Assembly Standing Orders

Part of the debate – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:30 pm on 9th March 1999.

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Photo of Eddie McGrady Eddie McGrady Social Democratic and Labour Party 3:30 pm, 9th March 1999

Mr Initial Presiding Officer — for the second time — I commend to the Assembly amendment 86, standing in my name, which is a very modest intrusion into this debate on my part. It is a probing amendment seeking clarification and interpretation, which I hope will inform the Assembly of the mind and will of the Standing Orders Committee through its co-Chairmen. It refers to draft Standing Order 52(1), which refers to

"a Standing Committee of the Assembly to be known as the Business Committee which shall arrange the business of the Assembly".

This Committee will obviously be the successor of the Committee to Advise the Presiding Officer, known as CAPO. CAPO is a purely consultative body, which advises the Initial Presiding Officer. This Standing Order assumes, subject to explanation and interpretation, an entirely different meaning when it says

"the Business Committee … shall arrange the business of the Assembly".

Normally, apart from Private Members’ business, the business of the Assembly is arranged by the Government — in this case, I hope, the four major participating parties in the Executive Committee.

In proposing this probing amendment I am conscious of Standing Order 12(4), which lays down that the Executive Committee

"shall have the right of placing its business in any order that it pleases prior to the issue of the Order Paper".

I hope to make it more evident by changing the word "arrange" to "make arrangements for". This means taking on board that which is required and recommended from other sources such as the Executive, public business or private business, so that the appropriate logistical arrangements can be made for debate. I would like clarification from the co-Chairmen of the Standing Orders Committee that that is what was intended, that the Committee would arrange the business presented to it, rather than dictate what the public, personal, private or other business of the Assembly would be.

I think that there is a most important distinction here and if the Initial Presiding Officer could provide either of the joint Chairmen with the opportunity to express the mind of the Standing Orders Committee on this matter, Members could decide if this matter should be voted upon.