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 Reg Empey Reg Empey UUP 4:15 pm, 9th March 1999

Mr Ervine spoke about Members’ perception of what is being proposed. Perception is a double-edged sword. My party’s perception is that some Back-Benchers are frequently not equal to Mr Ervine or his Colleagues. There is a widely-held view that, because of their make-up, committees such as the Committee to Advise the Presiding Officer, do not accurately reflect the elected membership of the Chamber.

Our view is that while there must be practical limits to the size of any committee, which is why a figure of about 11 was thought reasonable, another figure could be looked at. The feeling was that parties with one, two, three or four Members somehow think that they should have greater privileges and rights than Members of my party, and that our Back-Benchers do not equate as individuals in the same way as Members of smaller parties. That perception has existed since July, and it is largely a reflection of the fact that we came here from a talks process that was constructed in an entirely different way. In that process, representation did not reflect electoral strength.