Official Report (Hansard)

Session: 2008/2009

Date: Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:
Mr Jimmy Spratt (Chairperson)
Mr Raymond McCartney (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood
Mr Simon Hamilton
Mr Danny Kennedy
Mr Alex Maskey
Mr Nelson McCausland
Mr Alan McFarland
Mr John O’Dowd
Mr Ian Paisley Jnr

Members with observer status present for all or part of the proceedings:
Ms Dawn Purvis

The Chairperson (Mr Spratt):
We shall now discuss matters relating to the devolution of policing and justice. We are joined by Dawn Purvis from the Progressive Unionist Party. Welcome, Dawn. You are here at the invitation of the Committee. The presence of non-nominated members — otherwise known as observers — is taken to mean that Members of the Assembly, including Ministers, who are not members of the Committee, may, at the invitation of the Committee, take part in its deliberations, including during closed sessions. However, such observers may not vote, propose motions or amendments or be counted in any quorum. Furthermore, observers may not ask questions of witnesses that the Committee has called. However, that will not apply today, because we will be conducting a general discussion and will not be taking evidence from witnesses.

I invite members to declare any relevant interests. I declare that I am a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

Mr A Maskey:
I declare that I am a member of the Policing Board.

Mr Paisley Jnr:
I am a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

Mr McCausland:
I am a member of the Belfast District Policing Partnership.

The Chairperson:
Those interests have been noted. I am interested to hear members’ comments on the Committee briefing paper from 10 August 2008, which includes a suggested short-term forward work plan.

Mr Kennedy:
The schedule indicates meetings taking place on Fridays. I object seriously to that because Friday is accepted as, and considered to be, Members’ constituency day, and their Friday appointments are block-booked for constituency work. Members are in this Building at least four days a week, and, in practice, it will not be possible to attend meetings here on Fridays. I do not rule out meeting on plenary or other work days, but I seriously object to meeting on Fridays, and I ask that that matter be reconsidered.

Mr Paisley Jnr:
I agree. We should have sufficient time to squeeze in extra Committee sessions on Monday, Wednesday or Thursday. In addition, if we intend to take evidence, we could double up those sessions. It is a matter of squeezing meetings into the schedule. Members of the Policing Board, such as the Chairperson and I, are usually ruled out of Committee meetings on Thursdays. Surely, we could find time to meet on Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays. Like Danny Kennedy, I believe that constituents should come first and that Fridays are therefore sacrosanct.

Mr Hamilton:
I may sound like a stuck record on that matter, but I agree entirely with the previous comments. I appreciate that there may be practical difficulties regarding the support level, and so on in doing things differently and that some attempt has already been made to accommodate those arrangements; however, Fridays should be kept sacrosanct. It already seems as though we are here permanently. We are unable to meet our constituents, who are not necessarily concerned about the details of the matters that we will be discussing in this Committee. They are concerned about issues that affect their daily lives. Nevertheless, there is no reason why the Committee could not work for longer in each session. As Ian said, if we have to take evidence from witnesses, there is no need to simply hear from one group at a time; two or three groups could be accommodated in each session. The Committee must be able to conduct its business expeditiously, but without impinging on members’ need to conduct constituency business.

Mr McCausland:
I agree that Fridays should be kept free for constituency work and other matters. It should be possible to add a little extra time to meetings. Our meetings are scheduled to start at 11.00 am, but there is no reason why they could not start at 10.30 am. There are ways to get round the difficulty.

Mr A Maskey:
Sinn Féin members are happy to attend on Fridays, but if it helps, there are several hours on Mondays, as well as Tuesdays, when it might be possible to meet.

The Chairperson:
I shall ask the Committee Clerk to investigate that matter.

At the start of the meeting, I should have declared — as I did at last week’s meeting — that I will be unavailable this Friday due to a long-standing engagement on Thursday morning. That arrangement has not changed — and will not be changing.

Mr Paisley Jnr:
Your wife has had a word, has she?

The Chairperson:
It is funny that you should mention that. [Laughter.]

Mr Hamilton:
Perhaps we could start the Tuesday meetings earlier and work later. If we did that, there might not be any need to sit on another day.

The Chairperson:
Members’ comments have been noted. We will proceed to the substantive items on the agenda, and we will see how far we get with the business today.

Mr A Maskey:
We will have to come back to that issue.

The Chairperson:
Yes, that is what I meant.

Mr Kennedy:
It is important that the Committee is able to keep tabs on the plenary business. We can do that by having the television switched on, but in silent mode. That would give members the chance to see whether they are required to attend plenary business. I ask that that facilitation be granted.

The Chairperson:
So long as the Committee agrees, that is not a problem. It has happened in other Committees that I have attended. There is no reason why that cannot happen on plenary days. Perhaps the Committee staff will keep an eye on proceedings in the Chamber and let us know when members are required. I do not want to fight with the noise of the television. I think that Simon Hamilton has already been called out, because matters have moved forward. I am aware of the need for members to know what is going on in the Chamber, and I will do all in my power to facilitate that.

I refer members to their briefing papers. There is no presentation today, but a number of research papers were sought from Research Services. The research paper at tab 3B provides information on the recommendations of the Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJINI), and it represents the third of the four papers that were proposed by Research Services, and which were outlined at the meeting on 7 October 2008.

Work continues on the completion of the fourth paper, which will deal with the independence and accountability of the Public Prosecution Service (PPS). Members should note those papers, and if there are any questions, our researcher will be happy to provide clarification.

I remind members about the short-term forward work plan referred to earlier. There are a number of ways in which we could approach this work, and I have given the matter some thought. I intend to start with issue A on the category-one list and proceed through the various issues. Previously, the Committee set a time limit of about 20 minutes for each item, but I am not keen on setting a prescriptive time limit. I do not want to have to stop discussions, but if it seems that we are not going to reach consensus, we will park the item and decide to return to it or let the Committee deal with it in whatever way it decides.

I am happy to take that approach, and I hope that members are content that I do so. I want to be fair to all members around the table and to give them a fair opportunity on each of the issues.

Mr McFarland:
When we were preparing the initial report, the Committee adopted a conciliatory approach; the parties tried to find consensus on issues, and we managed mostly to avoid taking votes. How do you intend to approach this, because there are some issues with which different parties will have difficulties? It would be more sensible to try to find a consensus on issues, rather than —

The Chairperson:
That is what I have already said: we will try to arrive at a consensus. If we cannot do that, we will park the issue and return to it for further discussion. Those issues will require further discussion, and I am happy to do that. I hope that members are happy to take that approach.

