End of Session Report 12 May 2011 – 31 August 2012

Committee: Assembly and Executive Review Committee

Session: 2012/2013

Date: Monday, 12 November 2012

ISBN: Only available online

Mandate Report Number: 2011/15

Remit

The Assembly and Executive Review Committee is a Standing Committee established in accordance with Section 29A and 29B of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and Standing Order 59 which provide for the Committee to:

  • consider the operation of Sections 16A to 16C of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and, in particular, whether to recommend that the Secretary of State should make an order amending that Act and any other enactment so far as may be necessary to secure that they have effect, as from the date of the election of the 2011 Assembly, as if the executive selection amendments had not been made;
  • make a report to the Secretary of State, the Assembly and the Executive Committee, by no later than 1 May 2015, on the operation of Parts III and IV of the Northern Ireland Act 1998; and
  • consider such other matters relating to the functioning of the Assembly or the Executive as may be referred to it by the Assembly.

Membership

The Committee has eleven members including a Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson with a quorum of five. The current membership of the Committee is as follows:

Mr Stephen Moutray (Chairperson)
Mr Pat Sheehan (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Roy Beggs
Mr Gregory Campbell
Mr Stewart Dickson
Mr Pat Doherty [1] [2]
Mr Paul Givan
Mr Simon Hamilton
Mr John McCallister  [3] [4]
Mr Raymond McCartney
Mr Conall McDevitt

1. With effect from 2 July 2012 Mr Pat Doherty left the Committee
2.  With effect from 12 September 2011 Mr Pat Doherty replaced Mr Paul Maskey
3.  With effect from 26 September 2011 Mrs Sandra Overend replaced Mr Mike Nesbitt
4.  With effect from 23 April 2011 Mr John McCallister replaced Mrs Sandra Overend

                                           Annual Report 2011-2012

1. This report covers the work of the Committee during the Assembly year 2011-2012, from 12 May 2011 to 31 August 2012.  

2. During the Assembly year session the Committee met 22 times, including 9 times in partly closed session.

3. When the Committee met in partly closed sessions, it was for the purposes of consideration of Committee reports or to receive legal advice.

Key Activities, Outputs and Achievements 2011-2012

Review of the Initial Ministerial Provision in relation to the Department of Justice and the arrangements from 1 May 2012

4. The Department of Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2010 provided for the establishment of the Department of Justice and for the appointment of a Northern Ireland Minister to be in charge of that Department. The 2010 Act provides at section 2(1) the terms of the appointment, setting out the ‘Initial Ministerial provision’.

5. Schedule 1, Part 3, paragraph 8 of the Northern Ireland Act 2009 makes provision for the dissolution of the Department of Justice – which dissolves on 1 May 2012 unless before that date, either-

a) The Assembly resolves, through cross community support, that the Department is to continue operating from 1 May 2012, or

b) A ‘second Act’ of the Assembly provides that the Department is to continue operating from 1 May 2012.

6. This is commonly referred to as the ‘Sunset Clause’.

7. On 10th October 2011, The Northern Ireland Assembly approved the following Motion:

‘That, pursuant to Standing Order 59(4)(b), this Assembly refers to the Assembly and Executive Review Committee the matter of a review of the Initial Ministerial provision in relation to the Department of Justice and agrees that the Assembly and Executive Review Committee should make recommendations relating to the provision that should exist from 1 May 2012.’

8. The Committee agreed that its stakeholders for this Review would be the Assembly’s Political Parties and independent MLA, OFMdFM and the Department of Justice, including their respective Assembly Committees. All were issued a detailed Stakeholder Options Paper which set out possible options that flowed from the legislation. Questions sought views from stakeholders on the suitability and adequacy of the Initial Ministerial provision and in relation to the arrangements from 1 May 2012.

9. The Committee agreed to draft a report that outlined all the different opinions, summarized the consultation outcome in terms of who endorsed which options and why, and any other comments.

