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Speculation mounts that rebel Ukip AM will quit Assembly.

Byline: Martin Shipton Chief reporter martin.shipton@walesonline.co.uk

SPECULATION is mounting that rebel Ukip AM Nathan Gill is planning to resign his seat at the National Assembly.

A senior party source in Wales said word had come from the Ukip group at the European Parliament that Mr Gill might quit his Assembly seat in January.

However, Mr Gill's spokeswoman said he had no intention of resigning, although she confirmed that conversations had taken place "about what may happen in future".

Mr Gill was elected as a regional AM for North Wales in May 2016.

He had already been elected as an MEP for the whole of Wales in 2014.

Mr Gill led Ukip's Assembly election campaign, which resulted in seven AMs from every region in Wales winning seats.

But in the first party group meeting after the election, he was defeated in a leadership contest by former Tory MP Nick Hamilton, a regional AM for Mid and West Wales.

Mr Gill subsequently left the Ukip Assembly group to sit as an Independent AM, although he has continued to remain in the Ukip group at the European Parliament.

This week the Assembly has been full of speculation that Mr Gill is about to resign his Assembly seat.

Labour AM Lee Waters tweeted: "Is it true that @NathanGillMEP has cleared out his Assembly office? I can't believe rumours that he's about to resign to qualify for big pay-off MEPs will get. Say it ain't so Nathan."

Mr Waters was referring to a benefit called a transitional allowance, paid to all MEPs who step down apart from those who are members of other legislatures.

The relevant rule states: "At the end of their term of office Members are entitled to a transitional allowance, equivalent to their salary, for one month per year they were in office. However, this allowance cannot be paid out for longer than two years. Moreover, the allowance is not paid if a Member has a mandate in another Parliament."

In 2019, when the UK is due to leave the EU, Mr Gill will have been an MEP for five years. But the minimum transitional allowance is six months salary, worth around PS40,000 at the current exchange rate.

A senior European Parliament source said: "While resigning from the Assembly would trigger the transitional payment in 2019, he would also lose three years salary as an AM [currently PS65,344 per annum]. There must therefore be another motive if he resigns from the Assembly."

The source said there was speculation at the European Parliament that Mr Gill - a Mormon - was planning to move to Salt Lake City, where the faith has its capital.

Meanwhile, the AM has come under fire for his poor attendance record at the Senedd.

Llyr Gruffydd, a Plaid Cymru regional AM for North Wales, has written to the Presiding Officer to express his "disappointment, frustration and anger at the attendance record of Nathan Gill".

He claimed that Mr Gill had noticeably failed "to appear in this Assembly and contribute to its work".

"It is possibly unprecedented. I believe this is a unique betrayal of the voters of the north Wales electoral region."

Mr Gruffydd said attending the Assembly "does not appear to be subject" to the same scrutiny as attendance at councils where it is monitored with "penalties in place".

Recently Mr Gill was not present when a Senedd vote was held on whether First Minister Carwyn Jones should face a special scrutiny session in relation to allegations that he misled AMs over bullying allegations on the Ministerial floor. The move was narrowly defeated.

A spokeswoman for Mr Gill said: "There's an incredible amount of fantasising going on about Nathan's intentions. This all started when he was seen moving stuff out of his Assembly office. But it wasn't Nathan's stuff, it was Sam Gould's stuff." Mr Gould was a member of Mr Gill's staff who died in June.

The spokeswoman added: "He is not resigning from the Assembly and has no intention of moving to Salt Lake City.

"He did his best to 'pair' with a Labour AM for the crucial vote about scrutinising the First Minister, but Labour wouldn't cooperate. Nathan had unavoidable European commitments.

"Conversations have taken place about what may happen in the future, but this speculation is all just gossip."

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Nathan Gill led Ukip's Assembly election campaign, which resulted in seven AMs from every region in Wales
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 14, 2017
Words:739
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