Assembly Standing Orders

Part of the debate – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 4:15 pm on 9th March 1999.

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Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Initial Presiding Officer 4:15 pm, 9th March 1999

Before calling the next Member, I need to make one or two remarks. Mr Robinson asked whether the cover-all clause, which was the amendment to the previous item on the agenda, to make the wording consistent and so on, would cover a change of the type to which he adverted in Standing Order 54(3)? It seems clear to me that a change of the order which he describes is much more than a mere tidying-up of words; there is a difference in meaning and substance in terms of the making of appointments, and I think that the change to which he adverts could only be made by a substantive amendment.

Now, there is another matter which is of similar order. There has been some discussion about matters being taken back or about changes to the number of members on committees and so on being made. There is no facility for taking back anything to the committee. The Assembly can only vote for or against what is here. It is, of course, entirely possible for the Standing Orders Committee to consider matters and to bring amendments or new Standing Orders or whatever to a subsequent meeting of the Assembly, but there is no facility for taking back, any more than there is a facility for a Minister to take back part of a Bill. A Member simply votes one way or another and on the basis of that the Standing Orders Committee may, at a subsequent sitting of the Assembly, bring forward new Standing Orders or amendments to existing ones. The House needs to keep that in mind when it comes to voting on amendments or, indeed, on Standing Orders themselves.