Standards and Privilege

Part of Assembly Standing Orders – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 6:00 pm on 9th March 1999.

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Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP 6:00 pm, 9th March 1999

The amendment to Standing Order 61, amendment No 70, deals with pecuniary interest or benefit of whatever nature. In the way it is framed it relates directly to a Member’s personal pecuniary interest or benefit. The amendment seeks to widen that to the direct family circle of the Member. This is in line with the provision for district councillors in the Local Government Act 1972.

The standard required of Assembly Members should not be lower than that required of district council members. I hope this is satisfactory. In terms of the relationship, I understand it to be mother/father, daughter/son, brother/sister and husband/wife. There may be some other relationship that I am not aware of — perhaps, I am better not knowing what that might be.

The amendment to Standing Order 62 addresses the issue of how a breach of privilege may be dealt with. There are particular difficulties in the type of structures that exist in the Assembly. If this Standing Order were to remain in its present form, there could be vetoes exercised against a Committee on Standards and Privileges looking at an issue relating to a Member. A petition of concern, which requires a cross-community vote, could be applied to Standing Order 62, giving rise to vetoes.

If an issue is deemed by the Speaker to amount to a prima facie case of breach of privilege, it should automatically go to the Committee on Standards and Privileges. The Speaker may make a judgement that the prima facie case is there. If it is, it is considered, a report comes back and the Assembly can decide if it will accept the recommendations of the Committee on Standards and Privileges.

The only other issue is the three days’ notice. I think that it is inevitable —