Assembly Standing Orders

– in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 8:15 pm on 14th December 1999.

Alert me about debates like this

Motion made:

In Standing Order 54, line 1, delete "Standing" and insert "Ad Hoc". — [Mr J Wilson]

Photo of Mr Denis Haughey Mr Denis Haughey Social Democratic and Labour Party

I no longer have any authority in relation to Standing Orders, but Members will recall that I was co-Chairman of the Committee on Standing Orders with Mr Cobain during the shadow period of the Assembly. I am therefore in a position to inform the House about the deliberations of that Committee and its conclusions.

At the end of our period on the Committee several matters remained to be tidied up. As Members, Mr Cobain and I have attempted to assist the House in tidying up those loose ends, and a number of matters have been dealt with in that way. Unfortunately, this matter is one that we missed, and I should like to inform the House of the circumstances in which it arose.

The Standing Orders Committee considered the matter, and it was agreed that equality proofing of certain legislative measures which would come before the House should be carried out by what would effectively be an Ad Hoc Committee. There were discussions about what this Committee and others, apart from the statutory departmental Committees, should be called. It was in that context that the Standing Order which mistakenly referred to the Equality Proofing Committee as a Standing Committee came before the House.

Standing Committees are set up to exist throughout the lifetime of the Assembly, but that would not be appropriate for this Committee. I chaired the meeting in which this issue was considered, and it was agreed, after legal advice had been taken from the Office of the Clerk of the House, that I would propose amending Standing Order 54 accordingly. I will read briefly from the speaking notes which were prepared for me by the Committee staff. They say

"The Committee on Standing Orders wishes to make a minor amendment to Standing Order 54. Originally, when drawing up Standing Orders, we had thought it appropriate that the special Committee on Equality Matters referred to in paragraph 11 of Strand 1 of the agreement should be a Standing Committee. However, on further reflection, and having taken more advice on the matter, we are clear that this Committee is not one which should have the fixity of a Standing Committee. It needs to be constituted and reconstituted as necessary to deal with the matters referred to it. Its membership will vary according to the subject at hand to ensure that its deliberations are not prejudiced and that no conflicting interests are allowed to bear upon matters. This Committee is unique, or, as the agreement puts it, ‘will be a special Committee’, but its constitution is intended to be ad hoc and not permanent. It is therefore a special Ad Hoc Committee and should be so described, and that is the effect of the change to the Standing Order that is being proposed."

I thank Mr Wilson and congratulate him on spotting this deficiency. I support his motion.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat. I do not entirely accept the explanation given by Mr Haughey. Indeed, I wish to draw attention to the fact that during the last few meetings of CAPO — now the Business Committee — it was the fairly universal, if not unanimous, opinion of its members that the final work of the Standing Orders Committee was not of a very high standard. Indeed, it was most unsatisfactory, and I made that point myself. I can name Members who shared my view. If I remember correctly, it was shared by Members from all the parties sitting around the Committee table.

I do not accept for one moment that paragraph 11 of Strand 1 intended this to be an Ad Hoc Committee. In spite of what the Deputy First Minister said, we did have lengthy discussions in the Good Friday negotiations on equality and related issues. This very question came up, and it was deliberated upon at length. We can deal with that later. Recent work by the Standing Orders Committee has not been good. Mr Wilson, as I recall, is not even a member of the Standing Orders Committee. There is an agenda at work here.

This motion is seeking to downgrade the functions of this Committee. In my view — and I have argued this at the Committee in the last week or two — if a Committee is reduced from being a standing one to being an ad hoc one, its standing is reduced. There is no doubt whatsoever that our society needs to do a great deal of work on refocussing and reorientating itself on this very complex question of equality.

A Standing Committee becomes an expert Committee, a Committee that can draw upon the relevant people in any Department. If the Committee feels that there is a difficulty with legislation in a Department, it can call on people from that Department and from the departmental Committee — perhaps even Ministers and Chairpersons — and any other expertise it may require.

I ask the Assembly to take this matter seriously. The best thing to do is appoint a Standing Committee. Indeed, it is a Standing Committee and should remain so in order to gain expertise. In view of the likely response to the other changes on the agenda tonight, it is all the more important that the equality issue is protected in the Assembly.

This Committee is being downgraded, and I have no doubt that the equality agenda will be further downgraded as a result of other changes tonight. This is a disgrace. I understand why some people in the Chamber wish to downgrade the equality provisions, but I do not think that other parties should collude in that. I ask Members not to support this motion.

Photo of Alan McFarland Alan McFarland UUP

There is a degree of confusion here. As a member of the Standing Orders Committee, I would like to say a few words. I do not wish to address items of business concerning the Department of the Centre, which is where the equality issue rests. However, if this motion is resolved, there will be a Committee to examine equality issues.

That Committee, if the Assembly agrees to it, will be permanent. The Assembly agreed this Committee last week, but a change has been proposed. The Equality Committee under discussion is specifically designed to have the legal aspects of equality referred to it by the Assembly. If someone in the Assembly is not happy about the equality aspects of a particular Bill, he can have it referred to the Committee for re-examination. In theory it will have been examined already, but if a Member is not happy about it the Assembly, if it agrees this motion to amend the Standing Order, will be able to set up an Ad Hoc Committee to examine the matter further. As I understand it, this Committee was not designed to look at equality matters per se, which is why it is changing from being a standing one to being an ad hoc one and why there will be a Committee looking at equality, in one form or another, I hope, after these deliberations.

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Social Democratic and Labour Party

I listened to what Mr Maskey said about the contribution to the negotiations and to his suggestion that Mr Haughey’s reference to paragraph 11 of the agreement was a misrepresentation of what was intended by those who negotiated the agreement. As one who had a considerable hand in drafting paragraphs 11 to 13, which is essentially the special procedure that will concern this Committee, I can tell Mr Maskey, and assure the House, that what Mr Haughey is saying is correct. That was the clear intention of those who negotiated and drafted those paragraphs.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

I know that Mr Durkan was involved in those negotiations, but so were we. This was not our intention, though it may have been his and the intention of others. I need clarification on that. He is entitled to his opinion.

