Assembly Standing Orders

Part of the debate – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:45 pm on 9th March 1999.

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Photo of Nigel Dodds Nigel Dodds DUP 3:45 pm, 9th March 1999

In relation to the amendments in Mr Trimble’s name, I want to draw the Assembly’s attention to the fact that in the Standing Orders laid before the House, there are matters that were never agreed by the Standing Orders Committee.

At the Standing Orders Committee meeting of 2 March, we discussed which of the non-Statutory Committees would have a representative from every Assembly party. It is stated explicitly and was agreed explicitly that these committees would be Procedures, Standards and Privileges, Public Accounts and Equality. The rules are to be reworked to reflect this.

In this document — which members of the Standing Orders Committee did not get in final form before any other Member — we discovered that draft Standing Order 52 also includes the Business Committee as one of those committees. That is clearly a mistake; that was not what the Committee intended or agreed.

Mr Ervine pointed out that there was, however, an agreement in relation to the other four committees, and he is quite right about that. It was discussed and agreed that because of the particular nature of those committees, they should have a representative presence from each party. But that did not include the Business Committee, and I am amazed to find it included in this draft. I do not know who inserted it, but it should not be there; it was not agreed by the Standing Orders Committee.

It is quite in order, of course, for a Member to have an amendment to that effect put down, but it should not have been included in the draft. Therefore the amendment that is in Mr Trimble’s name in relation to the Business Committee is a valid one. However, the nature of the other four committees was discussed at some length by the Standing Orders Committee, and it was felt that there should be a representative presence of every party, and I think that that is quite reasonable in relation to those specific committees.

I listened with some considerable degree of interest to what Mr Trimble said on the basic principle of proportionality. He spent a long time labouring the fact that proportionality was central to the agreement and that it would be quite wrong to do anything contrary to the principle of proportionality. He laboured this point time and time again in his remarks in relation to committees of this Assembly. Yet it is interesting that on the main committee of this whole process — the Executive Committee — we do not have proportionality. When Mr Trimble agreed the make-up of the Executive Committee, he agreed to a committee with a make-up which is totally out of proportion to party strengths and to the party votes in the Assembly.