16 January 2006

'Part-time job deserves a part-time payment'

Belfast Telegraph

By Chris Thornton
16 January 2006

The Secretary of State Peter Hain has been told to take a pay cut over how much - or how little - time he is spending in Northern Ireland.

New figures showed the double-jobbing Secretary of State has been in the province less than his predecessor, Paul Murphy.

DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson says Mr Hain, who has talked recently about cutting off Assembly members' pay, should be prepared to take a dose of his own medicine.

"I'm looking for the Secretary of State to adopt the standards that he is expecting others to meet," the East Belfast MP said.

"Part-time Ministers should get part-time salaries at best."

But NIO officials say Mr Hain spends time working on Northern Ireland affairs outside the province - and say he wants to be judged on results.

Mr Hain, who is also Welsh Secretary, confirmed to Mr Robinson that he averages ten days a month in the province.

Between taking up his post in May and the end of December - a total of 238 days - Mr Hain spent 80 days in Northern Ireland. He has stayed overnight at Hillsborough Castle 48 times, or six nights a month.

Between May and December 2004, Mr Murphy was in Northern Ireland 96 days, or an average of 12 days a month. There is no public record of how many nights he spent here.

Mr Hain saw little of Northern Ireland in August - spending one day here and no nights. His longest stint came last month, when he spent Christmas at Hillsborough with his family. He was here for 18 days in December, including 13 nights.

Three members of Mr Hain's Ministerial team have spent more time in Northern Ireland than he has.

Education Minister Angela Smith averages 11 days a month, Political Development Minister David Hanson 10.9, and Lord Rooker weighs in at 10.5 days.

Only Health Minister Shaun Woodward has been in Northern Ireland less often than Mr Hain, averaging 8.4 days a month.

In response to questions about combining two Cabinet jobs, Mr Hain vowed to bring "absolute energy" to his new job when he arrived in May - "even if I have to get less sleep than my predecessors".

Last week Mr Hain indicated that he can carry out some of his duties outside Northern Ireland.

A Government spokeswoman said: "The Secretary of State and his Ministerial team are happy to be judged on the work that they do."

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