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Social Democratic and Labour Party

I note Mr Maskey’s point, but I have no recollection of Sinn Féin’s involving itself in that point of the negotiations whatsoever. Sinn Féin did make a case in relation to the Equality Commission. Some of us pointed out that the provisions for the Equality Commission on its own were not enough. The Equality Commission is outside this House, and so too are the courts, so we cannot rely on them. We said that we needed an equality provision that would allow the House to test whether the Equality Commission had been given full information on any particular measure.

At any time when a Petition of Concern is raised that a measure be tested in terms of its impact on equality or rights, this Ad Hoc Committee will be able to examine the matter and call for all relevant persons, including people from the Equality Commission and the Departments, and papers. It will really be quite powerful. You, Mr Speaker, in a former life, knew something of the provenance of this matter and were involved in the negotiations on it.

This was designed to be an ad hoc measure because we believed that, depending on what the issues were, parties would want to put different people forward who had expertise in particular sectoral matters, be that expertise economic, social, legal or whatever. We thought that the parties would want to pick horses for courses precisely because there would have to be thorough investigations and that this would allow them to put their most specialised people to work. In fact, it was envisaged that there might be several versions of this Committee at any given time, several Ad Hoc Committees, created by this special procedure, to examine different measures. This was not seen as downgrading equality proofing in any way. It was actually seen as adding to it and substantiating it in a way that would make its work transparent and effective to the House. It was aimed at complementing all the other equality measures and not, as Mr Maskey wrongly suggests, downgrading them.

Photo of Jim Wilson Jim Wilson UUP

I am grateful to Members for their contributions. However, I remain convinced that a Standing Committee with a fixed membership is not the best way in which to proceed. The Assembly must set up a special Ad Hoc Committee which can draw on the expertise which is in this Chamber as the need arises. I urge Members to support the motion.

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker 8:30 pm, 14th December 1999

A change to Standing Orders requires cross-community support. If there is no dissent the motion will pass. If there is any dissent we will move to a Division.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved:

In Standing Order 54, line 1, delete "Standing" and insert "Ad Hoc".

Photo of David Ford David Ford Alliance

I beg to move the following motion:

After Standing Order 57 insert a new Standing Order:

"( )Committee of the Centre

(1) There shall be a Standing Committee of the Assembly to be known as the Committee of the Centre, to examine and report on the exercise of the executive functions carried out in the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, other than those addressed by the Standing Committee on European Affairs, and the Committee on Equality, Human Rights and Community Relations, and on any other related matters determined by the Assembly.

(2) The Committee shall have the power to send for persons and papers.

(3) The procedures of the Committee shall be such as the Committee shall determine."

At this time of night Members may be gratified to know that my comments will be shorter than they might otherwise have been. This motion was put down because there is a gap in the Standing Orders.

Today we have debated the enormous range of functions which rest with the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister and the centralisation that has taken place there. In effect, we now have joint Prime Ministers who are also heads of the largest single Department. This is not just because of Standing Orders. The Good Friday Agreement lays down procedures for Committees in paragraphs 9 and 10. It is sometimes forgotten that paragraph 8 says

"There will be a Committee for each of the main executive functions of the Northern Ireland Administration."

Some of us are concerned that this scrutiny function appears to have been lost. The more paranoid of us have been wondering what has happened to it. There are clear crossovers with other Departments. I am not sure that the Minister of Finance and Personnel, who has just spoken, would be very happy if his areas of responsibility were subject to scrutiny while the Economic Policy Unit within the Committee of the Centre was not. The issues which we have already debated on equality, community relations, human rights and victims also need to be covered.

This motion has been put forward because a gap has opened up and some issues are not being properly covered. An amendment is to be moved which appears to my Colleagues and me broadly to cover our concerns. Given the frequency with which Standing Orders have already been amended, further amendments may be forthcoming. Having said that, I welcome the change.

Photo of Mr Seamus Mallon Mr Seamus Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party

I beg to move the following amendment: Delete all of paragraph (1) after "Committee of the" and insert

"Centre to examine and report on the following functions carried out in the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, and on any other related matters determined by the Assembly:

(a) Economic Policy Unit (other than the Programme of Government);

(b) Equality Unit;

(c) Civic Forum;

(d) European Affairs and International Matters;

(e) Community Relations;

(f) Public Appointments Policy;

(g) Freedom of Information;

(h) Victims;

(i) Nolan Standards;

(j) Public Service Office;

(k) Emergency Planning;

(l) Women’s Issues.

(2) This Committee shall replace the Standing Committees on European Affairs and Equality, Human Rights and Community Relations. Standing Orders "Standing Committee on European Affairs" and "Committee on Equality, Human Rights and Community Relations" are, accordingly, revoked.

(3) The Committee shall consist of 17 Members."

This amendment, which relates to how the Assembly will scrutinise the work of the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, is in the names of David Trimble and myself.

It is clear that all sides in the Assembly agree that there should be scrutiny of the policy functions that fall within the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers. The Good Friday Agreement says

"There will be a Committee for each of the main executive functions of the Northern Ireland Administration".

It is important to note that the Good Friday Agreement refers to "a Committee".

The Assembly previously approved the creation of two non-Statutory Committees — one relating to equality, community relations and human rights, and the second to look at European matters. The motion on the Order Paper calls for a third Committee to examine the remaining functions of the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers.

The effect of the amendment would be to follow the practice which exists for all the other Departments and to create a single Committee to perform the scrutiny function for the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, thus complying fully with the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

The amendment proposes detailed and specific policy functions for which the Committee would have a scrutiny responsibility. In the debate on junior Ministers we made clear the importance that we attach to these policy functions. Issues such as equality, community relations and economic policy go to the very heart of the new institutions that have been established, and it is right and proper that the Assembly should be able to scrutinise those functions fully.

David Trimble and I have considered very carefully what was said in the debate that was held in the Assembly in March, when the Standing Orders were debated. In that debate there was widespread support for scrutiny of the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister. Our proposals are designed to meet that concern.

