Government to withdraw controversial ‘double-jobbing’ amendment – PM

The proposal had been criticised by the majority of Northern Ireland politicians amid claims it would facilitate the DUP leader’s return to Stormont.

David Young
Wednesday 19 January 2022 13:20
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons (House of Commons/PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons (House of Commons/PA)

A controversial Government amendment that would have reintroduced dual mandates for Northern Ireland politicians is to be withdrawn, the Prime Minister has said.

The Government had been seeking to amend legislation going through the House of Lords to allow MPs to return to the Assembly without the need to immediately vacate their Westminster seat and trigger a by-election.

Critics of the move claimed it was an effort to facilitate DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s planned return to Stormont, allowing him to contest the forthcoming Assembly election while remaining MP for Lagan Valley and avoiding a potentially tricky by-election for his party.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (Liam McBurney/PA)

Sir Jeffrey denied his party had struck a deal with the Government over the issue.

Six Stormont parties wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister on Tuesday calling for the “double-jobbing” plan to be ditched.

Ahead of a debate on the legislation in the Lords on Wednesday afternoon, Mr Johnson told Prime Minister’s Questions that amendment was being withdrawn.

He was responding to a question from the chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Simon Hoare.

“The vast majority of people and indeed politicians across Northern Ireland believe that whatever the question, double-jobbing is not the answer, could I urge my Right Honourable friend to listen to the majority and ask him not to move the Government amendment in the other place later today?” said Mr Hoare.

The Prime Minister replied: “I’m grateful to my Honourable friend and I’m advised that I think the amendment in question is indeed going to be withdrawn.”

Under the proposal, MPs could have been elected MLAs and remain as Members of Parliament until the following general election. Only at that point would they have to vacate their parliamentary seat.

The Government had been seeking to amend draft legislation already proceeding through Westminster aimed at bringing greater stability to the powersharing institutions.

The current law banning Northern Ireland politicians from double-jobbing as MLAs and MPs came into effect in 2016.

The contentious amendment would have seen it return for temporary periods in between general elections.

The open letter to Mr Johnson on Tuesday was signed by Alliance leader Naomi Long, Green Party NI leader Clare Bailey, UUP leader Doug Beattie, People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and Sinn Fein deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in