Assembly Standing Orders

Part of the debate – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 10:45 am on 9th March 1999.

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Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP 10:45 am, 9th March 1999

Paragraph (1) of Standing Order 40 ends with the words "are as follows". Either the next two paragraphs must be incorporated into this one or we must make the reference contained in amendment No 45. It is simply a tidying-up amendment.

Standing Order 40 refers to the "Northern Ireland Act". It should be the "Northern Ireland Act 1998". I do not believe that there is any substantial point there.

Amendment No 46 proposes that after Standing Order 40(2)(e) we insert a new subparagraph.

There are a number of areas where it is necessary to provide cover in this Standing Order. There is a gap or a route back into an Executive for those who are determined not to be committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic means, for those who are found not to have fulfilled the pledge of office or carried out the task which they were to perform. There was a way of filling a position when a vacancy occurred by retirement, resignation or death. There is no way back.

I shall give some examples of what might arise from a principled decision. None of the examples should be taken as an intention. A party might decide that the Assembly needed a much stronger constitutional and legitimate Opposition, and might decide to move into Opposition rather than remain in the Government. That would be a principled decision. Will the members of that party be given fewer rights than those who were put out of the Government because they were involved in violence or because they broke their pledges? That would be wrong, particularly as all the parties that supported the agreement say that it was about inclusive government. My proposal seeks to fill a gap in the Standing Orders.

Amendment No 47 is necessary because 40(2)(e) is inaccurate. It is prefaced by Standing Order 40(2), which states

"Ministerial offices must be filled by applying the procedures set out in section 18(2) to (6)".

However, in the circumstances referred to in 40(2)(e) the nominating officer does not go through the procedure set out in 18(2) to (6). He simply appoints a replacement. The amendment corrects that inaccuracy.

I now turn to amendment No 49. Standing Order 40(3)(b) refers to asking

"the Assembly to extend that time limit, and gives reasons for so asking".

Again, plurality is required by the Standing Orders, though there may be only one reason.

In Standing Order 41, the removal of "(1)" is simply for tidying up. As there is only one part, there is no requirement for "(1)".

Amendment No 61 is a tidying-up exercise. The reference in the Standing Order to "Minister" should be to "Ministers".