08 February 2006

MPs' anger at bid to restore SF allowances

Belfast Telegraph

By Brian Walker
08 February 2006

Government moves to restore Westminster allowances to the four abstaining Sinn Fein members suspended in the wake of the Northern Bank raid and the murder of Robert McCartney has split MPs.

Ulster Unionist Lady Hermon, the DUP MPs and the Conservatives were challenging Secretary of State Peter Hain's assertion that the time was ripe to resume the payments, following the IRA's July 28 statement ending their campaign of violence and the verdict of the Decommissioning Commission in September that they had disposed of their arsenal.

In the Commons last night, DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson said his party's claim that the IRA has not disposed of the totality of their weapons " had been vindicated".

The IICD was "in no position to state that the Provos have destroyed all their arsenal", he said.

Allowances of £260,000 will cover five months of the financial year, backdated to last November.

A new payment of £35,000 of "Short" money for parliamentary research, also backdated and worth £85,000 for a full year, is also to be awarded.

Ahead of the debate DUP MP Gregory Campbell accused the Government of "double standards" in restoring the Westminster allowances, while Mr Hain was at the same time pointing out the "widespread discontent regarding Assembly members' pay and allowances while the Assembly is not sitting."

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