The First Minister (Mr Trimble):
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. My only experience of this was in the Chamber in 1975, when a Member from the DUP, it being late in the evening and he having dined well, made a mistake about which Lobby to vote in and had to go through both Lobbies. The Chairman of the Constitutional Convention then asked him to indicate how he had intended to vote so that it could be recorded.
I am grateful for that historical note. However, I will not be regarding it or anything else to do with the Constitutional Convention as an appropriate precedent. Members can vote twice, but their second vote will cancel their first, and there will be no further vote.
I understand that as this is a cross- community vote the designations will be established as when we go through the Lobbies. Is that correct?
That is absolutely correct. This vote requires cross-community consent, so as you proceed through, your name will be called. The Clerks may wish you to hesitate for a second, for when your name is called, your photograph will appear on the laptop screen, thereby enabling your identity to be checked, your designation to be noted automatically and the numbers to be calculated.
Mr C Wilson:
I want to make it clear that I am opposed to the formation of a Committee on Human Rights on the basis that there will be - [Interruption]
Order. Mr Wilson, order - [Interruption] If there is further disorder the Member will be named. I do not wish to proceed in that way. It is entirely unnecessary. There must be order in the House, and I trust that you are all aware of the consequences of naming a Member.
We will proceed with the vote.
When the Tellers are satisfied that all Members who wish to vote have come through their Lobby, they, the Tellers, should go to cast their vote - to the other Lobby, if necessary - return to their own Lobby and advise me that the vote has been completed. I point this out for those who currently are Tellers as well as for those who might be in the future.
The Assembly having divided: Ayes 68; Noes 3.
Gerry Adams, Alex Attwood, P J Bradley, Joe Byrne, John Dallat, Bairbre de Brún, Arthur Doherty, Pat Doherty, Mark Durkan, Sean Farren, John Fee, Tommy Gallagher, Michelle Gildernew, Carmel Hanna, Denis Haughey, Joe Hendron, John Hume, Gerry Kelly, John Kelly, Patricia Lewsley, Alex Maskey, Donovan McClelland, Alasdair McDonnell, Barry McElduff, Eddie McGrady, Eugene McMenamin, Francie Molloy, Conor Murphy, Mary Nelis, Danny O'Connor, Dara O'Hagan, Eamonn ONeill, Sue Ramsey, John Tierney.
Ian Adamson, Pauline Armitage, Roy Beggs, Billy Bell, Tom Benson, Esmond Birnie, Joan Carson, Fred Cobain, Robert Coulter, Duncan Shipley Dalton, Ivan Davis, David Ervine, John Gorman, Derek Hussey, Billy Hutchinson, Danny Kennedy, James Leslie, David McClarty, Alan McFarland, Michael McGimpsey, Dermot Nesbitt, Ken Robinson, George Savage, John Taylor, David Trimble, Peter Weir, Jim Wilson.
Eileen Bell, Seamus Close, David Ford, Kieran McCarthy, Monica McWilliams, Jane Morrice, Sean Neeson.
Norman Boyd, Patrick Roche, Cedric Wilson.
Total Votes 71 Total Ayes 68 (95.8%)
Nationalist Votes 34 Nationalist Ayes 34 (100%)
Unionist Votes 30 Unionist Ayes 27 (90%)
Question accordingly agreed to (by cross-community consent).
After Standing Order 57 insert a new Standing Order:
"Committee on Equality, Human Rights and Community Relations"
(1) There shall be a Standing Committee of the Assembly to be known as the Equality, Human Rights and Community Relations Committee.
(2) It shall consider and review on an ongoing basis:
(a) matters referred to it in relation to Equality, Human Rights and Community Relations; and
(b) any other related matter or matters determined by the Assembly.
(3) The Committee shall have powers to call for persons and papers.
(4) The procedures of the Committee shall be such as the Committee shall determine."
In Standing Order 10, paragraph (1), insert "(g) Party Business". - [Mr Cobain and Mr Haughey]
In Standing Order 45, paragraph (1)(a), after "Portfolio;", insert "and". - [Mr Cobain and Mr Haughey]
In Standing Order 45, paragraph (1), delete sub-paragraph (c) and insert
"(2) Statutory Committees shall have the powers described in paragraph 9 of Strand One of the Belfast Agreement (CM 3883) and may, in particular, exercise the power in Section 44(1) of the Northern Ireland Act 1988." - [Mr Cobain and Mr Haughey]
That the membership of the Assembly Commission shall consist of
Mrs Eileen Bell
Mr Gregory Campbell
Rev Robert Coulter
Mr John Fee
Dr Dara O'Hagan. - [Mr Molloy]
We now proceed to the First Stage of the first Bills to be brought to the House. As these are the first Bills to be presented, it may be helpful to Members if I briefly explain the process. The First Stage of a Bill is entirely formal and simply allows for the introduction of the measure. There is no debate, but Members will have an opportunity to debate and amend later.
