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Appointment of a Temporary Speaker for motion of No Confidence in the Speaker on 16 January 2017

1. A motion of no confidence in the Speaker will be debated on Monday 16January 2017.  The Speaker made it clear to his office that it would be inappropriate for him to chair the debate or to use his power of delegation under Standing Order 5 (2) to ask one of the Deputy Speakers to chair the debate.  The Speaker’s Office contacted the three Deputy Speakers and all advised that they are unable to chair the debate.

2. Standing Order 9A (1) provides for these circumstances and allows that if “neither the Speaker nor any Deputy Speaker is able to chair a sitting of the Assembly, the sitting shall be chaired by a temporary Speaker.”

3. Under Standing Order 9A (3), the temporary Speaker is defined as “the member, present at the sitting, who has served the Assembly the longest number of days, and in the case of a tie, the oldest of the longest serving members present.  Ministers and junior Ministers are not eligible to be considered as temporary Speakers.” 

4. In determining the length of service of a Member for the purposes of Standing Order 9A, this refers to service to the current Assembly since 1998.  The Assembly, and its Standing Orders are constituted under the Northern Ireland Act 1998, which was an Act ‘to make new provision for the government of Northern Ireland’.  Membership of any previous Assembly created under different legislation is not taken into account in calculating ‘days of service’ under the standing orders of this Assembly.

5. Having been informed by the Speaker’s Office that neither the Speaker or any Deputy Speaker are able to chair the debate, officials will now proceed to contact the Member who qualifies as the oldest of the longest serving Members to establish if he will be present.  If the Member will not be present at the sitting, or has indicated that he is unwilling to act, then officials will contact the next longest serving member and so on until a temporary Speaker is identified.  The first three relevant Members, if they be present, in order of age and service, are

i.                   Lord Morro

ii.                  Martin McGuinness

iii.                 David Ford

6. In relation to the selection of amendments, Standing Order 9A (1) is clear that the temporary Speaker is only responsible for chairing the sitting of the Assembly if the Speaker and Deputy Speakers are unable to do so.  The Speaker is unable to delegate other functions to the temporary Speaker under Standing Order 5 (2) including the selection of amendments.  That being the case, the only person remaining who is able to select the amendments and who cannot participate in the vote or the debate is the Speaker himself. 

7. While the Speaker intended to play no role in relation to the motion of no confidence, officials have advised him that he is the only Member who is eligible to conduct the selection of amendments.  In this specific circumstance, as the motion refers to the Speaker, the Speaker has been advised that he should exercise his power of selection by selecting all admissible amendments tabled without further consideration.

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