Assembly: Committee on Standing Orders

Part of the debate – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 6:45 pm on 1st July 1998.

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Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party 6:45 pm, 1st July 1998

I am talking about the two largest Unionist parties, which have more than one representative on the Committee.

Nationalists are always telling us that they are badly done by. Forty-two Nationalists have the same Committee representation as 48 Unionists, yet they are arguing.

How did this happen? My Whip gave me the interim report last night after the meeting. It indicated four people for the Ulster Unionist Party, three for the Social Democratic and Labour Party, three for Democratic Unionist Party, three for Sinn Fein, and then the rest. But today, without any contact with the Whips, the three has been changed to four. I want to know what secret weapon the Social Democratic and Labour Party has. How can it, without any consultation with the other parties, get an additional Committee member? This Assembly does itself no good by such activities. [Interruption]

Let Mr Maskey know that I believe in fair representation. I was picked by Members to chair the Committee that devised the Standing Orders of the first Assembly because they believed that I would be absolutely fair.

Let me tell Mr Ford that the Initial Presiding Officer does not need to be Chairman of this Committee. The Committee should elect its own Chairman. In any case, we do not yet have a permanent Presiding Officer.

The Secretary of State should realise that we shall not be able to operate properly if you, Sir, interpret the rules in such a way. Mr Weir made a very valid point, as did my Friend Mr Dodds. We should proceed on the basis of a motion. Let us do what the Assembly thinks is right.