At the First Stage I invite a Member proposing a Bill formally to move that the Bill be laid. The Clerk will read the long title of the Bill. Once established, that cannot be changed or amended. For that reason it is important that this be completed at First Stage. The Clerk will read the title of the Bill, as required under Standing Order 28(5), and that shall constitute First Stage. The Bill can then be ordered to be printed. The measure will be available to Members the following day or shortly afterwards.
As the first three Bills deal with the Commission, we are altering the procedure slightly in that those proposing the measures will come to the lectern. We have established that Members speaking for the Commission are acting for the House and, therefore, take a slightly different position. Otherwise Ministers and private Members speak from their places.
There are no votes, and there is no debate - a First Stage is purely formal. There will be an opportunity to vote on a Bill in principle at the Second Stage. The Committee and Consideration Stages will provide opportunities for discussion, and any amendments will be made at the Consideration Stage. At the Final Stage there will be a vote on the measure as a whole.
Rev Robert Coulter: I beg leave to lay before the Assembly a Bill [NIA 1/99] to make provision for the payment of pensions and gratuities to or in respect of persons who have been Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Bill passed First Stage and ordered to be printed.
Mr Fee: I beg leave to lay before the Assembly a Bill [NIA 2/99] to make provision for the payment of allowances to or in respect of persons who have been Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly or holders of offices mentioned in section 47(3)(a) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.
Bill passed First Stage and ordered to be printed.
Mr Fee: I beg leave to lay before the Assembly a Bill [NIA 3/99] to make provision for the making of payments to political parties for the purpose of assisting Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly who are connected with such parties to perform their Assembly duties.
Bill passed First Stage and ordered to be printed.
I beg to move
That the Northern Ireland Assembly (Members' Salaries) Determination 1999 (NIA 3) be approved.
If ever there was a poisoned chalice, I think I have one. It is my task, on behalf of the Assembly Commission, to present to the Assembly the Determination on Members' salaries. I would like to preface my remarks by saying that for the last 18 months the Shadow Assembly Commission has met regularly - 35 times, I think. Mr Peter Robinson presented a report on behalf of the Shadow Commission on 22 February. We have enjoyed widespread support and help from Members of the Assembly. It has been hard work, and I would like to put on record that I have enjoyed working with all of the Shadow Commission's members.
I had the unique experience of working with people like Francie Molloy and Peter Robinson, with whom I would not normally have worked. I was impressed by their contributions; the House owes them a very deep debt of gratitude. I am also looking forward to working with the new members of the Commission, Dr Dara O'Hagan and Mr Gregory Campbell. We have a job to do, and I hope that the new Assembly Commission can retain the confidence of the House.
Members will recall that, in February, the Shadow Commission recommended to the Assembly that we follow the recommendations of the Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB) in respect of remuneration for Members and office holders. Today's Determination largely reflects that undertaking as well as the provisions in Section 47 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, which states
"(3) A determination under this section may provide -
(a) for higher salaries to be payable to Members of the Assembly -
(i) holding office as a Minister or junior Minister;
(ii) holding office as Presiding Officer or deputy;
(iii) holding office as a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission; or
(b) for different salaries to be payable to Members of the Assembly holding different such offices.
The salaries for the First Minister, departmental Ministers and the Presiding Officer are as recommended by the SSRB. Members will recall that the Prime Minister, on the Floor of the House of Commons, recommended that the salary of the Deputy First Minister be established as equal to that of the First Minister. The Shadow Assembly Commission accepted that recommendation.
The Shadow Commission has agreed all other salaries for office holders. The Senior Salaries Review Body recognised that there would be a need for extra remuneration for certain office holders post-devolution, and the Shadow Commission recommended that those increased salaries should be paid. The posts to which we refer are junior Ministers, members of the Assembly Commission, and Chairmen and Deputy Chairmen of the Statutory Committees. The Review Body's recommendation in respect of a daily rate for the Deputy Presiding Officer has been translated into an annual amount. At this stage, the Commission makes no recommendation about remuneration for Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen of non-statutory Committees.
Another recommendation of the Senior Salaries Review Body was that salaries should be raised each year in line with the average increases at 1-1 mid-points of the nine Civil Service pay bands below permanent secretary. This has been done so that the salaries that are now presented differ from those in the Senior Salaries Review Body Report solely by the increase.
