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Laughing all the way to the Commons - the backbenchers who bank over £570,000 a year

MARRIED backbench MPs the Robinsons are laughing all the way to the bank — by making a family fortune from politics.
 
Peter Robinson, 60, and wife Iris, 59, are pocketing £571,939.41 a YEAR in salaries and expenses.
 
And their relatives are cashing in too. The couple pay four family members up to £150,000 in salaries out of their allowances.
 
Neither has broken any rules but the scale of their earnings will anger voters as the controversy over greedy MPs’ expenses and allowances rumbles on.
 
The News of the World can reveal that the couple are the best-paid backbench MPs in politics. Between them they have SIX salaries,
 
They rake in almost twice as much as other married politicians because they have seats at both Westminster and the Northern Ireland Assembly. Mr Robinson is the province’s First Minister.
 
Despite living in the same posh east Belfast house valued at £490,000, last year they BOTH claimed the controversial second homes allowance, receiving a total of £40,342.
 
The average claimed by MPs not married to another MP was £17,960.
 
We can reveal how the Robinsons:
 
 BILL the taxpayer with expenses of £325,921 from Westminster and the Northern Ireland Assembly.
 
 DRAW salaries of £246,017 a year between them.
 
 OWN three homes in Belfast, London and Florida worth more than £1.3million.
 
Peter is MP for East Belfast and his wife MP for Strangford — for which they are each paid £63,291 a year.
 
In addition the couple earn £109,884 from the Northern Ireland Assembly.
 
Mr Robinson, who is leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, is paid £71,434 for his role as First Minister plus a third of the £43,101 salary for being an Assembly member because he is also an MP.
 
Wife Iris pockets a total of £24,296 as an Assembly member and as chairwoman of its health and social services committee, official figures reveal.
 
She also has another job as councillor for the Castlereagh borough in Northern Ireland where she earns £9,550.
 
Staffing costs account for the bulk of the couple’s expense claims.
 
This includes employing family members—for which they appear to fork out more than £150,000.
 
Mr Robinson employs their daughter Rebekah as office manager and private secretary and son Gareth as parliamentary assistant.
 
His wife employs other son Jonathan as office manager and daughter-in-law
 
Ellen Robinson as part-time secretary.
 
The pay scale given for Rebekah’s job is between £21,320 and £40,052. Gareth, who is also a councillor for Castlereagh, is on a pay scale of £27,780 to £40,052.
 
Jonathan earns between £27,780 and £40,052 and Ellen is on £36,000 a year.
 
Last night Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, stormed: “The Robinsons are receiving a staggering amount of taxpayers’ money, and this certainly puts paid to the myth that no one gets rich in politics.”
 
The Robinsons’ mega earnings—based on last year’s figures—have left them with enough spare cash to splash out on their three plush houses. Around five years ago they paid £450,000 for a luxury apartment in east London near the Thames which overlooks a park and boasts great views of the capital.
 
Former estate agent Peter also purchased a holiday home in sun-drenched Orlando, Florida.
 
It is located in the exclusive Warwick at Vista Lakes community and was bought for £410,000 last summer.
 
The Robinsons spent almost £20,000 on flying between Belfast and London.
 
Iris clocked up a further £1,820 in mileage claims between 2007-08. Her husband has a personal driver.
 
Mr Robinson even cashed in during the property boom by selling off part of his back garden in Belfast for an undisclosed amount. He said in 2007: “I’m one of thousands of people who have sold land over the last few years and I don’t see anything remarkable about it.”
 
Our source close to the Robinsons told the News of the World: “With Iris and Peter, it’s more a case of what recession?
 
“Their taste for expensive furnishings and decoration betrays the magnificent opulence the couple enjoy in stark contrast to the poverty of many of their constituents.
 
“Their east Belfast home displays the trappings associated with a successful entrepreneur or businessman rather than the more modest tastes of Ulster’s other MPs.
 
“Almost every room displays a chandelier and walls, even in bathrooms, display expensive frescos.
 
“No expense has been spared as the house displays exquisite interiors in every room. Sculptures and ornaments adorn every room and hallway.
 
“It’s the very best of the best only for the Robinsons’ primary domain. They have separate studies. Peter’s is oak-lined and is dominated by a flatscreen TV on which he watches Chelsea when he has the time.
 
“Hand-printed wallpaper displays a Latin quotation that translates to ‘one does not value things easily obtained’.”
 
Fashionable Iris used to drive an MG sports car in London. At one time she had three Minis but is now more often seen driving an open top Audi.
 
In 2007, son Gareth caused her major embarrassment after he was snapped kissing a man and sitting on the partygoer’s knee at a Belfast bash.
 
This came shortly after controversial MP Iris branded homosexuality an abomination.
 
She was cleared last month over the verbal assault in a radio interview just a day after Peter took the job as First Minister in June last year.
 
She had told BBC Radio Ulster that homosexuals were “disgusting, loathsome, nauseating, wicked and vile”. The only married MP couple who earn more than the Robinsons are Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper. However, they are both Cabinet Ministers, each paid £141,866 — and they claim less (£308,185) in expenses. Their total income works out as £591,917.
 
A spokesman for the Robinsons said: “All expenses claimed are used to run a full network of advice offices in both constituencies.
 
“The DUP provides a first class service that is available to all constituents and all allowances are used to run offices, employ staff and fulfil the commitment to serving the many and varied needs of the public.
 
“These constituency offices, situated in the main centres of population, have handled more cases in the 07/08 year than ever before.
 
“Expenses incurred in running offices for Mr Robinson in East Belfast and Mrs Robinson in Strangford are lower than most other Northern Ireland Members of Parliament.
 
“The individual salary paid to each of them is no different than for any other Parliamentarians.
 
“How they choose to spend their salaries is entirely a matter for them.”

 

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