Press Release

Assembly to Gain New Ways of Investigating MLAs' Conduct

Session: 2009/2010

Date: Tuesday, 01 June 2010

Reference: S&P 06/09/10

The Northern Ireland Assembly today agreed a report on the most appropriate means of handling alleged breaches of its Code of Conduct.

The Assembly Committee on Standards and Privileges’ report proposes changes to the current system to improve its effectiveness. The Committee’s report addressed the recommendations put forward as evidence during its inquiry by the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

The Assembly has agreed to employ a statutory Assembly Commissioner for Standards who will carry out investigations into allegations of misconduct by MLAs. The Assembly Commissioner for Standards will be appointed by open competition and will have statutory powers to call for witnesses and documents The Commissioner will be able to initiate his or her own investigation into an MLA’s conduct.

Chairperson of the Committee, Mr Pat Ramsey, MLA said: “The Committee on Standards and Privileges is committed to ensuring that all MLAs are held to the highest ethical standards and that there is openness and accountability at all times. It is therefore imperative that we have a robust mechanism in place to achieve this. I am confident that these new measures agreed by the Assembly will ensure that this is the case.”

Mr Willie Clarke MLA, Deputy Chairperson of the Committee said: “I welcome the Assembly’s agreement of the Committee on Standards and Privileges’ report. I believe the recommendations made by the Committee, which address the issues which had been put to the Committee by Sir Christopher Kelly and others, will improve public confidence in the disciplinary process for MLAs.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

1. The Committee on Standards and Privileges is a Standing Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Committee’s areas of responsibility include the consideration of matters relating to the conduct of members; the examination of arrangements for the compilation, maintenance and accessibility of the Register of Members’ Interests; and the consideration of matters relating to privilege.

2. The complete report can be obtained after the Assembly debate via the Committee’s homepage on the Northern Ireland Assembly website at: http://archive.niassembly.gov.uk/standards/2007mandate/standards.htm

3. The membership of the Committee on Standards and Privileges is as follows:

Mr Pat Ramsey (Chairperson)
Mr Willie Clarke (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Allan Bresland

Mr Mickey Brady
Mr Thomas Buchanan
Mr Trevor Clarke
Rev Robert Coulter
Mr Paul Maskey
Mr Alastair Ross
Mr George Savage
Mr Brian Wilson

All enquiries regarding the work of the Committee should be directed to the Clerk of Standards, Mr Paul Gill, Room 284, Parliament Buildings, Belfast, BT4 3XX (028 905 20333).

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