The SSRB also recommended that all salaries should be reviewed independently in the year 2001 and every three years thereafter. The Commission recommends that the Assembly adopt that recommendation.
Those who hold double or even triple mandates, as Members of the Assembly, of the House of Commons or/and of the European Parliament, will have their salaries as Members of the Assembly abated by two thirds. The Schedule will have to be amended should any additional office holders of the House who are entitled to be appointed. The Standing Orders may also need to be amended.
I regret that, although we are now implementing the recommendations of the Senior Salaries Review Body, the new salaries will be backdated only to the date of devolution.
A Chaothaoirligh. Ar dtús, mo bhuíochas leis an Choimisiún seo agus leis an Uasal O'Fee agus leis na daoine eile a rinne obair chruaidh thábhachtach air. Ach tá achainí agam ar an Uasal O'Fee agus ar an Uasal Coulter, nó ba mhaith linn an cheist seo a chur ar athlá. Molaim go gcuirimid ceist seo na dtuarastal agus cúrsaí eile airgid siar agus go bhfillimid orthu ag an chéad suí eile den Tionól. Idir an dá linn, beidh an Coimisiún ábalta comhairle a thabhairt dúinn.
First, I pay tribute to Mr Fee and the other Commission members for their work. Sinn Féin asked John Fee and Robert Coulter whether this issue might be deferred to the next meeting of the Assembly so that the new Commission could consider the whole question of salaries and other financial matters. We asked for that because, while I believe that politicians should be paid properly for the sacrifices that they and their families make, I have a huge problem with this increase of £7,000, which is almost three times the amount paid in a year to a person on social welfare.
At a time when students cannot get decent grants and when old people are not being awarded proper benefits we need to think about the matter again. The issue is bigger than any party, and it even has to do with the credibility of the Assembly. For those reasons I have asked that action be deferred and put to the new Commission.
Secondly, and on a lighter note, I congratulate the Antrim senior football team on winning a historic all-Ireland 'B' final yesterday. I ask other Members and perhaps the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure to extend congratulations to the team's management and to all who are involved in Cumann Lúthchleas Gael in County Antrim.
The Member may have seen some connection between his former and latter comments because of a family sporting connection and the fact that his salary is used to support his family, but it is a tenuous link.
Mrs E Bell:
As a member of the Commission, I wish to support my colleague Mr John Fee. I also wish to pay tribute to the former Commission members with whom I have worked. The Commission is a hard-working body, and I found it satisfying to operate alongside people with whom I had not worked in the past. I look forward to co-operating with the other people on the new Team. Commission members aim to achieve consensus for the benefit of all Assembly Members.
The SSRB recommendations were accepted by the Assembly earlier in the year, and I wish to make it clear that we have not given ourselves a fat-cat pay rise. I am led to believe by others, including trade union representatives, that a Member's basic salary is equivalent to that of the principal officer grade in the Civil Service, so it would be unfair to accuse us of trying to feather our nests. It is also worth noting that a Member's average working day could be up to 20 hours and - [Interruption]
I have not seen Mr McCartney here very often, so I do not know how long his working day is.
Many Members have been present every day working and lobbying. "Democracy must be paid for" - those are not my words but the words of a number of trade union representatives. If we are to do an adequate job, we must be paid an adequate wage.
Performance-related pay - pay by results - is not favoured by any member of the trade union movement. The unions realise, however, that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to gauge standards of performance. The public will be able to judge Members during their time in office, and any Member with whom people are unhappy may be thrown out.
This determination should be approved to enable us to become effective Members of the Assembly and get on with the business that we have been elected to do: governing Northern Ireland equitably and responsibly.
It is sad that one of the Assembly's first acts - if not the first - is to vote its Members a very hefty increase in salary. For the past 18 months the Assembly has sat - to say the least - very intermittently.
I do not often agree with Sinn Féin, but there are fundamental principles with which one is bound to agree, whatever one's political predilections. The suggestion that the Assembly should vote through a rise of the comparative nature that Mr Adams pointed out is nothing short of a disgrace.
Under these arrangements Mrs Bell will receive around £50,000. As far as families go - and I am speaking generally here - a number of Members are employing relations and paying them out of the £34,000 that they are about to get as a constituency allowance - a very, very healthy sum for those families indeed.
I have heard that some Members employ their wives at salaries of between £15,000 and £18,000 a year. I have also heard of Members who have not opened any constituency office to serve their constituents. My constituency office is open from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm five days a week and handles more than 3,500 constituency matters a year. In some places in North Down, such as the Kilcooley housing estate, there are people who need the services of someone who can help them. North Down is not all "gold coast".
