Assembly:  Committee to Advise the Presiding Officer

– in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 8:45 pm on 1st July 1998.

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Motion made:

That a Committee be established in accordance with paragraph 16 of the Initial Standing Orders. — [The Initial Presiding Officer]

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Initial Presiding Officer 9:00 pm, 1st July 1998

This is a House Committee to deal with practical arrangements, including facilities for Members and business arrangements. It is different from the other Committees in that it will be chaired by the Initial Presiding Officer, with the Deputy Initial Presiding Officer also present, and that it will have not fewer than eight and not more than 16 members, appointed by the Initial Presiding Officer. The arrangements are not defined in quite the same way as for the Standing Orders Committee. Arguably this is not entirely satisfactory, but it is what we have been handed.

As it appears that I shall be operating as Initial Presiding Officer until at least the next sitting of the Assembly, I give an undertaking that I will try to construct the Committee as far as possible on the basis that has been established for the other Committee.

Given that that is not entirely without problems, there will have to be some negotiating. Perhaps it would be sensible to set up a skeleton Committee and build on it rather than have something that is grossly unsatisfactory from the start. We might begin with one member from each party, plus at least one each for the larger parties, and increase the representation later. Otherwise we could not use the figures that were agreed for the Standing Orders Committee.

I appreciate that this will require a degree of trust, but I can see no other satisfactory course under the interim Standing Orders that we have been given. It is clear from the numbers that we cannot operate this Committee in the same way as the Standing Orders Committee — and we were not very happy even about the latter. However, we shall do the best we can. I give an undertaking that the Committee will not operate on the basis of votes. It seems to me that we must struggle to agree on working arrangements.

As I moved the motion, I shall try to respond to any questions.

Photo of Francie Molloy Francie Molloy Sinn Féin

Mr Initial Presiding Officer, I have pleasure in agreeing with what you advocate. Having one member from each party, as on previous occasions, would result in a working Committee that could enable the Assembly to get on with its day-to-day business. The Committee will have to be set up fairly quickly as there is much to be done. We will co-operate with you when you make your proposals.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

Mr Initial Presiding Officer, you said that you would have one member from every party. Do you intend to have one of the Independents also?

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Initial Presiding Officer

Yes, there will have to be some such arrangement. To find the best course, I shall discuss the matter with all three Independents. I shall also have consultations with the Chief Whips.

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

When will the Committee meet? I take it that, given the very cramped conditions here, you are eager that we take our rightful place in Parliament Buildings.

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Initial Presiding Officer

Decisions about location are entirely for the Secretary of State. She has indicated that some practical arrangements are proceeding apace, but I cannot give more concrete information. I hope I am correct in assuming that any instructions from the Secretary of State will be communicated rapidly to this Committee. Perhaps within the next few days there will be some indication about the Assembly’s home.

If no other Members wish to speak, I shall put the Question.

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

Is there any disagreement?

A Member:

There is a look of shock on your face, Mr Initial Presiding Officer.

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Initial Presiding Officer

Not least because this unanimity is your doing. I am sorry: that was unkind and uncalled for.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved:

That a Committee be established in accordance with paragraph 16 of the Initial Standing Orders.

Motion made:

That this Assembly do now adjourn. — [The Initial Presiding Officer]