Mr McFarland:
I wish to seek some clarity. Mention was made of parties having plenipotentiary powers to take decisions. Where did we get to on that matter last week? I saw something in the newspapers that suggested that parties were expected to authorise their delegations to make decisions on the spot. My party colleagues and I have not had the chance to discuss that issue with our leadership yet.

The Chairperson:
That matter was agreed to at a previous meeting, which I believe you attended, Mr McFarland. Going through the list, it was agreed last week that members had the authority to speak on behalf of their groupings. Every member, including Mr Kennedy, was happy with that approach last week.

Mr McFarland:
Where was that recorded?

Mr A Maskey:
Danny came out of the closet last week and recognised that he was a party politician who represented the Ulster Unionist Party.

Mr McFarland:
Our group had some discussion about this issue this morning, and we may need to revisit it.

The Chairperson:
I assume that you will write to the Committee.

Mr McFarland:
Sorry?

The Chairperson:
Will you raise the issue at some point?

Mr McFarland:
Yes.

Mr Paisley Jnr:
For the record, Mr Chairman, we should be mindful of the motto, “Decide in haste, live in regret.” There is absolutely no doubt that certain issues will have to be taken back. We may be able to give an indication of where we are on some of those matters, but ultimately, they will be taken up at party-political level, and there are certain processes that my party will have to go through.

The Chairperson:
I think that most people recognise that.

We will now move on to the category-one list, and the issues that are to be resolved by the Committee pre-devolution. The first issue is the method for the election or appointment of a Minister, on the basis that there should be a single Minister and a single Department.

Mr Paisley Jnr:
Could I break that into two issues? It is clear from the Committee’s first report that there was some agreement that there should be a single Department and a single Minister, full stop. If we recognise that that is a position in its own right — whether or not we need to agree it again — we can then consider the method of election or appointment of a Minister.

The Chairperson:
Do members have any other comments on that point?

Mr McFarland:
It is fair to say that it was agreed in the Committee’s first report that there should be a single Department. This side of the table agrees that there should be a single Minister on the grounds that if we are ready to devolve powers, a single Minister could handle that. Sinn Féin and the SDLP said that there should be two Ministers, one from each community. Subsequently, the First Minister and deputy First Minister indicated that they were happy with one Minister, which was a change of position on Sinn Féin’s part. Can I have a refresher as to where everyone is on that issue?

Mr A Maskey:
The letter from Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness on 20 July 2008 indicates that both those party representatives wish us to consider the matter in the light of their very clear indication that there should be a single Ministry, and that a Minister would be elected by cross-community support on that occasion in the Assembly.

Mr Attwood:
We have agreed that there should be a single Department and a single Minister. Some residual doubt arose from the Committee’s first report. That was in relation to Sinn Féin’s position, but in the light of Mr Adams’s paper and the letter from the First Minister and deputy First Minister, that doubt has been removed. As far as I am aware, everyone has agreed on a single Department and a single Minister. Ian is right; the issue is the election/appointment of that Minister.

The Chairperson:
Do you wish to make any comments, Ms Purvis?

Ms Purvis:
No.

The Chairperson:
Everyone agrees that there should be a single Department and a single Minister. The other half of that issue is the method of election or appointment of the Minister.

The best way in which to proceed may be to go around the table in the same order as we did last week. We will take views from a party perspective and deal with the method of election or appointment in that manner. That will facilitate both Hansard and the Committee Clerks. If Committee members wish to interject after that, I will not stand in anybody’s way. We will start with Ian Paisley Jnr.

Mr Paisley Jnr:
Thank you. The Chairperson obviously likes me.

Picking up from what has been said privately and in the press, I understand that there are a range of views on which method should be used to select the new policing and justice Minister. Some parties favour the d’Hondt method of appointment, whereas others favour a cross-community vote in the Assembly. The DUP obviously favours the latter method. An interesting discussion would be what form such a vote would take. For example, should any vote be weighted, should it be decided on the basis of 50:50 cross-community support or should a heavier weighting be applied? I am happy to discuss that aspect, because the DUP believes that that is one of the ways in which confidence in the role, and in the Minister, can be generated. One of our responsibilities is to ensure that the Assembly and the Executive have that confidence, and also that the public have that confidence. The DUP feel that the best way in which to generate and grow such confidence is by having strong cross-community support for the Minister.

Mr A Maskey:
Sinn Féin’s inclination is to pursue the route that is outlined in the letter of 28 July 2008. We can return to the issue more definitively, but Sinn Fein is seeking a political accommodation. The letter indicated that that would happen, and Sinn Féin’s inclination is to support the concept of electing the Minister on a cross-community basis in the Assembly.

Mr Attwood:
D’Hondt was hard fought for and hard won —

Mr Paisley Jnr:
And easily lost.

Mr Attwood:
I would not choose those words, although they are close to what I was going to say. The letter of 28 July discards the principle of d’Hondt as the means to select the new policing and justice Minister. However, the SDLP hopes that that can be changed in Committee. Given the fact that Sinn Féin has said that its “inclination” is towards the model outlined in the letter of 28 July, and the fact that Alex Maskey has indicated that his party may be more definitive, I am slightly more hopeful of achieving that. His comments suggest that there could be some residual doubt surrounding the letter of 28 July. I hope that that doubt does exist, because the SDLP hopes to convince people to return to what was hard won and should not be easily conceded; namely, that the principle of d’Hondt govern ministerial entitlement.

In order to agree the method of election or appointment of the Minister, we must probe what the line in the letter of 28 July that there should be a cross-community vote “at all times”. What does that mean, and what are the consequences of that wording for the remainder of the lifetime of this Assembly and for any future Assembly? That phrase suggests that, in this and future Assemblies, a veto power will be granted to a party if a vote takes place in the Assembly on who can be the justice Minister, or on who can stay on as the justice Minister. The preferred principle of the SDLP is the d’Hondt mechanism. We hope to convince people to return to that principle.

Mr Paisley Jnr:
May I ask the member a question?

The Chairperson:
Yes.

Mr Paisley Jnr:
I recognise that the SDLP has a principled position on d’Hondt, and that they are entitled to hold that. However, does the SDLP recognise that, in order to achieve consensus, build confidence — both on the unionist side and across the unionist community — and move matters forward, that principle is worth setting to one side, thus allowing the entire Assembly to have its say. Does Alex see any merit in that?

