from Mr Bell's evidence, she rejected the suggestion.

"No, I came to the House of Commons at the earliest possible opportunity to give this decision that I took over the summer and which I have taken to the prime minister and got her approval for," she told the BBC.

"I came to parliament at the earliest possible time and I made the announcement to parliament."

On why she did not choose a later date, Ms Bradley said: "Well I think it would have been later then, and I wanted to get in here as quickly as possible."

Ms Bradley also denied that the pay cut had been delayed because the DUP was against the idea.

"Well I think if you heard the DUP in the House of Commons chamber today the representatives who were there, they were very supportive of the decision I have taken," she said.

"This was a decision I have taken for the people of Northern Ireland, in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland."

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