It is important to recognise the difference between what we are proposing and the call for a third Committee for the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister in the motion. Our amendment clearly recognises a critical distinction.

That distinction is between the policy functions carried out by the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister and the institutional roles which David Trimble and I play as a consequence of the positions we hold. It would be without parallel for Executive Committee business or any institutions relating to the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister to be the subject of Assembly scrutiny.

It is essential that discussions in the Executive Committee or the negotiating positions for the Northern Ireland Administration in relation to the North/South Ministerial Council or the British-Irish Council remain private. The Executive collectively, and the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister specifically, are accountable to the Assembly for those decisions and their ramifications. That accountability to the Assembly is critical, and it is one that we fully recognise.

The other key difference between our amendment and the motion is that we are seeking to remove the requirement placed on the Committees dealing with equality, community relations and human rights and European matters to examine only matters "referred to it".

The amendment to the proposed Standing Order is cast in the following terms:

"to examine and report on the following functions and on any other related matters determined by the Assembly".

In the amendment we are seeking to expand the role which the scrutiny Committee can play in relation to the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, and that would bring that Committee into line with the departmental Committees established for the Departments of all Members of the Executive Committee.

The amendment is fully reflective of the Good Friday Agreement, which refers to a committee to scrutinise the main Executive functions. It places the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister on the same footing as those of all the other Ministers and ensures that the Committee established to scrutinise the work of the Centre will operate in the same way as all the other Committees. It establishes very clearly the functions that the scrutiny Committee will cover.

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

 I detect some sleight of hand in what is being proposed.

The initial motion was put down on the basis of what the Assembly considered was the best option, and it had decided that two Committees should be set up. It decided, following the judgement of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, that one Committee should deal with European matters and the other with equality issues.

I did not agree with that decision. My party made it clear to you, Mr Speaker, in a private meeting, that we felt that serious issues were arising from the First and Deputy First Ministers’ refusal to come forward with a proposal to cover other areas within their remit. We attempted to address this through a motion —and I think its terms would have been broadly acceptable to a number of parties, outside of those whose representatives were in the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister — and that would have dealt with all of the other matters that fall within the responsibility of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister.

The amendment which we are discussing today produces, to me at least, a better structure — one in which it will be possible to have those responsibilities scrutinised. Having taken that step forward, however, and having suggested one Committee through which this can be comprehensively dealt with, they step back and, I regret to say, do not include in the amendment all of the functions that are their responsibility. That is to be regretted, and I hope that they will reconsider, even before this debate is over.

The division suggested by the Deputy First Minister is somewhat spurious. Any Minister could choose to distinguish between the type of functions that are operated in his or her Department. It would be very easy to say that the Committee should be allowed to look at the policy issues that we deal with but not at the administrative matters that are our responsibility. I do not think that that would be satisfactory to the Assembly in respect of any other Department, so why should it be so for the Department of the Centre?

It is apparent, from earlier discussions, that the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister consider that their Department has such a weighty burden that they need to draw in further assistance to help them carry it, that they have matters of significance and substance to deal with. But that is contrary to the kind of open government that many of us are arguing for. Only today, I said that we should move away from colonial-style government where you do not produce the facts, where you do not allow people to scrutinise a Department in detail. In effect, the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister are saying that their Department is different from the others, that only some of its functions may be scrutinised, but not all.

Speaking as a Minister, at least for the present, I admit that it is not comfortable to have to defend one’s policies and provide answers to questions from awkward people on the Committee — and I am not looking at anybody in particular — who want to get to the bottom of an issue that is important to them. But that is what a democracy is about. One should not be advocating policies that one cannot defend, whether it is to do with North/Southery or anything else.

In annex 1a of the report from the then First Minister (Designate) and Deputy First Minister (Designate) Members will see that they raised fewer than half of the number of issues that the Committee will be capable of scrutinising. That report itemised very clearly the various issues for which they were responsible. I expect that it did not take into account many of the other areas on which they will make their opinions known, express views and even take decisions, areas that we will never be able to address because as soon as the Chairman of the Committee wants to move from the issue that is before him to one that a Member raises, he will have to look at his remit. The remit states that the Committee of the Centre is only to examine and report on the specific functions that are laid down as subjects that the Committee is entitled to scrutinise. If the Committee goes outside those specific functions, it will be acting ultra vires, and the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister will hold up their hands and say "I’m sorry, but it is not within your remit to look at those issues; you will have to have a special motion resolved by the Assembly in order to do that." The amendment is saying that the Assembly can deal with other issues, if it so determines, but that it will require a further vote in the Assembly, and a weighted vote at that.

I say to the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister that it would be far better if they came clean on the issue and made themselves subject to the same kind of scrutiny that other Ministers will be subject to. It is in the interests of any Department to put forward its arguments on issues publicly and to stand over matters that it has been dealing with privately.

The Deputy First Minister advanced the argument that they could not talk about the private negotiations that go on on a North/South basis and so forth in a Committee and that they are subject to the scrutiny of the Assembly. Well, if the negotiations are so private, it might be a lot easier for them to talk to the Committee rather than to the Assembly in a public session. That might be an easier route for them to take.

This does look, at best, a little indecisive. Last week Members sat here and set up two Committees, and this week we are demolishing those two Committees and setting up a different one in their place. The public might just expect people to think a wee bit ahead of the game and not set up one thing one week and then try to get a new structure going in its place the following week. If they have this new flexibility, next week they will come and add on the other 12 or 13 subject matters that they have not included in the amendment today.

I say, most assuredly, that this matter will not go away. They are not going to get off with it. They are going to be scrutinised, and if they are not scrutinised in a Committee, they will be scrutinised here. And it would be far better for scrutiny to be done in the atmosphere of a Committee, where we can lay the facts open and have proper discussion, than in the Assembly.

Clearly there are matters that the legislation enables the Assembly to deal with in open session, particularly North/South matters. But in spite of what the legislation says there is a plethora of issues in the report from the then First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) that have not been included.