Mr Attwood:
The SDLP has always recognised the need for there to be confidence. The fact that confidence has been generated is as a result of our using d’Hondt. That mechanism builds confidence in the parties and the community, because no one party has an unfair advantage or unfair representation, and all who are entitled to a share of ministerial power, to Committee representation, to places on district policing partnerships (DPPs) and the Policing Board, or to roles in other areas of public life have an equal basis and equal entitlements in the North where the d’Hondt formula is applied.

To answer Ian’s question, the proof of that is that d’Hondt currently informs party appointments to DPPs and the Policing Board, where adequate levels of confidence exist for parties, including Sinn Féin and the DUP, to share responsibility for policing. If d’Hondt is a good enough principle to help create the circumstances in which there is shared responsibility for the difficult issue of policing, both locally and regionally, and the world has not caved in, the Policing Board has not collapsed and the DPPs continue to function, it is certainly good enough to be used for the difficult issue of justice. For those reasons, I ask whether Ian accepts that, given that it has been essential in building confidence in political institutions and policing arrangements, there is no reason to cease to use d’Hondt. If the d’Hondt mechanism has been good enough to inform the sharing of responsibility for the difficult issue of policing — nobody has walked off the Policing Board, nor has anyone cried foul or thrown a tantrum — why is it not good enough to be used for the difficult issue of justice? If it is not good enough to be used for the difficult issue of justice, does not that suggest that politics rather than principles are at work?

Mr Paisley Jnr:
Politics surround many aspects of the devolution of justice powers, but two main points arise. First, I recognise that it is a favoured principle of the SDLP that a mathematical mechanism be used to share out offices. I accept that party’s reasons for favouring the use of d’Hondt. However, although I recognise that principle, there is an onus on the SDLP to recognise that when we, as representatives of the unionist community, say that confidence needs to be built due to the highly controversial nature of the matter, the method used to select the Minister must be enhanced in such a way that our community feels confident enough to move forward.

No one on the Committee needs a history lecture, but our first Parliament collapsed because of the loss of security powers. The Government here ceased to exist in a recognisable form for almost 30 years over the removal of security powers. In order to build confidence, one must recognise that unionists need something more than merely the normal method used to select a Minister. That is why we want to involve the entire Assembly in making that selection and in endorsing it.

Issues around the administration of policing and justice will arise all over the Province, and those issues will include people’s views on sentencing, abortion, policing, and how parades are handled and policed — all of which are incredibly controversial. It will be perplexing for the Minister — of whatever hue — to take a position on those issues. On that basis, the Minister will need to have the support and the endorsement of a strong majority in the Assembly, and one that cuts both ways.

One means of building and enhancing confidence is for the Minister to be selected by a cross-community vote in the House. Some recognition should be given to what we are trying to build into the process. I am not trying to diminish the SDLP’s attachment to, and principled support for, the d’Hondt process, but it must be recognised that unionists have never been enchanted by, fully supportive of, or cheerleaders for d’Hondt. To be fair, I think that the SDLP does recognise that fact, but it should state it on record.

Mr McFarland:
Is Ian saying that, were the Minister selected by way of a cross-community vote, enough confidence would exist for policing and justice powers to be devolved?

Mr Paisley Jnr:
That alone would not be sufficient to address all the issues around unionist confidence. However, on the question of the method of election, by the time that we get all the way through the process, we should have more answers. That is part and parcel of a confidence-building process that requires a building-block approach: no single block achieves it, but some critical blocks must be put in place. The selection and appointment of a Minister who can generate confidence in the unionist community, from which Mr McFarland comes, will be critical to instilling that confidence.

Mr McFarland:
On the method of election, policing and justice powers will be delivered only when there is confidence that they can be devolved. That, presumably, will occur when the situation is normal and people do not feel threatened. Should that situation come about, it will facilitate, as Alex Attwood said, a hard-won system that enables each party to take its pick of the portfolios that it considers important.

Therefore, logic dictates that, in a situation in which there is enough confidence to devolve policing and justice powers, the process would be started again; it may be that the DUP would want the justice Ministry ahead of the finance and personnel portfolio, or that the SDLP would consider policing and justice to be the most important Ministry. The logical thing to do then would be to start the process in the same way as at the start of an Assembly’s mandate — provided that we are at a stage at which there is normality and confidence, and where policing and justice is regarded as just another Ministry.

If that level of normality and confidence is not present, how is it possible to devolve policing and justice powers? However, should that confidence exist, the logical approach to take is to restart the process, share out the Departments again and allow parties to take their pick based on their priorities.

Mr McCausland:
The devolution of policing and justice is a difficult and sensitive issue, which is why we are spending so much time and expending so much energy discussing it, and why so many papers have been written about it. That is obvious and indisputable.

The uniqueness of the post means that it requires particularly careful handling — not just because of the policing dimension but, as Ian highlighted, because the role has a wider remit that impinges on other areas of legislation. It is no help to get hung up on the d’Hondt method as some sort of divine revelation that was brought down from Mount Sinai and that, therefore, bears a divine imprimatur as being the only way in which to proceed.

It is better to recognise that difficulties exist and that it may be easier and more helpful to allocate the Ministry on the basis of a cross-community vote. That would send a signal that whoever takes responsibility for policing and justice has the support of all sides in the Chamber, because all Members will have had a say in that decision, and that is helpful and good.

On Alan’s point, no single act will create community confidence and acceptance. That will come about as a result of working on various things. If how the Ministry is allocated helps, so be it. The cross-community-vote method is best.

Mr A Maskey:
I want to avoid starting every discussion with a political preface; otherwise, the Committee will be meeting until next year. It has been said that d’Hondt is sacrosanct — of course it is. Many people fought very hard for that type of proportionality to be built into the institutions. I am mindful that not everyone — including the SDLP — has always practised the principles for which they argued. Let us call a spade a spade and lay some wee demons to rest. Alex Attwood’s party, most notably in Belfast but also in other councils, has shafted mine. The SDLP did not care about d’Hondt, proportionality or local interests.

That is fair enough; that is in the past — for the most part. We are now talking about reaching a political accommodation, and my party is now doing its level best to reach an accommodation with other parties. I do not accept for one minute that not enough confidence exists in the unionist community in order for policing and justice powers to be devolved. However, I am working on the basis that we are trying to reach an accommodation with other parties, so whether I agree with Ian’s position is neither here nor there.

Mr Paisley Jnr:
Mr Maskey says that he does not accept that there is a lack of confidence in the unionist community. However, if we are to reach an agreement, he should accept that if we, as representatives of the unionist community, say that lack of confidence is an issue, it is an issue. There should be a recognition that that is the actual position, and not one that has been made up for the optics or for the fun of it — it is a principled position. If we are to lead our community on the matter, we must build its confidence. I must accept it when the Mr Maskey says that the republican community is eager and hungry for the devolution of policing and justice powers. I assume that he speaks for the republican community, so he should assume that we speak for the unionist community.

