Submissions from Individuals Supporting the Bill
Some time ago you responded to my consultation on a bill to ban people with serious criminal convictions from holding the post of Special Adviser at Stormont.
I was overwhelmed with the support which my proposal received with over 800 groups and individuals responding to the consultation.
On 25 th September the Bill passed its second stage by 62 votes to 32. Now the Bill has been referred to Finance and Personnel Committee.
The DFP Committee is currently asking for evidence. The public notice announcing this fact is online here http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/Assembly-Business/Committees/Finance-and-Personnel/Civil-Service-Special-Advisers-Bill/Public-Notice/
In essence, this is a second consultation. It is important that as many people as possible send in supportive comments to the committee.
You can contact the committee by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or writing to Committee Clerk, Room 419, Parliament Buildings, Ballymiscaw, Stormont, Belfast BT4 3XX.
You could include the following points:
(i) Say you support Clause 2 because you believe that no one with a serious criminal conviction should be able to hold the position of Special Adviser due to the hurt caused to victims’ families;
(ii) Point out that SPADs hold a role at the top of government with the status, standing and pay of top civil servants. No such convicted person could hold such a post as a regular civil servant so why should they be able to be a Special Adviser;
(iii) Say you support Clause 4 (the production of an Annual Report) because you believe the tax paying public have a right to know how much of their money is going towards Special Advisers. Make the point that this is already the case in the rest of the UK;
(iv) Say you support the introduction of a Code of Conduct and Code for Appointments (Clauses 5 and 6) as this will bring greater regulation to the issue and
(v) Say you support Clause 7 which removes the right of the Presiding Officer (or speaker) to appoint a Special Adviser. Make the point that the Speaker (a) has never exercised the right to appoint a Special Adviser and (b) the role of the Speaker is above party politics and therefore he should not have the option to appoint a Special Adviser, a post which by its very nature is party political.
Please adapt these points as you please so as to avoid uniformity and feel free to add further points.
My speech in the Assembly on the issue is online here http://www.tuv.org.uk/press-releases/view/1634/special-advisers-bill-passes-second-stage
If you could advise me of any response received from the Committee I would appreciate
Here are my views on this Bill.
Clause 2 prohibits a person with a serious criminal conviction from being appointed as a special adviser.
I support the sentiments of this clause because those with a serious criminal conviction should not be appointed a Special Adviser. Just consider what the victim’s families would think.
Top Civil Servants would not be allowed to be convicted persons so why should Special Advisers be?
Clause 3 defines “serious criminal conviction” as one for which a sentence of imprisonment of five years or more, or another specified sentence, was imposed.
I entirely support this clause.
Clause 4: Annual report
This provision places a duty on DFP to prepare, and on the Minister for Finance and Personnel to lay before the Assembly, an annual report about special advisers.
As in the rest of the UK tax payers have a basic right to know how much of their money is paid to Special Advisers.
Clause 5: Code of conduct
This clause places a duty on DFP to issue, and on the Minister for Finance and Personnel to lay before the Assembly, a code of conduct for special advisers.
This is a very good idea and I fully support it.
Clause 6: Code for appointments
This clause places a duty on DFP to issue, and on the Minister of Finance and Personnel to lay before the Assembly, a code governing the appointment of special advisers.
Agree. If top civil servants need to be vetted, then so do Special Advisers.
Clause 7: Advisers to the Presiding Officer
This clause amends the Civil Service Commissioners (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 to remove the Presiding Officer of the Northern Ireland Assembly from the list of office-holders who are entitled to appoint a special adviser.
Entirely agree. The Speaker should be above party politics and should not indulge in party patronage.
To whom it may concern
Please see my response below,
- Can I voice my support for Clause 2 because I believe that no one with a serious criminal conviction should be allowed to hold a position of Special Adviser due to the hurt that this can/will cause the victims’ families surely we can all agree that they have suffered enough.
- Secondly Special Adviser hold a role at the very top of our government (whether we agree with the current arrangements or not) it is a position of status and high standing it is also a position that demands a top rate of pay. And no convicted person should hold such a post.
- I also support Clause 4 (Annual Report) because I believe the public (who pay the salary of these people) have a right to know how much of our money (Tax) is going towards Special Advisers. I believe that this is how it works in the rest of the UK and like it or not we are still part of the UK.
- There must be a Code of Conduct and Code for all such Appointments, and those who are not willing to sign up to this, have excluded themselves from any such post.
- Finally can I voice my support for Clause 7 the Speaker has never exercised the right to appoint a Special Adviser and as the role of the Speaker is above party politics they therefore should not have the option to appoint a Special Adviser,as by doing so they will bring the post to the level of all other MLA’s and thereby make it party political.
I trust that this will help you to formulate a Bill that is proper and correct in the eyes of all thinking people.
Name and address supplied.
Bill re. Post of Special Advisers (SA). Call for Evidence.
I offer my congratulations to the Members of the NI Assembly for the expeditious manner in which this Bill has made its way to the Committee stage.