I ask the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister to think again. If they are not prepared to do that today, and to include all the areas over which they have responsibility for scrutiny, we shall put down a substantive motion to have them included. We cannot amend their amendment, so we cannot do that today, but we will do it at the earliest possible opportunity and continue to bring this issue up until it is properly addressed.

The public have a right to be certain that not just 10 Ministers but all Ministers will be subject to this kind of scrutiny. Many of them are likely to ask "What have these two guys got to fear? Let them stand on their own feet in exactly the same way as every other Minister and be answerable in the same way as every other Minister. They should not be different."

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin 8:45 pm, 14th December 1999

A Chathaoirligh, it is important to trace the history of this Committee of the Centre. There was a huge amount of discussion and consternation in the Standing Orders Committee when it was discovered that there was what was described as a gap in the legislation and no provision for a Statutory Committee to scrutinise the Centre. We got the NIO Minister, Mr Paul Murphy, in to discuss ways of attempting to plug the gap through legislation in the House of Commons, but we were unsuccessful.

The urgency to resolve the matter increased greatly in December 1998 when the determination from the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister appeared to "pack out" the Centre. This was reinforced by their positions at that time. We had not opposed the absence of a Committee on Equality in the 10 Departments that were agreed, but we were keen to see proper scrutiny of the Centre.

Various solutions were suggested in the Standing Orders Committee to deal with the issue. One of those was to spread scrutiny of the Centre over a number of Committees, and I felt that there was general agreement on that. The motions that were passed by the Standing Orders Committee suggested that a Committee on Equality, Human Rights and Community Relations, a Committee on European Affairs, and a sort of catch-all Committee to deal with the other matters that rested with the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister would be established.

I understand from the minutes of the Standing Orders Committee that the joint Chairmen and the Clerk of the Standing Orders Committee were mandated in July to present a proposal for a Committee of the Centre. At a previous sitting of the Assembly, we agreed to set up the Committee for Equality, Human Rights and Community Relations and the Committee for European Affairs. Surprisingly, the draft Order Paper for that sitting proposed a Committee of the Centre in the name of one of the then Chairmen of the Standing Orders Committee, yet that proposal was withdrawn from the Order Paper itself.

There is an element of farce in that at which the DUP has rightly poked fun, but I note that it does not express any regret at the potential loss, given the terms of the amendment, of the Committee on Equality, Human Rights and Community Relations. That should strike home on this side of the House.

Today we have had a proposal, which has been dropped, and an amendment relating to a Committee of the Centre, and neither came from the Standing Orders Committee, where such was supposed to originate. Indeed, the amendment came from the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister. It is a matter of concern that the Standing Orders Committee was mandated to do this and did not. I believe that there has been a welter of confusion over Standing Orders. As a member of the Committee, I accept the criticism from Members about its way of doing business in the months before the transfer of power. In spite of that there are greater concerns about the amendment from the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister.

Photo of Mr Denis Haughey Mr Denis Haughey Social Democratic and Labour Party

I was one of the Chairmen of the Standing Orders Committee, yet I am hearing for the first time about this welter of confusion. It is amazing that no one was aware of it during our work.

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

The welter of confusion arose from the fact that several motions were tabled, some of them in the name of both former Chairmen of the Committee. One was in the name of just one of the Chairmen, and it was withdrawn. If that is not confusing, I do not know what is.

Photo of Mr Denis Haughey Mr Denis Haughey Social Democratic and Labour Party

Does the withdrawal of one motion constitute a welter? Does that conform to the ordinary understanding of everyday English — a welter of confusion?

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

I was on the Standing Orders Committee and also on the Business Committee, and I suggest that Mr Haughey read some of the Business Committee minutes in which he will see what that Committee thought of the performance of the Standing Order Committees in recent months.

We have other concerns about the proposal from the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister and not just because the detailed proposal on how the Department of the Centre would be scrutinised by the Assembly comes from the Department which is the subject of that scrutiny. We are also concerned because half of the items on the long list of the Department’s functions are omitted from the list given by the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister in their amendment.

What concerns me most is the proposal in the amendment to scrap the Committees that we established last week. They are the Equality, Human Rights and Community Relations Committee and the Committee for European Affairs. [Interruption]

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

Order. The hubbub is beginning to get above what is reasonable. The Member who is speaking must be given a hearing.

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

I turn to the debate that arose from the determination by the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister on 18 January, when the current Minister of Higher and Further Education said, in relation to equality,

"We believe that the Assembly should assist in this task by the establishment of a special Committee to scrutinise equality."

That was reinforced by Mr Nesbitt, who will be a beneficiary of today’s proceedings. He said

"Indeed, we believe there is a case for a Scrutiny Committee to deal with this aspect of rights and equality."

It was intended then to have a Committee to scrutinise the equality functions at the Centre. Suddenly today, without any notice and regardless of any discussion and agreement in the Standing Orders Committee, in the Committee to Advise the Presiding Officer and in the Business Committee, the SDLP and the UUP, as represented by the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, have changed their minds on the issue.

Given that these gentlemen have spent most of the evening trying to convince us that the remit of the Department of the Centre is so vast that four Ministers are needed to cover it adequately, we must question the logic of their proposal to reduce the number of Committees scrutinising that Department from three to one. The suspicion that they do not want proper scrutiny of their Department is hard to avoid.

The net effect of today’s business is likely to be less scrutiny, less accountable Government and the downgrading of equality. Contrary to Mr Mallon’s suggestion, that is not the vision of politics that underpinned the Good Friday Agreement. It should be rejected to allow us to proceed, as we agreed some months ago, with proper scrutiny of all the functions of the Executive. Go raibh maith agat.

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC

I oppose the amendment. As Mr Peter Robinson and Mr Conor Murphy have said, we are surprised by its introduction. For about 18 months it was understood and accepted that the Committee on European Affairs and the Committee on Equality, Human Rights and Community Relations were necessary and would be set up. The effect of the amendment would be to revoke the Committee on European Affairs and the Committee on Equality, Human Rights and Community Relations and, as Mr Peter Robinson has said, to reduce the amount of scrutiny of the Department of the Centre. Fewer than half the matters for which it is responsible would be subject to scrutiny.