10.  The Report on the Review was debated in Assembly Plenary on 29th November 2011 and the Assembly noted the Report. The full report can be accessed  

http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/Assembly-Business/Committees/Assembly-and-Executive-Review/Reports/Review-of-the-Initial-Ministerial-Provision-in-relation-to-the-Department-of-Justice-and-the-arrangements-from-1-May-2012/

Review of the Number of Members of the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly and on the Reduction in the Number of Northern Ireland Departments: Part 1 - Number of Members of the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly

11.  The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland intends to bring forward a Northern Ireland Bill in the Third Session of Parliament. The Bill will provide an opportunity to make changes to the Northern Ireland institutions where there is broad support among the Assembly Parties and where Westminster primary legislation would be required, such as future amendments to the Northern Ireland Act 1998.  

12.  The Committee requested the Political Parties and the Independent Members of the Assembly for their priorities for the Committee’s immediate review of the provisions of Parts III and IV of the Northern Ireland Act, within the available timescale set out by the Secretary of State for his proposed Northern Ireland Bill.  Following consideration of the responses, the Committee agreed that its immediate review would be the size of the Assembly and the number of Northern Ireland departments.

13.  The Committee agreed the Terms of Reference for the Review, a Stakeholder ‘Call for Evidence’ Paper and a stakeholder list which included all Political Parties registered in NI.  It was agreed that Part 1 of the Review would consider and report on the number of MLAs by early June 2012.

14.  The Committee received and considered 25 Stakeholder responses to the Review, focusing on the views submitted on the five key issues set out in the Committee’s ‘Call for Evidence’ Paper.  The key issues were:

a)Whether the statutory link between Westminster and Northern Ireland constituencies should be removed and the implications of removing or retaining this link.

b)The implications of the forthcoming reduction (on the implementation of the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Act 2011) and any further reduction in the number of MLAs;

c)The reduced number of MLAs required to ensure that the effectiveness of the Assembly in delivering its key functions is maintained, consistent with the safeguards on inclusivity;

d)Proposals to mitigate the impact of reducing the number of MLA’s on the effectiveness of the Assembly in delivering its key functions, including in particular, proposals to ensure a robust and effective committee system; and

e)The reduction in the number of NI departments and associated re-allocation of functions which will ensure the effectiveness of the Executive functions are maintained.

15. The Committee also received oral evidence from Professor Rick Wilford (Queens University Belfast, the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) and the Clerk/ Director General of the Northern Ireland Assembly (Mr. Trevor Reaney).

16. Members considered that the five key Issues were very much interlinked and that a holistic approach to reaching a view on the size of the Assembly in terms of the number of MLAs should be taken.  That being said, the Committee could not reach consensus on the size of the Assembly.

17. The Report therefore set out in some detail the particular position of the Political Parties represented on the Committee on the four key issues under the first part of the Review. 

18.  The Report on the Review was debated in Assembly Plenary on 26th June 2012, and the Assembly noted the Report. The full report can be accessed at:  

http://nia1.me/yf

Likely Key Priorities for the 2012 – 2013 Session

19.  The Committee plans to report on Part 2 of its Review on the Reduction in the Number of Northern Ireland Departments in late October 2012.  The Committee will consider its priorities for further reviews in the earlier part of the autumn session.

Appendix 1

Assembly and Executive Review Committee – Expenditure for the period 1 May 2011 – 31 August 2012

Committee meetings & visits:

Budget area

Details

Expenditure

 

Printing of Committee Reports

 

Includes the cost of Committee Reports on:

  • Review of the Size of the Northern Ireland Assembly

 

  • Review of the Initial Ministerial Provision in relation to the Department of Justice and the arrangements from 1 May 2012

 

£2,813.50

 

Advertising – the cost of public notices relating to committee inquiries, the committee stage of bills and meetings held outside Parliament Buildings

 

Includes the cost of public notices in relation to:

 

  • Review on the Size of the Northern Ireland Assembly

£611.13

 

General expenses

 

Cost of refreshments for committee meetings

 

£609.97

    TOTAL:£4034.60

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