Advice provided in relation to the wording used in the Period Products (Free Provision) Bill

Information Standards Freedom of Information Response

Our Ref: FOI 4-22

31 January 2022


Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“FOIA”)

I am writing to confirm that the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission (Assembly Commission) has processed your request dated 14 January 2022 in line with the Freedom of Information Act 2000. In your request, you asked:

“I'm looking into Pat Catney's period products bill. The language in the bill as introduced is all gender-neutral - it does not refer to women or girls.

The explanatory notes for the bill state: "Clause 7 (Key definitions) provides definitions for three key terms used throughout the Act, namely “period products”, types of period products, and references to a person’s needs. In line with modern drafting practice for gender neutral drafting, “needs” is defined in terms of menstruation by a person, ensuring the Bill applies to anyone who menstruates (including transgender and non-binary persons), and not just to women and girls."

There was also briefing given to the education committee a few weeks back in which researcher Niamh Devlin said:

"“Needs” at clause 7(c) is defined as menstruation by a person, ensuring that the Bill applies to anyone who menstruates, including transgender and non-binary persons as well as women and girls."

My question is this: Did anyone at the Assembly - be it lawyers, clerks or any other employees or officials - advise Mr Catney that the bill needs to be written in the way set out above (avoiding mention of women and girls)?”

The Assembly Commission does not hold this information, as staff do not directly advise Members on technical aspects of the drafting of Private Members Bills, including the appropriate language for legislation.

A panel of professional parliamentary drafters under a framework agreement is engaged by the Assembly Commission to draft Private Members Bills in accordance with best practice

Drafting in gender-neutral language is standard practice for legislation. An example of such guidance can be seen under Part 2: Language and Style, 2.1 Gender neutrality, of theOffice of the Parliamentary Counsel: drafting guidance

You have the right to request a formal review by the Assembly Commission and if you wish to do so, please write to me at the above address.

If after such an internal review you are still unhappy with the response, you have the right to appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF who will undertake an independent review.

The Assembly Commission may publish details of your FOI request and our official response within the organisational disclosure log. The request will be completely anonymised and you will not be identified in any way. This is to meet the requirements as laid out by in the agreed publication scheme with the Information Commissioners’ Office.


Yours sincerely


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