Northern Ireland

SDLP to table Westminster amendments aimed at reforming assembly speaker’s election and settling public sector pay dispute

Colum Eastwood voiced regret after Claire Hanna resigned as the SDLP's Brexit spokeswoman. Picture by Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
SDLP MPs Colum Eastwood and Claire Hanna. PICTURE: GARETH FULLER/PA

SDLP MPs will seek to augment the legislation extending the deadline for the restoration of the Stormont institutions with amendments aimed at reforming the election of an assembly speaker and resolving public sector pay disputes.

The British government plans to introduce a one-line bill at Westminster on Wednesday that includes the new deadline of February 8 for the formation of an executive, which passed last Thursday.

Colum Eastwood and Claire Hanna will seek to table an amendment to reform the process for electing a speaker to a two-thirds majority, which they say will “remove the one-party veto on the re-establishment of the assembly”.

The two MPs will also submit an amendment placing an obligation on Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris to deliver a pay award for public sector workers in the absence of a power-sharing executive.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris speaking to the media outside Hillsborough Castle after meeting political parties over the Stormont stalemate
Stormont Assembly Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris. PICTURE: LIAM MCBURNEY/PA

In the deal for a restored executive tabled by the British government before Christmas some £600m was earmarked for settling outstanding public sector pay claims, which last week led to the biggest general strike for decades.

Mr Eastwood said his party was “prepared to give the space for a deal to be done” but said the public “won’t be strung along forever”.

“That’s why the SDLP will seek to amend the legislation to extend the deadline for the formation of an executive to break the deadlock and begin to restore power to local decision makers,” he said.

“We will again bring forward a proposal to reform the process of electing a speaker of the assembly to remove the one-party veto that has overridden the clear will of a majority of MLAs.”