There is a dire need for the Equality, Human Rights and Community Relations Committee, and the best example of that need is to be found in yesterday’s appointment of people to advisory boards. The Deputy First Minister has said that equality goes to the very heart of our institutions. Where was the gender balance when those board members were appointed? For example, Trade Business and Development has 12 members, of whom four are women; Food Safety has 11 members, of whom two are women; the North/South Language body has 16 members, of whom five are women; and the Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights body has 12 members, of whom two are women.

If we are serious about equality why was more effort not made to ensure that there was a gender balance? That would have given a much needed example of the new Government’s attitude to equality. Equality and women’s issues should be at the heart of the practice and not just the words of this institution. They are not political points to be scored. That was not the case with appointments to these bodies.

Europe is our future and European affairs cut across every Department. I have often heard complaints about the Dublin Government’s interfering in our affairs, but people forget that since 1973 the Dublin Government, along with the French Government and the German Government, have been setting the price of our butter. This interference in our affairs has been happening since we joined the European Union. European affairs affect every policy area, and it is very important that we have a Committee on European Affairs to cover that. This has always been accepted in the Assembly, and I do not understand the logic of this amendment to eradicate these two Committees.

The most important point, and one that Mr Peter Robinson has raised, is that the effect of this amendment would be to leave 13 out of the 26 areas for which the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister are responsible with no scrutiny whatsoever. The North/South Ministerial Council would not be covered, nor would the British/Irish Council and key issues relating to the machinery of government. Liaison with the Secretary of State and the International Fund for Ireland would not be covered, and information services, which are vital to the machinery of government, would have no scrutiny whatsoever. Neither would there be scrutiny of cross-departmental co-ordination, the Assembly Ombudsman, the Policy Innovation Unit and the awarding of honours.

It would be wrong of the Assembly to accept this amendment on the grounds that there should be openness and transparency. Committees should be able to scrutinise all areas of government. We need a Committee on European Affairs, a Committee on Equality, Human Rights and Community Relations and a Committee of the Centre, covering all the Centre’s responsibilities. That is the way forward.

Photo of David Ervine David Ervine PUP 9:00 pm, 14th December 1999

I oppose the amendment and therefore support the motion. I am dismayed by today’s affairs. I do not wish to believe that the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister are naïve, but it is the best option open to me. The only alternative is to think, as has been suggested, that there has been a sleight of hand. We agreed to have two Committees and to generate a third to cover the remit of the First and Deputy First Ministers’ Department. Substantial portions of the report they produced when they were, as Mr Robinson said, "Designate" are absent. The fact that there has been no consultation about this and the immediacy with which they have landed pieces of paper on this Table are bound to give people cause for concern.

A malaise is creeping in. Whether it is because of the amount of patronage there is for some Members or the benefits of creating junior Ministers, with which we agree, I do not know — we are just not happy with what is happening because we have not been told enough about it. This behaviour is arrogant and in the nature of big parties. Members can see from Hansard that we have talked about the fear of patronage before. We have also talked about the lack of inclusion, and the big parties are inclined to get carried away with that.

I am not advocating that anyone from a small party like ours should be the chairman of such a committee, but I am saying very clearly that unless there is consultation, there will not be support. If something were to be done which seemed either naïve or shifty — and I would prefer it to seem naïve — I would be inclined to believe that it was neither if someone were reasonable enough to discuss it. Each issue has to come to the Floor of the House. The requirement for cross-community support may or may not make a difference this evening, but it will at some point in the future. Let the two large parties who are responsible for this — and they will no doubt support the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister — be warned that if it is to be the nature of things in the future, we will not support matters about which we are unclear or which are designed for the benefit of the big parties alone. In that respect today’s proceedings have not been good, and we will undoubtedly support the motion.

Photo of Robert McCartney Robert McCartney UKUP

What we are experiencing today is not the fundamental sickness that will affect the Assembly, but merely some of the symptoms of that sickness. The Assembly was founded on unique and undemocratic principles. Such principles were imported because it was said that Northern Ireland was a unique place for which the ordinary principles of democracy were unsuited, and that is why the Belfast Agreement created the sort of institution that we have here. Ministers were elected on a peculiar and unique system — the d’Hondt system. It is unique in British parliamentary experience. It may be suitable for some German Länder, but it is not suitable here.

There is an absence of democracy in the sense that there is no Government and no Opposition — an Opposition that could hope that by persuading the electorate of the defects of the current Government it would one day enter into Government in their place. Such an Opposition would have had the task of questioning and examining, on the Floor of the Assembly, the workings of the Government. Instead of that, we have the consensus arrangement under which the four major parties divided up the 10 ministerial offices among them and, together with the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, control the Executive. If this continues, subject to the present position of the DUP, the vast majority of the Assembly will always be in Government with a few minor parties hanging about, perhaps least of all my own, such as the Women’s Coalition, the Alliance Party, the United Unionists, and, to a lesser extent, Sinn Féin and the DUP. Essentially, the Executive is controlled by two parties which, with a little assistance from their friends from time to time, can deliver the Nationalist and the Unionist vote in accordance with the principles on which the Executive has been erected.

Therein lies the problem. To counterbalance the overwhelming power of the Executive, which is centred on the two major parties, we were to have a series of scrutinising Committees. Again, the overwhelming membership of those Committees would come from the four major parties that constitute the Executive. At an early stage in the meetings of the Standing Orders Committee, I pointed out that Standing Orders would have to be very zealous in protecting the Assembly against an over-mighty Executive. I and other members of the Committee will recall that Dr Farren, who is now the Minister of Higher Education, suggested that the plenary sessions of the Assembly should be held on two days a month as all other business would be conducted in Committees and by the Executive. Plenary sessions were seen to be an irritation to the backside. That was the extent to which the Assembly was to be reduced, and one has to superimpose the party system on all that.

