MLAs: Reduction in Number

Oral Answers to Questions — Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 2nd March 2015.

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Photo of Alastair Ross Alastair Ross DUP 2:30 pm, 2nd March 2015

T5. Mr Ross asked the First Minister and deputy First Minister whether they agree that it is now time that we act to make the Assembly smaller by reducing the number of Assembly Members and, if so, whether they see any reason why that could not be done by 2016, given that, earlier today, the First Minister outlined the new names and functions of the smaller Executive, which will be good for efficiency and for saving money, and reform within the public sector is under way. (AQT 2185/11-15)

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin 2:45 pm, 2nd March 2015

We have an agreement. It is in the Stormont House Agreement that we will deal with the reduction in the number of MLAs by 2021, when the election after the one in 2016 will take place. Speaking personally, I have no difficulty at all with the reductions, except to say that, because the current number was part of the Good Friday Agreement and did not change during the discussions on the St Andrews Agreement, the reality is that we will require the support of all the parties who signed up to the Good Friday Agreement and who supported it in the referendum. I know that reservations about the speed of all of this have been expressed by the Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP. I think that this matter will essentially have to be processed through the party leaders' meetings. We are determined to deal with the issue, but it has to be in a way that brings everybody on board.