Mr A Maskey:
Ian has made a case, and that is fair enough. I am simply saying that, based on my practical experience, I do not accept that there is a lack of confidence. However, whether I accept that fact is neither here nor there — it is academic. Sinn Féin is working to reach a political accommodation with Ian’s party and other parties. Ian is saying what he is saying, and my party is trying to work with his party to resolve the matter on that basis. That is crucial; that is what moving forward is about.

In a way, Alan McFarland is right about the need to run d’Hondt. No one has any direct entitlement to a post. For example, if an additional Department is created, who says that any one party should automatically be given the right to run it? I work on the basis that all parties are quite capable of running a Ministry of justice, if they put the right person in post. Moreover, as with all the other Departments, sufficient checks and balances would be in place to ensure that all citizens were protected from abuse from any party or Minister. I am working on the basis that we are operating within a framework into which checks and balances will be built, and into which more can be built if we think that they are necessary. That approach would allow work to go ahead, and it would allow people to feel comfortable and safe about any progress made, particularly given that we are dealing with such a touchy issue.

Alan is right, but d’Hondt should be run from the start. Who knows who will take what Department? I want to put to bed the argument that one person or party is somehow more protective of, or wedded to, the principle of d’Hondt. Sinn Féin is protective of that principle, too, but, by the same token, my party is trying to reach a political accommodation and is, therefore, prepared to consider a whole range of measures in order to achieve that end. I want to make that point now so that I do not have to repeat my political preface every time the Committee tackles an issue.

Many of the issues are linked. I want a Minister for justice to be appointed as soon as possible. At this stage of the game, it is probably best to do that on the basis of cross-community support, which is provided for in the Good Friday Agreement, never mind the St Andrews Agreement or anything else. It is included as a requirement in the Good Friday Agreement. From Sinn Féin’s perspective, any agreement that is reached will be an interim agreement, because the matter cannot be determined “for all times”. Again, I do not want to have to rehearse the politics, and I hope that other Committee members will not feel the need to do so either.

Ms Purvis:
I must first make my apologies, because, unfortunately, I will have to leave this meeting to attend another meeting. It would have been useful to have had sight of the letter of 28 July, because some Committee members have referred to it, and I am not sure to what exactly they are referring.

I understand what Alex Attwood said about the principle of d’Hondt, given that I participated in the discussions on the matter. I know that the battle for d’Hondt was hard fought for and hard won. However, nobody will die in a ditch over that principle. If we can find a mechanism that helps us to achieve the devolution of policing and justice powers and elect a Minister by cross-community support for the lifetime of this Assembly, the principle of d’Hondt can be returned to later.

If we are serious about the devolution of policing and justice powers, we must find a mechanism to facilitate that. If the stumbling block is whether the Minister is elected using the d’Hondt system or one that requires cross-community support, the d’Hondt system can be set aside. Nobody will die in a ditch over that, and there will not be a public outcry.

I agree with Alan McFarland that, if we are determined to stick by the principle of the d’Hondt system, the whole process will have to be run again, for which nobody is in the mood. Whether electing a Minister by way of a cross-community vote will give confidence to the unionist community remains to be seen, but it will help us to get over the hurdle of electing a Minister.

The Chairperson:
Do Committee members agree that we forward the letter of 28 July to Dawn Purvis and the other three parties with observer status?

Members indicated assent.

Mr Attwood:
Dawn Purvis said that the letter of 28 July provides a model for the lifetime of this Assembly. Is that what the letter is proposing?

Ms Purvis:
I did not say that — I have never seen that letter. I said that other Committee members have referred to the letter, and it would be useful for me to see it. I also said that if we find a mechanism to get us over the hurdle of selecting the Minister, it could be a model for the lifetime of this Assembly.

Mr Attwood:
I thank Dawn for that. However, the model that the First Minister and the deputy First Minister proposed in the letter of 28 July is based on a cross-community vote. Is that proposed model for the lifetime of this Assembly?

Mr Paisley Jnr:
It is for all time. The letter states “at all times”.

Mr Attwood:
Is that Sinn Féin’s understanding of the phrase?

Mr A Maskey:
No, and with all due respect to Ian, that is not the DUP’s understanding of the phrase either.

Mr Attwood:
That is why I was so anxious for the First Minister and the deputy First Minister to appear before the Committee. I have repeatedly asked for a definition of “at all times”. The DUP is saying now, and saying explicitly, that “at all times” means now and in future, and Sinn Féin is saying that that is not its understanding of the phrase. In the absence of the First Minister and the deputy First Minister, I will draw my conclusions from Ian Paisley Jnr’s remarks rather than Alex Maskey’s.

Mr A Maskey:
Why is that?

Mr Attwood:
Ian Paisley Jnr has the authority to speak on behalf of his party in Committee.

Mr A Maskey:
I also have that authority.

Mr Attwood:
I know that.

Mr A Maskey:
You are choosing the judgement of one person over that of another. Therefore, you are saying that one of us is a liar or one of us is —

The Chairperson:
Committee members must make their comments through the Chair.

Mr Attwood:
I am not questioning anyone’s good faith.

Mr A Maskey:
Yes, you are.

Mr Attwood:
I am not. I am saying that there is tension between Ian Paisley Jnr’s saying that he understands “at all times” to mean now and in future, and your saying that that is not your understanding of the phrase. Ian speaks on behalf of the DUP in this Committee.

I want a clear understanding of that phrase, which is why I have repeatedly asked for an explanation of it, and why I asked the First Minister and the deputy First Minister to appear before the Committee. I suspect that they have not come before the Committee because, although they both signed the letter of 28 July, they may not agree on what “at all times” means. They may or may not have the same interpretation of that phrase, but I want to know either way. That is why my asking whether “at all times” means the lifetime of this Assembly is so interesting, Dawn. As you have heard, there may be some tension between the two parties that signed off on the letter of 28 July, and they may be contradicting each other.

We must explode some of the myths that surround the devolution of policing and justice powers. I say to Ian that I do not deny that it is an important, sensitive and controversial issue. However, over the past six or seven years, Ian and Alan have spent a great deal of time on the Policing Board.