Under this amendment, the Assembly can deal with any other related matters, as determined by the Assembly, as well as with the 50% of the matters in the Annex that are excluded from the scrutiny of the Committee of the Centre. What will happen when it is decided to have a vote on whether a matter should be sent to that Committee? The SDLP will follow its leader, and the UUP will try to screw up enough support to carry it through if voting is on the basis of a majority decision. The two of them will organise their Members to vote down any proposal from the rest of us to have such a matter sent to the Scrutiny Committee for examination. The distribution of patronage and the organising of those on the payroll are part and parcel of the means by which Executives in every country control their legislatures.

One of the difficulties about Westminster, the Mother of Parliaments, is that its role is being totally reduced. There is an elite in the Executive and a collection of Lobby fodder in Parliament. Because they are part of the hierarchical party system, they want to keep their noses clean to ensure that they will progress up the greasy pole to the ultimate position. They go through the Lobby, although most of them do not know which Lobby to go through and have to be directed by the Whips. The Executive is exercising more and more control and is reducing the plenary sessions of Parliament to a ghastly joke.

Under that arrangement, however, there is at least an Opposition. There is still the hope that somewhere along the line the Opposition will become the Government, as happened to Labour. Therefore there is at least some examination, if only out of self-interest. Where is the self-interest here? The self-interest, if any, lies between the two major parties.

I must make it plain that the Government and the Northern Ireland Office knew this all along. Those Members of the Women’s Coalition who ululated when this great thing was brought into being, those Members of the PUP who were conned — some of them were told that, in other circumstances, they would be world statesmen — are, in effect, no longer necessary to the propagation of this scheme. So far as the Centre is concerned, the Women’s Coalition may go on about its equality agenda, women’s rights and Europe, and Ms Morrice can talk about butter and all the rest of it, but the truth is that the Women’s Coalition is a pain in the butt to those who really want to get on with the business of running this Government. Those people do not want to be faced with the idea that one or other of the smaller parties could be heading a Committee that was going to give the ruling parties any trouble. That is the truth. [Interruption]

9.15 pm

I hear Mr Ervine muttering about patronage in North Down. There is no patronage in North Down. I am not looking for anything from the Government by way of financial remuneration, and I am bitterly opposed in principle to the honours system, so I am not concerned with that.

Let us get back to the main issue which is that this amendment relates to the ever-increasing centralisation of power within the Executive and within the control of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister. That is why the smaller parties are being excluded from this. That is why, through working the party system, they will be able to prevent the smaller parties from ever bringing any matter to be scrutinised by this Committee. This is all about Executive power against the power which Members, as a body, hope to exercise in plenary sessions. All of this is related to matters which we discussed last week and this week — matters such as patronage, with more than 50% of Assembly Members on the payroll at a salary above their normal one.

It makes you begin to wonder who is dispensing this patronage. Who will decide who is to be a Whip? Who will, as happened this morning, decide who will be a junior Minister and for what? The Executive, not the Members. While we have this fundamentally flawed, allegedly consensual arrangement, effective scrutiny Committees under the control of the Assembly will be vital. If those at the very centre of power can, by this amendment, exclude matters from the scrutiny of the Assembly or its Committees — and they are effectively excluding them from both — the Members’ function is thereby diminished.

Members should think very carefully about the fundamentals of this. Why are Members here? Are they really here to be Lobby fodder for the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister? Are they motivated by what is best for the people of Northern Ireland or are they motivated by party loyalties alone, or are they, from time to time perhaps, motivated by a mixture of party loyalties and self-interest?

I have heard the allegation made that it is all right for Bob McCartney — he is not worried about his salary or this or that. That may or may not be true, but it does invest me with the capacity to stand here, owing nothing to any man and wanting nothing from any man, and say what needs to be said. It is time the Assembly and its Members started taking note, or are they all going to be placemen and placewomen?

I listened to the Members from the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition, and behind all their talk about Europe and women’s rights was the suggestion that both were admirably fitted to be a Chairperson in charge of the question of Europe or women’s rights. The talk about inclusivity is because the smaller parties — and the Women’s Coalition in particular — are being excluded from office. That is what this is all about.

All of this, however, is cloaked with the appearance that they are very concerned about these things. Their concern makes me smile, not at the subject matter of their concerns, which are very real, but at the way in which these Ladies are presenting them, a way which any intellectual feminist abandoned 20 years ago. [Interruption]

Photo of Michelle Gildernew Michelle Gildernew Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a Chathaoirligh. I do not want to repeat what my Colleague Mr Conor Murphy has already said. However, I have to put on record my disappointment at events in the House tonight.

The Assembly has moved from our position in the Good Friday Agreement, which suggested that we have a dedicated Department of Equality, to talking about and rejecting the suggestion that we have a dedicated junior Minister for equality. It has moved from talking about and rejecting a standing committee to scrutinise equality, human rights and community relations to lumping the equality unit into the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, where it will be swallowed up entirely.

Inequality, discrimination, community relations and human rights have now been shifted again, and we must question the agenda which is driving the debate in the House tonight. The inequalities which have existed for years were what prompted me to enter politics in the first place, and I am disgusted that every attempt to scrutinise the delivery of equality in our society is being thwarted. Go raibh maith agat.

Photo of Rt Hon David Trimble Rt Hon David Trimble First Minister of Northern Ireland, Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party

It is my job to wind up the debate on this issue, and I hope to be brief.

I wish to touch on some of the contributions which have been made, and, first of all, I shall touch on the penultimate contribution — that made by Mr McCartney. It was interesting to listen to the Member contrast the operation of parliamentary principles, as they are known at Westminster, with our practice here. I do not intend to follow him into the detail of that. Rather, I wish to note the contrast between the differences he drew and the fact that he treated Assembly Members here in exactly the same way as he treats Members of Parliament at Westminster. If he continues to do that, he will have as many friends in this Assembly as he has at Westminster. [Interruption]

Moving on to the points of substance that were made by other Members, specifically Ms Morrice and Mr C Murphy, I expressed concern about the rationalisation that these proposals are to bring about. It is fair to say that over the months — indeed, years — a number of different proposals have been made on scrutiny of the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister and the responsibilities within it, and a number of Members here have changed their positions on the matter.