This clause makes it clear that anyone with a serious criminal conviction should not be appointed to the post of SA.
I fully agree with this clause as it appears to me to be in line with practice in most sectors of employment where appointments are being made to posts of high responsibility and trust.
This clause sets out the need for an Annual Report on SA. Such legislation would ebing NI into line with the rest of the UK. It wuld provide for greater transparency as to how public monies are being spent and such a report would add to public confidence in, and respect for, those in government who are entrusted with the spending of Tax Payer’s money.
Clauses 5 & 6
I agree with both of these clauses as SAs occupy positions of high responsibility and trust. Positions, comparable to those of higher Civil Servants. SAs are also in close contact with their respective Ministers when very confidential matters are being discussed which may have a bearing on the government of the citizens of this Provence. This being the case, only those who have been adequately vetted should hold such posts.
It seems rater strange to me that the Presiding Officer/Speaker has authority to appoint SA. Who are; it seems to me, closely associated with the political party of their respective Minister, and as the Office of Presiding Officer/Speaker ought to be above Party Politics. I understand that to-date no SA has been appointed by the holder of that Office.
I agree with clause 7 as it would regularise this situation.
I would like this Bill to be passed into law as I was appalled by an earlier appointment of a SA.
Name and address supplied
I support Clause 2 - How absurd that a criminal could ever achieve the post of special adviser, and how repulsive that they be appointed as such, adding insult to injury of their victims family, while occupying a role at the very top of Government, with a top salery to match, when no such convicted person could ever hold a position of a regular civil servant.
I support Clause 4 - By the producing of an Annual Report as I believe the Tax paying public (of which I and my family
are) have a right to know how much of our money goes towards Special Advisers, as is rightly already the case in the UK, of which Northern Ireland is part of.
Clause 5 & 6 I very much support the introduction of a
code of conduct and code of appointments, creating greater control and supervision, in turn greater regulation.
I am in support of clause 7 - By removing the Speakers right to appoint a special adviser. The speaker - as I believe- has never exercised this right and also, the role of the speaker - as I understand it is/should be above Party Politics, therefore should not be in the position of appointing a special adviser.
Name not supplied
I will like to follow up with the following questions:
(i) I support Clause 2 because you believe that no one with a serious criminal conviction should be able to hold the position of Special Adviser due to the hurt caused to victims’ families;
(ii) I would like to point out that SPADs hold a role at the top of government with the status, standing and pay of top civil servants. No such convicted person could hold such a post as a regular civil servant so why should they be able to be a Special Adviser;
(iii) I support Clause 4 (the production of an Annual Report) because you believe the tax paying public have a right to know how much of their money is going towards Special Advisers. Make the point that this is already the case in the rest of the UK;
(iv) I support the introduction of a Code of Conduct and Code for Appointments (Clauses 5 and 6) as this will bring greater regulation to the issue and
(v) I support Clause 7 which removes the right of the Presiding Officer (or speaker) to appoint a Special Adviser. Make the point that the Speaker (a) has never exercised the right to appoint a Special Adviser and (b) the role of the Speaker is above party politics and therefore he should not have the option to appoint a Special Adviser, a post which by its very nature is party political.
In my opinion, legislative reform of the rules governing the selection of Special Advisers to Government Ministers in Northern Ireland is a necessity.
I firmly believe that a person who has been previously convicted of a serious criminal offence should be prohibited from holding or being employed to the position of ministerial Special Adviser, or any other paid similar post in our Government.
I agree with the suggestion that the threshold for disqualification of office role should be a previous custodial sentence of 5 years. Thi should be the case irrelevant of any Good Friday Agreement release considerations; or when and where the sentence was delivered and conviction imposed; or what length of the sentence was actually served by the convict.
A serious crime in this context should not only include activities related to terrorism; violence; murder; or conspiracy or attempts to commit these types of acts; whether politically motivated or not.
The term ‘serious criminal conviction’ should include all crimes committed in any jurisdiction, in any decade, for whatever motivation, which resulted in a conviction of 5 years or more in our jurisdiction.
I agree that the proposed prohibition of those persons with a previous serious criminal conviction should apply not only to new appointees, but also to those persons currently in post.
Such a prohibition of current Special Advisers who have a previous serious criminal conviction should include some form of timeframe of notification as with any termination of temporary employment, but should most definitely not include a redundancy package/pay-off in any shape or form.
In addition, I feel that the salaries of all Special Advisers should be greatly reduced. Special Advisers earn an obscene annual salary, even without considering the current economic recessionary situation, spending cuts, and new social reforms announced recently.
I believe that all citizens and communities of this fine country would feel the benefit of tighter regulations i.e. a Code of Appointment as to who the Ministers of the Executive/Assembly employ to advise them. In line with this, a Code of Conduct should be drafted and ratified in the typical way. It is the hard earned money of this country’s people that goes to the salaries of Special Advisers. We the people should not be paying the salaries of those persons who have been convicted in any Justice System for causing pain, suffering, and national insecurity and instability. This is the whole point as to why our power-sharing Government was devolved and established yet again- to move forward from such idiotic Governmental schemes which ignore calls for respect echoing from victims of serious crime and their families. Our country will only flourish from the removal of ex-convicts from Special Advisory roles. I feel that these aforementioned ‘national interest’ points greatly outweigh any alleged human rights implications for the individual.