When people look at this Assembly, which was supposed to bring them more efficient, more accountable, more sensitive and more human government, what do they find? They find Members voting themselves big, big salaries - increases of 25%. [Interruption] I hear murmurs from some Members. However, I believe that 30 of the 108 people elected were unemployed on the date of their election. Many of them have never contributed a single penny to this state by way of income tax, but they have taken plenty from it in benefits.
The world knows who they are, and these Gentlemen and Ladies are about to vote themselves salaries. Members are about to receive £38,000 on an individual basis, and more than 50% will be voting themselves into jobs which will give them a range of salary increases: £64,000 per annum extra for the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister; £33,000 per annum extra for Ministers; £10,000 extra for Committee Chairmen; £5,000 extra for Deputy Chairmen; £10,000 extra for the Chief Whips of some of the larger parties; and £5,000 extra for Deputy Whips. [Interruption]
That is not in there.
No, it is not in there, Mr McGrady, but it is in the can. I understand that it is being looked at and discussed by various Committees.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have made no contribution to this debate, and I cannot understand why the Member is referring to me.
I appeal to all Members to speak through the Chair.
Mr McGrady may object, but when he makes unsolicited comments from a sedentary position he must expect a response.
Members may not be aware that remarks made from a sedentary position are recorded into Hansard only if they are referred to by the Member who is on his feet at the time. On this occasion the remark will be included in Hansard because it was referred to by Mr McCartney.
Thank you very much indeed.
Based on the very generous sums that I have done - generous to those who are in receipt of the payments - approximately 50 Members will be receiving enhanced salaries, and that number rises to 54 if I include the Whips. First, we have to explain to the public how we voted ourselves an increase of £9,000 a year on the basic salary. Secondly, we have to explain how we voted all of these additional moneys to more than 50% of the Members. According to my calculations, salary costs will be in the region of £9 million a year, and that is before we have even started to do anything. People are going to question why there was such an enthusiastic clamour from so many Members for the establishment of the Assembly.
People will question the bona fides of those who were enthusiasts for the establishment of this body, and these salary increases will give them very good grounds for doing so. Mr Adams, shrewd politician that he is, has clearly pointed the finger at what his party thinks will be the public's reaction to this sort of money being voted to Assembly Members. There is much wisdom in the suggestion that, before everyone puts their snout well and truly into the trough at this time, they should carefully consider whether it will be to their ultimate benefit. The Assembly was established on questionable principles, by the use of Executive power, to undercut the principles of democratic procedure.
Ba mhaith liom cupla pointe ordaithe a dhéanamh. An chéad phointe is ea nach n-aontaím leis an Teachta Dála sa mhéid a bhí le rá aige faoi na rudaí a dúirt mé féin.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wish to make it clear that no Teachta Dála here decided on these salary increases. It was the Senior Salaries Review Body. I am asking for this to be deferred so that the Commission -
That is not a point of order, and it is coming out of my time.
I have to accept that. It is not clear to me that it is a point of order.
I accept your ruling, Mr Speaker. May I make two further points? As I said earlier, Sinn Féin accepts that politicians should be paid. Our members will not benefit personally from this increase.
Order. I must remind Members that points of order are technical matters in respect of the debate. If, for example, a Member appears to misrepresent another Member or to present an inaccurate or disagreeable view of what that Member has said, that is not a point of order which can be taken up. It is a point of disagreement, and the Member who has the Floor would have to be asked to give way. He or she would then decide whether to accept an intervention.
May I also advise Members - I am rather cautious about doing so, but I want to be as open as possible - that the 10-minute rule applied only under the Initial Standing Orders. Therefore Members have less need to worry about any interventions from that point of view.
I do not wish to detain Members for very much longer than 10 minutes, but do I take it that the 10-minute rule does not apply to anything I have to say?
Let me clarify the position for the sake of fairness - and I do so with some caution. Under the new Standing Orders the 10-minute rule which was in the Initial Standing Orders no longer applies. However, I hope that Members will forget that and proceed under the previous arrangements.
At no stage in my address did I suggest that Members had assessed the salaries attributable to their office, either as ordinary Members or as people exercising ministerial power. However, it is for the Assembly to vote to accept them. That is the point I am dealing with. The intervention is irrelevant, since the Assembly will decide what salaries it will give itself, whether on the recommendation of some other body or of its own volition. To spend £9 million on salaries out of a total budget, which, I understand, is getting on for £40 million per annum seems to me to be gross extravagance. During the week I listened to a contributor to a radio phone-in programme suggesting that Assembly Members should receive the same salary and constituency allowance as a Member of Parliament.