We should acknowledge that we have arrived at what I think is the best outcome. We are not abandoning scrutiny on equality issues, European issues or other issues, but we are consolidating them on a better basis. Mr Robinson acknowledged this because he conceded that this amendment will produce a better structure, and I agree. By way of criticism, Mr Robinson also suggested that we are attempting to treat the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister more favourably than other Ministers and that some matters will not receive scrutiny. That is not a valid criticism. We have to draw a distinction, as the amendment tries to do, between the process by which policy is formulated and the question of a policy’s merits, how it is implemented and what its consequences are.

In all systems, the process by which policy is evolved and the discussions which take place with officials are free from scrutiny. That is also true of other Departments. I am certain that Mr Robinson, together with his ministerial colleagues, will respond in the same way as we are responding if his Committee asks what advice he received from officials and what matters were considered when he was formulating policy.

The Deputy First Minister made the point when he was introducing this matter. He said

"It is essential that discussions which take place in the Executive Committee, or the negotiating positions for the Northern Ireland Administration in relation to the North/South Ministerial Council or the British-Irish Council should remain private."

The amendment provides for that. It also provides for the scrutiny of all of the significant functions in the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister which have any Executive character and does so in a much more rational and coherent manner than previous proposals.

It is a pity that it came through late. However, this reflects the fact that over the past few weeks we have had a flurry of items to focus on in the operation of our Office. I apologise to Members that the amendment was tabled at such short notice. This was largely because we were able to focus on the matter only last night, when we started to look at its implications. The amendment evolved after consultations with some Members. I concede that not all Members were consulted.

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

First, having listened to the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, I am not convinced that there is a distinction between the policy issues and the outworking of those issues in their Office that is any way different from that of any of the other Departments. Every Department has policy and strategic issues, and there is an outworking of those policies. Ministers will be questioned, interrogated, and turned upside down on all of those issues — and rightly so.

I do not think that there will be any such distinction either in the minds of those on the Committees. They will be able to ask us how we arrived at our decisions, and in many instances they will have taken part in our arriving at them. In formulating our decisions we will have to seek advice, and, under legislation, we will be given advice by the Committees. The First Minister and the Deputy First Minister will be denied that advice by excluding these matters from the remit of their Committee.

Secondly, by excluding those matters, the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister know that they are taking one significant power away, and that is the power to require papers to be produced. That cannot be done in the Assembly, but it can be done in Committee if the excluded matters are included in the Committee’s remit.

Photo of Rt Hon David Trimble Rt Hon David Trimble First Minister of Northern Ireland, Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party

I return to the point that I made earlier. The distinction, which the Minister is trying to blur, does exist. It is to be found in the Deputy First Minister’s comment which I quoted earlier. It is essential that discussions which take place in the Executive or the negotiating positions which we adopt — regardless of whether they be for the North/South Ministerial Council, the British-Irish Council, or Brussels — remain private. That was our central concern when we framed this amendment.

We have provided for effective scrutiny to cover all the concerns that were expressed by Ms Morrice, Mr Murphy and Mr Ervine. I am quite confident that we have in this amendment a more coherent, better and more effective procedure for scrutiny than we would have had in the provisions that were otherwise evolving.

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

I call Mr Ford to make his winding-up speech.

Photo of David Ford David Ford Alliance

I was expecting Mr Peter Robinson to speak.

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

I am content to call Mr Robinson.

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP 9:30 pm, 14th December 1999

I am reluctant to speak for a third time on the issue, but if you insist, Mr Speaker, I shall do so. My speaking a short time ago was little more than an intervention, but since the First Minister allowed me to make it, it was valid. I also note that he did not bother to respond to it, which shows how worthwhile it must have been.

I accept — and I made this very clear during my remarks — that in structural terms there are significant advantages in having all issues dealt with in one Committee. Some of those who wish to see three Committees instead of one would regret that before too long, since there would be an overlapping of functions.

The key issue, on which all of those who have spoken against the amendment are united, is that all the functions of the Department must be scrutinised, whether by one Committee or three. If I am asked to choose whether I would rather have one Committee dealing with half of the matters or three Committees dealing with them all, I will opt for the latter. We should not, however, be forced to choose.

I offered the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister an opportunity to place the rest of their responsibilities under the Committee’s remit so that we could deal with them all in the proper, structured way suggested. Unfortunately, they did not avail themselves of that opportunity, and, regardless of the arithmetic at the end of today’s debate, it is simply not going to wash.

Issues will arise. The First Minister and the Deputy First Minister may feel that they are avoiding them by not having all their responsibilities included in this remit. It is, however, a feature of all deliberative Chambers that they have in them people of sufficient ingenuity to ensure that such matters are raised again and again. However, it is far better to do it in some structured way such as in a Committee than have it come out through cracks in the system, which would be most unfortunate for the whole running of the Assembly.

I cannot read the mind of the Member who moved the motion, but I detect from what people have been saying that a number of them are not content with the amendment and intend to vote against it. I hope that they will do so in sufficient numbers to allow the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister to recognise that they are not carrying the House with them. When we are dealing with the very structures of business, it is not sufficient to have a mere majority. Policy issues differ from those of structure in that, with a policy issue, one can get away with a mere majority. One can operate the policy. However, one cannot expect people to work on an ongoing basis within a structure that does not have the consent of a significant number of this Assembly’s Members — it will simply not work.

They should learn the lesson, sooner rather than later, that they do not have the mind of the Assembly on this issue yet. If they were prepared to set up two Committees last week, only to dump them this week and set up another, then, before too long, if they do not accept the burden of what is in the motion, they will have to return to the Assembly to seek sufficient consensus. I trust that they will take this on board.

This is not a matter of looking for opportunities to snap at the heels of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister — though for some that might be the case. The reality is that this would be good for democracy. It would give people an opportunity to get off their chests all the issues which burden them and, more importantly, burden the people outside. If they are not given vent within a democratic structure, they will be given vent outside in an undemocratic fashion. It is up to democrats to make sure that the opportunity for this is given within the structures of the democracy, rather than allow it to be pushed out where it will adopt a more unseemly face. I trust that they will think again. Even if they win the vote today, they will have to return to this issue before too long.

