Northern Ireland news

Brexit: Karen Bradley accused of 'double standards' for rule change on MLAs' expenses

Karen Bradley, and inset, how The Irish News revealed the secretary of state's plans to ensure MLAs can still claiming expenses after Brexit
Brendan Hughes

THE secretary of state has been accused of "double standards" for changing Stormont rules so that MLAs can still claim expenses after Brexit – while refusing to intervene on other devolved issues.

Karen Bradley plans to amend Stormont regulations to ensure MLAs can continue claiming expenses after the UK leaves the European Union, The Irish News revealed yesterday.

Current rules prevent MLAs from recovering expenses paid to suppliers registered outside of the EU. If unchanged, MLAs would be unable to claim expenses relating to UK-registered bodies after Brexit.

Since Stormont's collapse in early 2017, MLAs have received more than £10.4 million in expenses including office and staff costs as well as travel expenses.

In a letter to assembly speaker Robin Newton last week, Ms Bradley said that "to ensure continuity I intend to apply a technical fix" so expenses claims related to UK-registered suppliers can continue.

She said the power comes from legislation enacted at Westminster last year, which permits her to make a determination on MLA pay and allowances in the Northern Ireland Executive's absence.

Amnesty International's Patrick Corrigan criticised Ms Bradley, citing how she has not intervened on other matters including calls for abortion law reform and legalising same-sex marriage.

"The government's approach to Northern Ireland has now reached the level of farce. The secretary of state will intervene from Westminster to accommodate MLA expenses, but refuses to meet the government's human rights obligations to families waiting for inquests, women seeking abortion healthcare or same-sex couples demanding equal access to marriage," he said.

"Karen Bradley constantly hides behind the excuse of devolution to avoid action on pressing human rights matters, but finds no problem at all with Westminster interventions when it suits.

The Northern Ireland Office did not respond to requests for a comment.

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