On the face of it, if they were politicians doing their job one could say that maybe that was reasonable. However, one then has to point out that a Member of Parliament is responsible for an entire constituency - one of 18 in Northern Ireland. There are six Members of the Assembly for each of those constituencies, so in relative terms one would be paying six times the amount in salaries and six times the amount in constituency allowances that a Member of Parliament receives for doing the same job for the entire constituency. That would be gross overpayment.
I return to the issue of what Members are doing with their constituency allowances. To my knowledge there are many Members of the Assembly who have not yet opened a constituency office. And some of those that have done so run their places intermittently. I know of one office that is open two mornings a week and deals not only with Assembly constituency business but also with parliamentary constituency business. That Member will be in receipt of £45,000 per annum for his parliamentary place and £34,000 for his Assembly place - almost £80,000 a year for an office that is open two mornings a week.
Will Mr McCartney take an intervention?
I will not. This is an open debate, and the Member will have ample time to make whatever points he seeks to make during his own speech.
Does Mr McCartney have two constituency offices?
I have only one constituency. I am a Member of the Assembly for North Down and the Member of Parliament for North Down. I have one constituency office for all of that. It is open from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm five days a week.
When Mr McCartney was leader of his now infamous political party did he ever complain to his Colleagues about their not opening offices and hiring their spouses as secretaries? If not, why not?
That is not a point of order, and I am surprised that you are taking points of information, Mr Speaker. However, I will answer.
I did complain. I certainly did, and I think it is totally wrong. When I talk about Members of this Assembly not providing the proper facilities and services for their constituents I do not care if they are members of the NIUP, Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the Ulster Unionists or, for that matter, the DUP. If they are not serving their constituents to the best of their ability then they are not discharging the duties they imposed upon themselves when they stood for election.
I do not know how many Members have opened constituency offices; I do not know how many Members are employing wives, sons, daughters or other relations to whom they are syphoning off part of the money they are, being paid for running their constituencies. Of course, one cannot make a blanket criticism. I know of one or two relatives employed in such a position, and if their fathers or mothers were not employing them I would be happy to do so because they are discharging their duties with great care. I am not saying that relatives are necessarily failing to perform the functions of the job; what I am saying is that this practice raises a question. Just as in the law, justice must not only be done but also be seen to be done. Anyone who employs relatives and pays them Government money, invites the obvious question. It must make people suspicious.
The whole of Northern Ireland is looking to the Assembly. Are we setting the best example by voting for an increase of £9,000 - over 25% more - on what we received over the last 18 months when, relatively speaking, very little was being done here? Does that present an image of disinterested service? The situation is compounded because, in addition to their basic salaries, more than half the Members will receive substantial further sums. Does that present an image of service or dedication? Or does it raise the suspicion that in the ululations from some parties about this great Assembly there is a large dollop of greed and self-interest?
Mr Adams's remarks addressed this issue. Why do I say that? Because he compared the increase in the basic salary of an Assembly Member with what is available to those on the margins of society: the flotsam and jetsam of the ghettoes; the people who are unemployed or otherwise disadvantaged. There are questions that everyone here should be asking: are we doing right, and are we seen to be doing right? If the House rubber-stamps these proposals without further consideration, the people of Northern Ireland will judge it accordingly. I include all parties in this - not just Nationalists or Unionists or those of indeterminate orientation. Every Member must consider this issue and vote according to his conscience - not according to his pocket.
Mr C Murphy:
A Chathaoirligh, in suggesting that this matter be referred back, we do not denigrate the members of the Commission and their hard work. The Assembly was entirely right to hand the determination of its salaries and allowances to the Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB). However, the proposal for a substantial increase needs to be debated in the Chamber. If the SSRB had recommended a £10,000 cut in Members' wages, there would definitely have been some debate. The Assembly should not run away from this. I notice that the DUP has absented itself, by and large, today, but that is its stock-in-trade on issues such as these.
The proposal for such a substantial increase when so many people live under huge disadvantage must be looked at very seriously, especially as this is the first sitting of the Assembly since the transfer of powers. If the Assembly's first act on receiving those powers is to vote itself a substantial pay rise, that will send out entirely the wrong message. Many people are living on less than the proposed increase, so it is only right that the Commission deliberate this matter further.
A number of points relate to my party and to pay increases. Sinn Féin Members did not take the salaries allowed during the shadow period. They took an allowance from the party, and no increases are planned for party members, even if salary increases are agreed. There is no difference between the treatment of Ministers and that of Back-Benchers, and when setting up constituency offices, which provide an excellent service, the party decided that no family members would be considered for posts in them.
Go raibh maith agat.
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