I will never trust the opinions or advice of previously convicted Special Advisers whom elected politicians or parties employ, especially if that Adviser cannot even boast an impressive CV of specialised knowledge or even interest in the area of said employing Minister’s duty. Our Ministers already boast such emptiness in the enactment of their roles, in my opinion.
I would like to express my gratitude for this opportunity to put forward evidence in relation to and in support of the Civil Service (Special Advisers) Bill. I truly wish this Bill to be passed and enacted to both the satisfaction of its contents and other required adjustments as may be necessary.
Note: separate but identical submissions to No. 7 above were provided by four other individuals.
In May 2011, the only person to be convicted for the murder of my sister Mary was appointed Special Advisor to the Sinn Fein Culture Minister.
This ill considered appointment had a drastic effect on both mine and my family's emotional health and well being. It forced me back to a dark place where I had no wish to return. It succeeded in re traumatising me to the effect where I would find myself reliving the 8th of April 1984 in inappropriate places such as whilst driving, while in the supermarket, crying uncontrollably. I could no longer mention my sisters name without tears coming to my eyes . My children saw their normally calm, controlled mum anxious, stressed,hyperactive despite being sleep deprived. I was back to being that 14 year old teenager who saw her Mum leaning over her Dad and sister lying awkwardly on the dirty gravel in Windsor Avenue.
I pleaded through various media outlets that Sinn Fein would reconsider this appointment. They chose to ignore me and indeed proceeded to talk about the rights of ex prisoners while ignoring the fundamental rights of the victim. Indeed during this process I have been made to feel as though I am anti the process of peace and moving forward. This could not be further from the truth. I celebrate how far N Ireland has come on and welcome that men and women can go to work freely in the job of their choice to support their families without the fear of being killed.
I do however feel that politicians who supported the use of violence in the past now have a duty of care towards the victims created by such violence. It is within their power not to re traumatise these victims. I may have spoken up but there are thousands like me who hurt quietly at home, forced to relive the day evil visited their lives because of an arrogance that ex prisoners somehow have more human rights or protected more from the Good Friday Agreement than the very victims they created. This Bill isn't about my family seeking revenge or justice for Mary, it's about protecting future innocent families from having to relive their hell as we did. Just because people don't speak out doesn't mean they are not hurting, it's important and vital to protect them. Speaking out and leaving yourself open to criticism is difficult and traumatic , I quite understand why there are those who don't choose this path.
Thank you for taking the time to read this email and I hope it will help you understand the impact of last years Special Advisor appointment on me. Everyone is entitled to work but take ownership and have a duty of care towards your victims.
You may be aware I am in the process undergoing treatment for Breast Cancer, my next treatment date is the 8th of November, if you deemed it appropriate I would be happy to meet with the committee in person.
We believe that people with serious criminal convictions should not hold the post of Special Adviser at Stormont. Besides the hurt that having such a person in this role would cause to the victims' families these people would be at the very top of government with the status, standing and pay of a top civil servant and yet no such convicted person would get a job as a regular civil servant. For this reason we support Clause 2.
The tax paying public have a right to know how much of their money is being paid to Special Advisers and for this reason we support Clause 4, the production of an Annual Report. This is already the case in the rest of the UK.
We also support Clauses 5 and 6, the introduction of a Code of Conduct and Code for Appointments, as this will bring greater regulation to the issue.
Since the role of Speaker is above party politics and since the appointment of a special Adviser is by its very nature party political, why should the speaker have the right to appoint a Special Adviser, a right which he has never before exercised? We therefore support Clause 7 which removes the right of the Speaker to appoint a special Adviser.
Joint submission – two names supplied
Dear DFP Committee
I would like to take this opportunity to add my support for the Special Advisers Bill, as introduced by Jim Allister MLA, in the assembly.
I believe that no one with a serious criminal conviction should be allowed to hold a position such as Special Adviser as this only seeks to inflict more hurt and pain on the families of those who lost loved ones over the past 40 years of a sustained terrorist campaign. For someone to hold such a position at the top of government along with the huge salary and perks that it brings, and not to have worked for it, is deeply insulting to all those who have to live with the pain caused by these very same people. No such person could hold position as a regular civil servant so therefore why a Special Adviser ?
The tax paying public of Northern Ireland has a right to know how much of their money is going towards Special Advisers as is the case in the rest of the UK, so therefore it is essential that an annual report is produced to advise of this. More regulation is needed.
The speaker of the house should not be permitted to appoint a Special Adviser as he /she has never exercised that right before, purely because their role is supposed to be above party politics and to appoint such a post would be in essence party political.
I hope you take these points into consideration and look on this Bill most favourably.