Standards and Privilege

Part of Assembly Standing Orders – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 8:30 pm on 9th March 1999.

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Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Initial Presiding Officer 8:30 pm, 9th March 1999

It is clear that the appointment of members of the Commission by the Assembly would be by election. That is not the matter at issue. The question that seems to be being asked is whether the Assembly would be in default of the legislation if the Standing Orders were not to include the clause that Standing Order 71 does, giving the number of Members. This is not a straightforward matter. It seems, on initial reading, that the default position is that if there is not a specific clause, the prescribed number is five, but that is not clear. It is necessary to seek legal advice on the matter, and I shall be doing that.

However, this vote tonight will not be a determination of the Standing Orders because they will not become operative immediately. To be operative in advance of the appointed day they would have to be determined by the Secretary of State. Therefore it is possible for the Assembly, in advance of the appointed day, to consider changes and amendments to some of the Standing Orders. The joint Chairmen have indicated that they wish to do that in the case of some of the other Standing Orders or, indeed, to put new Standing Orders.

There is nothing to preclude the Assembly legally from not taking or, indeed, from taking the Standing Order 71 that is here in draft form. The Assembly can take one line or the other without breaching the law.