Northern Ireland

Stormont expenses row: Joint statement issued

Expenses paid to third parties for research are at the centre of a row at Stormont
Image caption Expenses paid to third parties for research are at the centre of a row at Stormont

The Assembly Commission has issued a joint statement about MLA expenses with Stormont's expenses watchdog, the Independent Financial Review Panel.

It acknowledges the "negative impact which recent publicity has had on public confidence".

The statement recognises differences that remain over the interpretation of the panel's determination on expenses in March 2012.

It follows a week of disagreements over expenses payments.

However, the statement says that both bodies are "committed to working together" to address those differences.

The panel will publish its next determination in March while the Assembly Commission, a cross-party group which manages assembly matters, will publish a new Members' Handbook based on that determination.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) will examine the new handbook to "quality assure" it before it is approved by the assembly.

Earlier it emerged that assembly members claimed for work carried out by exterior research companies until 2014.

The Independent Financial Review Panel (IRFP) maintains that none of these payments should have been made after April 1 2012.

Such expenses are at the centre of the row between the Stormont watchdog and the Assembly Commission.

The current assembly members' handbook still allows an MLA to claim for third party research.

BBC Radio Ulster's Stephen Nolan programme revealed on Friday that payments to such third parties continued into the 2014/15 financial year.

The IFRP said in a statement on Thursday it did not believe it made a mistake in a ruling banning such payments in 2012.

However, the Assembly Commission said that it had applied the ruling correctly.

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