Never will there be more controversial or sensitive issues than those that came before the Policing Board over the past six or seven years. We have dealt with Special Branch; the Police Ombudsman’s Omagh inquiry; the appointment of senior officers; and so forth. Therefore, the political parties’ mettle has been tested, and their ability to share responsibility on the most difficult, controversial and sensitive issues is proven. The parties came through those tests, and they did so in the absence of working political institutions. One might assume that those tests would have made it more difficult, yet the parties measured up to the task and got over the line. It was not easy, and there was much controversy. However, the parties brought the community with them, and reassurance can be drawn from that. The parties, including the one that has been sitting on the Policing Board for only the past year and a bit, measured up to their responsibility. That is a good precedent to inform how the Assembly should deal with the devolution of justice powers and how the appointment to the Ministry should be handled.

Alex Maskey is wrong to say that the Good Friday Agreement and Northern Ireland Act 1998 contain cross-community provisions on the appointment of Ministers — they do not. Cross-community provisions exist on Assembly decisions. I acknowledge that, at St Andrews, the DUP negotiated other checks and balances on Executive decisions. However, the Good Friday Agreement contains no provisions for cross-community voting on the appointment of any Minister. Alex may want to check that, and perhaps the Committee Clerk could provide a briefing paper on the matter. Yes, the DUP subsequently negotiated several further concessions, but cross-community provisions on the appointment of Ministers were not included in the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr A Maskey:
I do not want to go off at a tangent, but I understand the Good Friday Agreement, because I was there when it was negotiated. At times, some parties like to think that no one else was there other than them, but quite a number of others attended, too.

Mr Paisley Jnr:
Too many people were there.

Mr A Maskey:
Exactly, but it was good that they all attended, and it would have been nice had certain other people been there, too.

The Good Friday Agreement contains many provisions, and people must read all of it rather than simply the bits that they like. I resent Alex Attwood’s earlier statement. Two Committee members made comments — namely, Mr Paisley Jnr and I — and Alex clearly stated that he believed one member but not the other. I resent the implication. Alex Attwood talks about trying to get on with members, so he should, at least, try to gain their respect, and he will not do so by taking that attitude. I am satisfied that the matter will be clarified and resolved, and that it is a matter for the Assembly.

Mr Paisley Jnr:
It is important that we work through the issue. I agree that there is no need to get hugely distracted. Although Alex Maskey may think that Alex Attwood is my friend, there is a great deal of history between us, so that is not necessarily the case.

Mr Attwood:
Alex Maskey is your friend, Ian.

Mr Paisley Jnr:
It cuts both ways. It is an interesting debate, and I do not want to interfere in a family dispute across the table. The second paragraph of the letter of 28 July 2008 contains six separate points of agreement, the first of which is:

“We believe that your consideration should be based on a single Department”.

The second one is:

“in which policing and justice powers would reside with a single Minister”.

The third is that the Minister should be “elected”.

The fourth is that the Minister be elected:

“at all times from the Assembly”.

The fifth is that the Minister be elected:

“in a way which would ensure cross-community support.”

The final one is:

“We have agreed that initially neither of our parties will nominate one of our members for the post of Justice Minister.”

If the First Minister and deputy First Minister were here, they would confirm that that is the position that they took on those six issues.

Mr McCausland:
The point has been quite clearly made that the letter specifically states that the Minister should be:

“elected at all times from the Assembly”.

There are no qualifications of what that means; it does not even say “from this Assembly”, which could be interpreted in several ways. The letter quite clearly states that the position of the First Minister and deputy First Minister is that the Minister should be elected at all times from the Assembly:

“in a way which would ensure cross-community support.”

How a cross-community vote will be taken is another matter, but that seems very clear.

The other point that I will make is a general response to both nationalist parties. They should accept our word that there is sensitivity about this issue. That is not a fabrication that people dream up — that is the reality that I hear from people who come into my constituency office and from people whom I meet on the streets. I can only speak for my own constituency, but there is sensitivity about the issue, and that is why we need to handle it very carefully.

Mr McFarland:
It is worth reminding ourselves of the context. There is sensitivity concerning this issue, partially because people do not fully understand the situation. The Chief Constable is in charge of operational policing, and neither the Policing Board nor the justice Minister will be able to interfere with that. Operational policing is the Chief Constable’s call.

The Policing Board is responsible for personnel, buildings and so on, which we are not allowed to interfere with. The Court Service and the justice system are operated by the Lord Chief Justice. The Court Service is an agency, which we cannot interfere with, and the Prison Service and the Probation Board for Northern Ireland are both operated as agencies. One could argue that the Minister’s powers will be limited to budgeting — and that is an issue across the Floor of the House — and introducing new laws, which would be subject to a cross-community vote in the House.

Those matters are ring-fenced in a way that should allay fears. There is an issue about who is in charge, and that has been addressed by the two largest parties agreeing not to take the position — at least initially. We need to put a context to all of that. If we then have confidence, which is the only situation in which the powers can be devolved, I cannot understand why there is paranoia about having to have numerous cross-community votes in perpetuity.

The Chairperson:
We have had a fair discussion about those matters. It seems that there is a consensus around the table on the issue of a single Department and a single Minister. Parties have indicated that further discussions are needed about the cross-community vote and how the appointment or election of the Minister would be achieved in the Assembly. During the debate, two or three members indicated that they need to discuss that elsewhere. I propose that the Committee parks that issue at this point and comes back to the second element at a future stage. Are members content?

Members indicated assent.

The Chairperson:
We now move on to the issue of whether the policing and justice Department will be additional to the existing 11 Departments. I know that Simon Hamilton was absent for some of the discussion as he was taking part in a debate in the Chamber. We used a similar format to last time — we went around the parties in order and then had a general discussion after that.

Mr Hamilton:
I apologise for being away for so long. The debate in here was probably more entertaining than the debate in the Chamber.

Our position is that a policing and justice Department should be additional to the existing 11 Departments. The number of Departments would, therefore, increase to 12. However, it is also our party’s position that there should be fewer Departments. That reduction cannot be realised at this stage, but it is worth mentioning as part of the Committee’s longer-term work programme. For a country the size of Northern Ireland to have 12 Government Departments would lack credibility in the long term.

Mr A Maskey:
The discussions indicate that policing and justice is likely to be an additional Department, and our party has no problem with that in principle.

Mr Attwood:
I welcome the fact that Sinn Féin and the DUP both feel that policing and justice should be an additional Department; that is the right decision.

Mr McFarland:
The only way that a policing and justice Department can be created in the short term is by an Order in Council through Westminster. However, that will not be sustainable in the long run or even beyond the next Assembly election. An examination of other Departments may have taken place by that time. Therefore, policing and justice must be an additional Department in the short term.

