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

I do not dispute the fundamental thrust of what Mr McCartney says. Small parties have been given representation for very good reasons, and we must strike a balance between that and the practicalities of the system. Mr Ervine raised the issue of perception, and I am trying to express a perception that exists in the House. Many of our Members feel that they are not equal to some Members elsewhere.

I am not saying that that means that one rigidly impose a figure to the exclusion of all other considerations; that would not be fair or reasonable, and we are not going to do that. But as the exchange with Mr Haughey demonstrated, there is a widespread view that we should ensure that other interests are represented. We have to stretch the practicalities — to enlarge the system — but keep a relationship between the size of a committee and the size of the parties that compose it.