Assembly Standing Orders

Part of the debate – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 5:00 pm on 9th March 1999.

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Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson DUP 5:00 pm, 9th March 1999

I accept the first proposition, that the Statutory Committees should have 11 members. I also accept that non-Statutory Committees should be constituted to ensure that the smaller parties have representation. It was said that if committees were as large as the present Standing Orders Committee, the Ulster Unionist Party would be required to put four of its members on each one. Therein lies the difficulty. The Standing Orders require the Ulster Unionist Party to provide only two Members for each committee.

Having argued that he could not provide all the necessary people, the First Minister (Designate) now says "Let us increase them." That is somewhat odd, and it would mean eight additional places on the four committees for Ulster Unionist Members. If we vote against the Standing Orders, the smaller parties will not be sure of representation. It is a case of a bird in the hand being worth two in the bush. The smaller parties, and those who wish to protect their position, would be better to vote for the Standing Orders to remain in their present form. We must ensure that those parties that will be outside the Executive and which will form the Opposition are not excluded from these important committees.

I thought that the present formulation was accepted by everyone on the Standing Orders Committee. The smaller parties compromised on the Statutory Committees, and the larger parties compromised on the others. It would be a display of bad faith for Members to vote against that compromise between the two sides.