The Chairperson:
There appears to be consensus among the Committee that a policing and justice Department should be additional to the existing 11 Departments. Members have already made up the extra time that was used to discuss issue A.

We move to issue C: what would be the status of the Minister’s position in, and relationship with, the Executive Committee?

Mr Hamilton:
We understand the Assembly’s current set-up and procedures and the relationship between Ministers and the Executive Committee. We are keen that there should be a different relationship. I am aware that that is being discussed, and we would like to return to the matter at a later stage.

Mr A Maskey:
We are happy to leave the matter for now and return to it at a later point.

Mr Attwood:
It is our party’s view that a justice Minister would be the Minister of a twelfth Department, and, therefore, should have the same status and authority as any other Minister and enjoy equality around the Executive Table with the other Ministers.

Mr McFarland:
Irrespective of the short-term arrangements, until the next election, policing and justice must be a full Ministry position and run under the d’Hondt system. One Minister must not be hobbled somehow. If we reach the stage of full confidence in the devolution of policing and justice, its Minister must be equal to other Ministers.

The Chairperson:
Is it the Committee’s position that we should park issue C and return to it at a later date before we finalise our report?

Members indicated assent.

The Chairperson:
We move to issue D: would the appointment of a Minister be an interim arrangement until the next Assembly election?

Mr Hamilton:
Are we going to rerun the debate that I missed earlier? I would like to have a go at that one. Where has this question come from?

The Chairperson:
I need to consult the list.

The Committee Clerk:
My recollection is that one of the parties raised that issue.

The Chairperson:
It was, perhaps, a party question that was included on last week’s list.

Mr Hamilton:
I want to be certain before we address that point.

The Committee Clerk:
The Alliance Party’s written submission raised the issue of the time period that the justice Minister would serve.

Mr McFarland:
It is, in effect, the same as the second part of issue`A. The question is whether the arrangement is for the duration of the first Assembly or is a permanent measure that continues indefinitely.

The Chairperson:
The Alliance Party raised the issue during the initial discussions. Therefore, if members require clarification, it is important to do so at the start.

Mr Hamilton:
We assumed that that was the question. The point Alan makes is, generally, right. The DUP believes that the issue is not the term of a Minister, rather the arrangements for appointing that person. Our position, outlined in our answers to the second part of the first question, would follow through into that.

The Chairperson:
So we would come back to that?

Mr Hamilton:
Well, if we have parked the other one, that would be the case.

The Chairperson:
Before we get into a general discussion, I will ask each party for its view.

Mr A Maskey:
Some members of the Committee do not appear to know what their party agreed to, but that will become clear later. I do not want to enlighten people and spoil their afternoon. As far as Sinn Féin is concerned, those would be interim arrangements.

Mr Attwood:
The SDLP believes that the appointment of any Minister should last until the next Assembly election, subject to the call of the party’s nominating officer. Under our model, the appointment of a justice Minister will last until the nominating officer decides that that person should no longer be a Minister. We do not buy into any interim arrangement as outlined in the letter from OFMDFM, and we do not buy into any arrangement that continues into future assemblies as is outlined under one interpretation of the OFMDFM letter.

Mr McFarland:
The argument is the same as previously, when Ian Paisley Jnr said that it was a permanent system and Alex Maskey said it was a temporary system for the duration of the first Assembly. We need clarification on what was agreed by the First Minister and deputy First Minister. That will, presumably, shed light on the matter.

The Chairperson:
Let us not get into the previous debate again. There seems to be some confusion on that matter, and, therefore, we should park it. Is the Committee agreed?

Members indicated assent.

The Chairperson:
Issue E concerns the arrangements for removing and/or replacing a Minister once appointed. That issue was raised by the Alliance Party.

Mr Hamilton:
There may be a need to come back to this issue, but, on the face of it, it is a revisiting of the arrangements that were previously agreed — if a Minister is removed, for whatever reason, he or she will have to be replaced.

Mr Attwood:
I will ask a question that may or may not narrow the apparent difference around the table. The letter of 28 July refers, according to Sinn Féin, to the lifetime of this Assembly, and, according to the DUP, to the life of any Assembly. Let us put that aside for the moment. In the lifetime of this Assembly, will the justice Minister, under your joint proposal, be subject to a cross-community vote once he or she has been elected? In other words, does “at all times” mean that in the lifetime of this Assembly the Minister is subject to a cross-community vote with regard to his or her continuing in office?

Mr Hamilton:
If we are talking about the lifetime of this Assembly only for the purposes of this discussion, then that is correct.

Mr A Maskey:
We can discuss the current arrangement, but it may not be applicable because we have not actually finally agreed how we might elect any Minister. That will have to be defined before we can discuss how the Minister might be removed.

Mr Attwood:
Can I ask —

The Chairperson:
I am not happy with you asking question after question. I gave you some latitude a short time ago, but perhaps you can answer the question that other parties have asked.

Mr Attwood:
I will answer the question from my party’s point of view. The responsibility for nominating and removing a Minister lies with the nominating officer of a political party. That is the current model in place in the Assembly, and that is the model that should apply to a justice Minister in the lifetime of this Assembly, and at all times, until and unless all the parties agree to an alternative mechanism. The power resides with the nominating officer to appoint and to remove, and that is not subject to the call of any other party or to any vote of the Assembly.

Mr McFarland:
It depends what you are talking about. If in fact the new Ministry is subject to the d’Hondt procedure, then it is the decision of the party to remove or replace the Minister. If it is subject to some other system of cross-community voting, then a new system, with another cross-community vote to remove the Minister, will have to be devised. It depends entirely on the answer to the previous questions, which we cannot answer because it is not yet clear where that discussion is going.

The Chairperson:
A number of members have made that point. The other issues such as the election, or appointment, of the Minister need to be clarified first. Do members agree to park that issue and come back to it at a later time?

Members indicated assent.

The Chairperson:
We move now to issue F, which deals with the name of the Department. We will make that the last one before we break for lunch, as we have moved forward reasonably well.

Mr McCausland:
The last time we discussed that, the view of the DUP was that it should be the Ministry of home affairs.

Mr Attwood:
I think that that is the Ulster Unionist proposal.

Mr McCausland:
Harmony may have broken out between the parties. Peace, love and harmony prevailed.

The Chairperson:
That is a simple answer — home affairs. That is a start.

Mr A Maskey:
I thought they decided on policing and justice, or perhaps justice and policing. I do not think that it is something that we need to spend 20 minutes on.

The Chairperson:
We will perhaps deal with another issue, if we get a quick answer to this one. It is important for the purposes of the legislation, so we do need to have some serious discussion about it.

