Ministerial Code: Independent Investigation of Alleged Breaches

Part of Private Members' Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 5:30 pm on 24th January 2017.

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Photo of Steven Agnew Steven Agnew Green 5:30 pm, 24th January 2017

I absolutely agree, Mr Beggs.

Another point I will make is about the idea of the distinction between the Minister and the Department. When I was drafting my private Member's Bill, I asked, "Should that say 'Minister' or 'Department'?". The legal advice that I was given was that they are one and the same. The same should be true of a SpAd. The Minister, the SpAd, the Department — they are one entity. The Minister is responsible, and that is where the buck should stop.

Mr Ford highlighted the work that the Greens and the Alliance have been doing on openness and transparency in relation not just to this matter but to party donations. I deliberately left that point to the end, because I think that there is no better time to make these points. There is public distaste about the record of this Executive. There has been a lack of openness, transparency and accountability, and this measure is about introducing transparency, accountability and openness. There are other measures needed. This is but one measure, and transparency around political donations is another. My colleague Clare Bailey raised this today in relation to the RHI inquiry, but, across the board, we need to find out the relationship between those who fund the parties and the decisions that those parties make.

This is a modest proposal today. I welcome the support that there seems to be from around the House. I compel Members — sorry, I wish could compel Members. I urge Members to give it their full support and thank them for their contributions.

Question put and agreed to. Resolved:

That this Assembly acknowledges that it is in the public interest for there to be openness, transparency and accountability in relation to the Northern Ireland Executive; recognises the important role that the Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards plays in providing independent investigation of alleged breaches of the Assembly's Code of Conduct by Back-Bench Members; further recognises that the current lack of independent scrutiny of Executive Ministers benefits neither the public nor the Ministers themselves; and calls on the Executive Office to bring forward urgently legislation to expand the role of the Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards to allow him to investigate alleged breaches of the ministerial code of conduct.