Question put

The Assembly divided: Ayes 53; Noes 32.

AYES

Nationalist

Alex Attwood, P J Bradley, Joe Byrne, John Dallat, Arthur Doherty, Mark Durkan, Sean Farren, John Fee, Tommy Gallagher, Carmel Hanna, Denis Haughey, Joe Hendron, Patricia Lewsley, Alban Maginness, Seamus Mallon, Donovan McClelland, Alasdair McDonnell, Eddie McGrady, Eugene McMenamin, Danny O’Connor, Eamonn ONeill, Brid Rodgers, John Tierney.

Unionist

Ian Adamson, Pauline Armitage, Billy Armstrong, Roy Beggs, Billy Bell, Tom Benson, Esmond Birnie, Joan Carson, Fred Cobain, Robert Coulter, Duncan Shipley Dalton, Ivan Davis, Reg Empey, Sam Foster, John Gorman, Derek Hussey, Danny Kennedy, James Leslie, David McClarty, Alan McFarland, Michael McGimpsey, Dermot Nesbitt, Ken Robinson, George Savage, David Trimble, Jim Wilson.

Other

Eileen Bell, David Ford, Kieran McCarthy, Sean Neeson.

NOES

Nationalist

Michelle Gildernew, Alex Maskey, Barry McElduff, Gerry McHugh, Mitchel McLaughlin, Conor Murphy, Mick Murphy, Mary Nelis, Sue Ramsey.

Unionist

Paul Berry, Mervyn Carrick, Wilson Clyde, Nigel Dodds, David Ervine, Oliver Gibson, William Hay, David Hilditch, Billy Hutchinson, Roger Hutchinson, Gardiner Kane, Robert McCartney, Maurice Morrow, Ian R K Paisley, Edwin Poots, Iris Robinson, Mark Robinson, Peter Robinson, Jim Shannon, Jim Wells, Sammy Wilson.

Other

Monica McWilliams, Jane Morrice.

Total Votes 85 Total Ayes 53 (62.4%)

Nationalist Votes 32 Nationalist Ayes 23 (71.9%)

Unionist Votes 47 Unionist Ayes 26 (55.3%).

Question accordingly agreed to (by cross-community consent).

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson DUP 9:45 pm, 14th December 1999

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Were all Members aware of the correct Lobby to go through? There appeared to be some confusion in the Alliance Party.

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

Order. Members are still learning, but I have no doubt that they were fully aware of how they were voting.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson DUP

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. As Speaker and as a psychiatrist, do you deal with political schizophrenia, and would you counsel some of your own party members?

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

When I come to this Chair I must leave all my other attachments to the side — for the sake of my sanity, if nothing else.

Main Question, as amended, put.

The Assembly divided: Ayes 52; Noes 33.

AYES

Nationalist

Alex Attwood, P J Bradley, Joe Byrne, John Dallat, Arthur Doherty, Mark Durkan, Sean Farren, John Fee, Tommy Gallagher, Carmel Hanna, Denis Haughey, Patricia Lewsley, Alban Maginness, Seamus Mallon, Donovan McClelland, Alasdair McDonnell, Eddie McGrady, Eugene McMenamin, Danny O’Connor, Eamonn ONeill, Brid Rodgers, John Tierney.

Unionist

Ian Adamson, Pauline Armitage, Billy Armstrong, Roy Beggs, Billy Bell, Tom Benson, Esmond Birnie, Joan Carson, Fred Cobain, Robert Coulter, Duncan Shipley Dalton, Ivan Davis, Reg Empey, Sam Foster, John Gorman, Derek Hussey, Danny Kennedy, James Leslie, David McClarty, Alan McFarland, Michael McGimpsey, Dermot Nesbitt, Ken Robinson, George Savage, David Trimble, Jim Wilson.

Other

Eileen Bell, David Ford, Kieran McCarthy, Sean Neeson.

NOES

Nationalist

Michelle Gildernew, Alex Maskey, Barry McElduff, Gerry McHugh, Mitchel McLaughlin, Conor Murphy, Mick Murphy, Mary Nelis, Sue Ramsey.

Unionist

Fraser Agnew, Paul Berry, Mervyn Carrick, Wilson Clyde, Nigel Dodds, David Ervine, Oliver Gibson, William Hay, David Hilditch, Billy Hutchinson, Roger Hutchinson, Gardiner Kane, Robert McCartney, Maurice Morrow, Ian R K Paisley, Edwin Poots, Iris Robinson, Mark Robinson, Peter Robinson, Jim Shannon, Jim Wells, Sammy Wilson.

Others

Monica McWilliams, Jane Morrice.

Total Votes 85 Total Ayes 52 (61.2%)

Nationalist Votes 31 Nationalist Ayes 22 (71.0%)

Unionist Votes 48 Unionist Ayes 26 (54.2%)

Main Question accordingly agreed to (by cross-community consent).

Resolved:

After Standing Order 57 insert a new Standing Order:

"( ) Committee of the Centre

(1) There shall be a Standing Committee of the Assembly, to be known as the Committee of the Centre, to examine and report on the following functions carried out in the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister and on any other related matters determined by the Assembly:

(a) Economic Policy Unit (other than the Programme of Government);

(b) Equality Unit;

(c) Civic Forum;

(d) European Affairs and International Matters;

(e) Community Relations;

(f) Public Appointments Policy;

(g) Freedom of Information;

(h) Victims;

(i) Nolan Standards;

(j) Public Service Office;

(k) Emergency Planning; and

(l) Women’s Issues.

(2) This Committee shall replace the Standing Committees on European Affairs and Equality, Human Rights and Community Relations. Standing Orders ‘Standing Committee on European Affairs’ and ‘Committee on Equality, Human Rights and Community Relations’ are, accordingly, revoked.

(3) The Committee shall consist of 17 Members.

(4) The Committee shall have the power to send for persons and papers.

(5) The procedures of the Committee shall be such as the Committee shall determine."

The sitting was suspended at 10.00 pm.