Assembly Standing Orders

Part of the debate – in the Northern Ireland Assembly on 9th March 1999.

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Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

This amendment deals with how the Committees will operate when they are considering matters in relation to, for instance, a Bill brought to them by the Assembly. The words whose removal I am suggesting —

"to be made to the Bill" — indicate something that definitely will occur. I am suggesting they be replaced by words which indicate that a Bill may be proposed. That would give an option. I imagine that this Committee will make a series of recommendations, which may, indeed, become proposals for amendments, but I suspect that, as the purpose of the Committee is to advise and assist a Minister, it would be a very foolish Minister indeed who would not take the recommendations of his Committee and consider them very seriously.

At that stage he might well agree to adopt some of those amendments as part of the Bill and therefore there would be a Government amendment relating to them. There may be others which he might be able to convince the Committee should not be accepted in the way that it has suggested, and the Committee may decide not to move the amendment.

Amendment No 22 provides for that degree of flexibility which will allow a Minister to adopt Committee recommendations and for the Committee, on reflection, to accept whatever argument is put by a Minister. As it stands at the moment, the amendments have to be made. I am not sure if the word "made" is appropriate. The word "moved" would be more appropriate if one were to stick with the original text. The amendment should allow more flexibility in the working of the Committee system.

I need not spend much time on amendment No 21. A Bill is set down "on" and not "in".

Amendment No 20 seems to have been caused by an error in the typing of the report or in its compilation. With the erratum being applied to Standing Order 31, the heading is "Public Bills: Human Rights Issues". The heading for Standing Order 32 is "Public Bills: Equality Issues". However, in No 32(1) there is reference to "human rights" instead of "equality requirements". Amendments 17, 18 and 19, whose purpose is to remove the words "and observance of human rights", are consequential. Legal advice is that if the original Standing Order is clearly wrong some further tidying up might be required, and the Committee might want to look at that. Indeed, it might fall within the context of the catch-all amendment that we had to the notice of motion, which allows some tidying up to be done.