Mr A Maskey:
Can we have a working title of the justice Department, just for now?

The Chairperson:
Ok; the suggestions are the home affairs Department and the justice Department.

Mr Attwood:
I refer to my reply the last time this issue was discussed. There will be no consensus about any proposal for a Minister of home affairs, and a variation of the Ministry of justice and policing, or policing and justice, seems to be the most representative title.

Mr McFarland:
Chairman, I need to consult further on that. We had an endless discussion about this the last time, and I need to check where we eventually got to.

Mr McCausland:
According to Alex, if two parties on one side of the room agree on it, that makes it representative.

The Chairperson:
There certainly does not appear to be consensus on that particular issue at the minute. The vibe that I am getting from members is that further discussion is necessary within their own groupings. We will come back to that at a future meeting. Are members agreed?

Members indicated assent.

The Chairperson:
We got through that much more quickly than I thought we would, so we will take the next issue, G: what would be the structure of the policing and justice Department, and what functions should be placed there and/or with OFMDFM? That is a fairly loaded question and will take some time.

Mr McFarland:
That is a major issue.

The Chairperson:
I like to give people a reasonable break; it is unfair not to do so. Therefore I will go back to my original decision and suspend the meeting at this point. I ask members to be back at 1.30 pm.

Committee suspended for lunch.

On resuming —

The Chairperson (Mr Spratt):
Before lunch, we had left off at —

Mr McCausland:
Chairman, I am concerned that we will move into other areas of discussion before outstanding issues have been resolved. The fact is that it was clear before lunchtime that there is misunderstanding, misapprehension and confusion about the first item on the category-one list, issue A. I refer Committee members back to the letter of 28 July. The letter has two signatories: the First Minister, Peter Robinson, and the deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness. Both signatures are on the letter, and the letter is genuine. Both Ministers have signed up to the same model.

The second paragraph of the letter indicates that the model that should be considered is for a single Department. There is no dispute about that, nor is there dispute about a single Minister. Argument arose about the part of the letter that states that that single Minister would be:

“elected at all times from the Assembly in a way which would ensure cross-community support.”

The phrase “at all times” could never, by any stretch of the imagination, mean anything other than “at all times”. It does not mean “for a short time”, nor “in the interim”. It means “at all times”, because that is what it says. That is to what Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness have put their signatures. Therefore, in that letter, Martin McGuinness has stated that a single Minister will be:

“elected at all times from the Assembly”.

As I pointed out before lunch, had it said “from this Assembly”, one could, if one were to be a bit disingenuous, have argued that it meant “for the term of this Assembly”. However, it says “from the Assembly”. That is confirmed by the final sentence of the paragraph, which begins “We have agreed that initially”. Therefore, in the course of this Assembly, if there were to be devolution of policing and justice powers, neither of our parties would nominate to the post of justice Minister, or if powers were devolved subsequent to this Assembly, the first nomination, neither of our parties would nominate a Minister to the policing and justice portfolio on their first pick.

The key phrase is “at all times”. That is such a fundamental point that all our subsequent discussions today are meaningless and irrelevant until we get that phrase clarified. Martin McGuinness tells us one thing in his letter, yet Alex Maskey tells us something different. Therefore, I propose that we end that confusion by adjourning the meeting to allow time for reflection and clarification, and in order to see which of the two voices, Martin McGuinness or Alex Maskey, speaks for Sinn Féin. We should also seek legal advice as to what is meant by the term “at all times”.

Mr Hamilton:
I second that proposal, Chairman.

The Chairperson:
Do any members have any other comments to make on that?

Mr Attwood:
I am opposed to the meeting being adjourned. This is the first real go that we have had at the category-one issues, and we should not be derailed from continuing. For weeks, we have given the opportunity to the First Minister and the deputy First Minister to come and explain to us what the letter means. They have not taken that opportunity, yet we are now asking that one or both go off and work out what the letter means. That is not a sensible way in which to proceed. We agreed a schedule, and we should stick to that schedule by working through the issues this afternoon. If the letter is open to various interpretations, let those who are in dispute go off and work out what it means, if they can. Nelson outlines one interpretation of the letter, and his is the more obvious interpretation.

Mr McCausland:
Thank you.

Mr Attwood:
However, it may not be the two relevant Ministers’ understanding of it. I am open to persuasion that Alex Maskey’s interpretation is accurate. We should not seek legal advice on a letter in the hands of other people. That should not fall to us at this stage. Perhaps it should never fall to us, but, in any case, it is premature. I oppose our seeking legal advice to arbitrate on a dispute between the First Minister, Peter Robinson, and the deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness. That is not what we should do.

The phrase “at all times” carries huge weight. However, the letter also defeats d’Hondt. Not only does it, arguably, mean a cross-community vote in perpetuity to elect whomever the justice Minister may be — we know how certain parties may use that in future — it defeats d’Hondt.

Mr McCausland:
Hear, hear.

Mr Attwood:
There may be a “Hear, hear” from the DUP, but we should not forget that, over and above the interpretation of “at all times”, the letter contains issues that are much more fundamental.

Mr McCausland:
I must respond to Alex Attwood’s point. He agreed that it was the “most obvious interpretation”.

Mr Attwood:
I said, “more obvious”.

Mr McCausland:
The “more obvious interpretation”. In fact, it is so obvious that it is the only interpretation; there can be no other.

Mr McCartney:
Alex Maskey outlined our position this morning, and Sinn Féin stands by it. The Committee has no need to take legal advice. The phrase

“at all times from the Assembly”

could mean, and does mean, that only someone from the Assembly can be elected to the office.

Mr Paisley Jnr:
That interpretation would require a comma, would it not?

Mr McFarland:
We started off with the letter’s being the basis on which we were to look at all the outstanding issues, and we have run into a difficulty as to whether the phrase should be interpreted in one way or another. We need clarification, and, in order to get that, we really need the First Minister and the deputy First Minister to identify what it is that they are asking the Committee to do. We also need them to clarify the meaning of their letter. I support an adjournment until we get that clarity.

Mr Hamilton:
I also support there being an adjournment. We have before us a letter that forms the basis of an agreement between the First Minister and the deputy First Minister on issue A. No reasonable, rational person could read that letter and come to any other conclusion than the phrase “at all times” means not only means for the lifetime of this Assembly but in perpetuity.

That, for my colleagues and me, is one of the fundamental building blocks for progress to be made — it is central to our achieving agreement — so, even if we sat here all afternoon or, indeed, for days to try to iron out our differences by discussing the other category-one issues, there is little point in our doing so until some people also agree that our interpretation of the phrase is the more obvious interpretation.

