Committee Welcomes Bill to Create an Independent Commissioner for Standards
Date: Monday, 15 November 2010
Reference: SP 01/10/11
A landmark was reached today at the Northern Ireland Assembly with the introduction of the Northern Ireland Assembly Members (Independent Financial Review and Standards) Bill.
If the Bill is passed, it will lead to the establishment of an independent Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards who will carry out investigations into allegations of misconduct by MLAs. The Bill will also make it an offence to refuse to give the Commissioner evidence or produce documents when requested.
Declan O’Loan MLA, Chairperson of the Assembly Committee on Standards and Privileges said: “I welcome the introduction of this Bill which will create an independent Commissioner for Standards. As recommended by the Committee on Standards in Public Life, the Bill will enable the Commissioner to initiate an investigation into a Member’s conduct if the Commissioner believes that a breach of the Code of Conduct may have occurred. The Committee believes that giving the Commissioner such a power will enhance public confidence in how MLAs are held to account.”
Willie Clarke MLA, Deputy Chairperson of the Committee on Standards and Privileges said: “The introduction of this Bill represents a further step in strengthening how MLAs are accountable, in an open and transparent manner, for high standards of conduct in office. I look forward to the Assembly’s consideration of this important Bill.”
With Assembly agreement, it is intended that the legislation should be passed by February or March of 2011.
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 membership of the Committee on Standards and Privileges is as follows:
Mr Declan O’Loan (Chairperson)
Mr Willie Clarke (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Billy Armstrong
Mr Sydney Anderson
Mr Mickey Brady
Rev Robert Coulter
Mr Paul Frew
Mr Paul Maskey
Mr Ian McCrea
Mr Alastair Ross
Mr Brian Wilson
3. The Northern Ireland Assembly Members (Independent Financial Review and Standards) Bill has been prepared jointly by the Assembly Commission and the Committee on Standards and Privileges. The Bill makes provision for a Panel to determine the salaries, allowances, pensions and gratuities payable to members and former members of the Northern Ireland Assembly; and makes provisions for a Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards. The Assembly Commission has agreed the provisions in respect of the Panel and the Committee on Standards and Privileges has agreed the provisions in respect of the Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards. A copy of the Bill and an Explanatory Memorandum will be available on the Assembly’s website.
4. 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 9052 0333).