Northern Ireland news

Labour to oppose 'destabilising' proposal to reintroduce double jobbing

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

THE SHADOW secretary of state has said his party will oppose plans to reintroduce double-jobbing at Stormont.

Peter Kyle said the proposal tabled by Tory peer Lord Jonathan Caine risked "further destabilising" the devolved institutions in the run-up to May's assembly election.

His remarks came as Sir Jeffrey Donaldson insisted there has been no deal struck with the British government on double jobbing that will enable the DUP leader to keep his Westminster seat if elected to Stormont.

The Lagan Valley MP yesterday confirmed that he will consider holding dual mandates if elected to the assembly but refused to confirm if any of his party colleagues at Westminster would do likewise.

Ian Knox cartoon 18/1/21 

Sir Jeffrey had been expected to resign as an MP if elected to Stormont but Lord Caine's amendment to the Northern Ireland Ministers, Elections and Petitions of Concern Bill would remove the need for a by-election.

Four of the five executive parties have voiced opposition to changing the rules which saw double-jobbing outlawed in 2016.

The DUP leader denied that there is an agreement between his party and the British government.

"If this legislation is approved then I will consider whether I can avail of this option," he said.

He argued there was a "case to be made" for double jobbing "at this particular time in the current circumstances".

"It is important for unionism to have a strong voice in the parliament of the United Kingdom," he said.

Sir Jeffrey said the Labour party's Louise Haigh had supported a similar move last year.

However, Ms Haigh's successor said reintroducing a dual mandates was "not a priority of Labour’s during the passage of New Decade, New Approach legislation".

Mr Kyle said no amendment was tabled by Labour at any stage and he called for the proposal to be withdrawn.

He said the controversial changes required broad agreement and that the Conservative government had "clearly failed to achieve the sufficient consensus".

"To force this through now risks further destabilising an already fragile political landscape in the approach to elections," he said.

SDLP MP Claire Hanna described the DUP leader's arguments as "straw men".

"It is quite clear that the other parties don't support this because it reduces the function of elected representatives," she said.

"These two parliaments run at the same time – you can't do justice to both roles and you are not doing justice to your elected representatives."

She said efforts to change the rules looked like "a stroke to benefit Jeffrey Donaldson".

UUP leader Doug Beattie said it was impossible to give the necessary attention to two full-time jobs.

"This was brought in so close to an election only to benefit one party and that makes it a scam," he said.

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