Mr McCausland:
It is the natural interpretation.

Mr Hamilton:
Yes. There is precious little point in going into any further detail on the remaining issues, because issue A is the building block — if agreement is not reached on that issue, we are not going anywhere.

The Chairperson:
Can we clarify the DUP proposal? I am not 100% sure of what you are proposing, and I think that the Committee Clerk is not 100% sure. Is the proposal that we adjourn until we get the First Minister and the deputy First Minister to appear before the Committee?

Mr McCausland:
No. We want to adjourn the meeting, because parties need to go away and hold some internal discussions. We also need to receive some technical advice on the meaning of the phrase “at all times”. I am sure that Alex Attwood would have every confidence in his legal colleagues coming up with a natural and obvious interpretation of the phrase.

Mr Attwood:
One pays for the advice that one gets.

Mr McCartney:
Ten lawyers will disagree with the DUP’s interpretation.

Mr Attwood:
One pays for the advice that one wants.

Mr McCausland:
The First Minister and the deputy First Minister signed a letter. It means what it says, and it says what it means — or it should.

Mr McCartney:
Members may have their own interpretation of the wording, but that does not move us any further forward. We can proceed with our discussions on the other issues, with a caveat attached to issue A.

During this morning’s discussions, we said that we could not discuss an issue, or that we could return to it because we had to decide on something else beforehand. If a proposal is put on the table, I also want the Committee to discuss the indicative time frame for our concluding our report. We must firm up the days on which the Committee is to meet.

The Chairperson:
Nelson has reiterated his proposal. What needs to be done now?

The Committee Clerk:
I do not know what comes after “until”, because wording in the proposal changed from “legal advice” to “technical advice”. My assessment —

Mr Paisley Jnr:
Why not modify the proposal to state that we adjourn, seek advice and meet again as soon as possible?

The Committee Clerk:
Who is to secure the advice?

Mr Paisley Jnr:
The parties. It appears pretty obvious that the parties need to go away and obtain clarification.

Mr Attwood:
I wish to make a counter-proposal that we conclude our business today, after we have gone through the other category-one issues, and that we meet —

Is the next Committee meeting scheduled for Thursday or Friday?

The Committee Clerk:
Friday.

The Chairperson:
However, there was a discussion earlier about whether we should meet this Friday.

Mr Attwood:
I propose that we reconvene on Friday, having concluded our business today.

Mr McFarland:
I thought that we had decided that we would not meet on Fridays.

Mr McCausland:
The understanding was, Chairperson, that we would not be meeting this Friday but would, if necessary, extend the time allocated to future Committee meetings. The Assembly is in recess next week, so you are saying that our next meeting will be today fortnight.

Mr O’Dowd:
If we are seeking clarity, a one-hour suspension will allow both of the parties that have a view on the issue to go away and speak to their parties. We can then return.

Mr McFarland:
Chairman, it is not simply a case of the DUP and Sinn Féin Committee members speaking to their respective parties. The problem is that there is fundamental disagreement between the two parties that signed the letter of 28 July as to what it means. That letter is the basis on which we are meeting, because the First Minister and deputy First Minister asked us to meet to discuss all the outstanding issues. It is absolutely daft that, at the first hurdle, there is fundamental disagreement about what the letter, to which both parties are signatories, means.

I suggest that we get clarification, either through the parties holding internal discussions or through their talking to each other. Alternatively, we get the First Minister and the deputy First Minister to clarify what the phrase “at all times” means, and then we can start again.

The Chairperson:
There is a proposal on the table, which has been seconded, that we come back after the recess, having had the wording clarified and having got whatever advice is necessary. That is one proposal. Alex Attwood then made a counter-proposal —

Mr Attwood:
It was an amendment to the original proposal. I said that we should continue our business today and reconvene on Friday.

Mr O’Dowd:
The Division bell is ringing, Chairman. Are we being called for a vote?

Mr Kennedy:
No, the plenary sitting is starting again in three minutes, and I am the first Member down to speak.

The Chairperson:
What is your proposal, Mr Attwood?

Mr Attwood:
I propose that we conclude our business today, having gone through the agenda, and we reconvene on Friday.

Mr O’Dowd:
I propose that we suspend business for one hour to allow the parties to return with clarification.

The Chairperson:
Is there a seconder for Alex’s proposal?

The Committee Clerk:
It does not need a seconder, Chairman. Three proposals are on the table.

The Chairperson:
In which order do we vote on the proposals?

Mr Kennedy:
There are three separate proposals.

Mr McCausland:
They are not amendments.

Mr Kennedy:
We should vote on them in the order in which they were proposed. If the first proposal secures a majority of Committee members’ votes, the other two fall.

The Chairperson:
OK. Nelson McCausland’s proposal is that we return after the recess, having had matters clarified. Do you have the wording of the proposal?

The Committee Clerk:
To be frank, I am still not sure as to who is securing the clarity. Who will —

Mr McFarland:
The two parties that signed the letter.

Mr McCartney:
It is up to members from the two parties involved to go back to their respective parties and work on that —

The Chairperson:
And return after the recess? Is that correct? On Tuesday 4 November?

Mr McCartney:
Can that be amended to Monday 3 November?

The Chairperson:
The wording that I have before me states that we reconvene on Tuesday 4 November.

Mr McCartney:
We have already had a proposal, which the Committee voted in favour of last week, that we have to conclude our report by a certain time.

Mr McFarland:
“Seek” to conclude.

Mr McCartney:
OK; whatever.

Mr McFarland:
“Seek” to. It is a very important word is “seek”.

Mr McCartney:
OK — “seek to”. However, the Committee Clerk outlined a timetable this morning, which included meeting on Friday —

The Chairperson:
We could continue to argue for ever. I am going to put the first proposal to a vote. There has been enough discussion.

Question put, that proposal No 1 be made.

The Committee divided: Ayes 6; Noes 3.

AYES

The Chairperson (Mr Spratt), Mr Hamilton, Mr Kennedy, Mr McCausland, Mr McFarland, Mr Paisley Jnr.

NOES

Mr Attwood, Mr McCartney, Mr O’Dowd.

Question accordingly agreed to.

The Chairperson:
We shall now adjourn and meet again on 4 November.

Find Your MLA

Locate your local MLA

Find MLA

News and Media Centre

Read press releases, watch live and archived video.

Find out more

Follow the Assembly

Keep up to date with what's happening at the Assembly.

Find out more

Subscribe

Enter your email address to keep up to date

Sign up