End of Session Report 2010-2011

1.0 Remit and Powers

1.1 The Assembly and Executive Review Committee was established as a Standing Committee in May 2007 to review the functions of the Assembly and the Executive Committee as outlined in Section 11 of the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act 2006, which amended the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

1.2 Section 29A(1)(a) of the 1998 Act states that:

(1) Standing orders shall make provision—

(a) for establishing a committee to examine such matters relating to the functioning of the Assembly and the Executive Committee as may be specified in the standing orders;

1.3 Standing Order 59 further details the specific matters that the committee must
consider. These are:

  • consider the operation of Sections 16A to 16C of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and, in particular, whether to recommend that the Secretary of State should make an order amending that Act and any other enactment so far as may be necessary to secure that they have effect, as from the date of the election of the 2011 Assembly, as if the executive selection amendments had not been made;
  • make a report to the Secretary of State, the Assembly and the Executive Committee, by no later than 1 May 2015, on the operation of Parts III and IV of the Northern Ireland Act 1998;
  • consider such other matters relating to the functioning of the Assembly or the Executive as may be referred to it by the Assembly;
  • review the arrangements for the appointment and removal of judicial office holders.

1.4 The powers of the Assembly and Executive Review Committee are expressed in Standing Order 59 of the Assembly’s Standing Orders:

59 (2) The committee may –

    (a) exercise the power in section 44(1) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998;

1.5 Section 44(1) of the Northern Ireland Act outlines what these powers are:

44 (1) The Assembly may require any person –

to attend its proceedings for the purpose of giving evidence; or to produce documents in his custody or under his control, relating to any of the matters mentioned in subsection (2).

2) Those matters are –

Transferred matters concerning Northern Ireland;
Other matters in relation to which statutory functions are exercisable by Ministers or the Northern Ireland departments.

2.0 Membership

2.1 The Assembly and Executive Review Committee has eleven members including a Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson with a quorum of five. The membership of the Committee is as follows:

Mr Jimmy Spratt (Chairperson) 1
Mr Alex Maskey (Deputy Chairperson) 2,7
Mr Jonathan Bell 4,11
Mr Fred Cobain 6
Mr Tom Elliott 13
Mr Paul Givan 10
Mr Simon Hamilton 3
Mr Raymond McCartney
Mr Conall McDevitt 8
Mr Declan O’Loan 5,9,12
Mr Pat Sheehan 14

1 Rt. Hon Jeffrey Donaldson resigned from the Committee with effect from 26 February 2008 and was replaced by Mr Jimmy Spratt on 04 March 2008
2 With effect from 20 May 2008 Mr Alex Maskey replaced Ms Carál Ní Chuilín
3 With effect from 15 September 2008 Mr Simon Hamilton replaced Mr Ian McCrea and Mr Ian Paisley Jnr replaced Mr George Robinson
4 With effect from 15 September 2009 Rt. Hon Nigel Dodds replaced Mr Nelson McCausland
5 With effect from 15 January 2010 Mrs Carmel Hanna resigned as an MLA and with effect from 26 January 2010 Mr Declan O'Loan was appointed as a Member of the Committee
6 With effect from the 31 March 2010 Mr Alan McFarland stood down from membership of the Committee and on 19 April 2010 Mr Fred Cobain was appointed as a Member of the Committee
7 On 13 April 2010 Mr Alex Maskey replaced Mr Raymond McCartney as Deputy Chairperson. Mr Raymond McCartney remained as a Member of the Committee
8 With effect from 24 May 2010 Mr Conall McDevitt replaced Mr Alex Attwood
9 With effect from 7 June 2010 Ms Margaret Ritchie replaced Mr Declan O'Loan
10 With effect from 21 June 2010 Mr Ian Paisley Jnr resigned as an MLA and with effect from 27 September 2010 Mr Paul Givan was appointed as a Member of the Committee
11 With effect from 10 September 2010 Rt. Hon Nigel Dodds resigned as an MLA and with effect from 13 September 2010 Mr Jonathan Bell was appointed as a Member of the Committee
12 With effect from 11 October 2010 Mr Declan O'Loan replaced Ms Margaret Ritchie
13 With effect from 8 November 2010 Mr Tom Elliott replaced Mr Danny Kennedy
14 With effect from 13 December 2010 Mr Pat Sheehan replaced Mr John O’Dowd

2.2 The Committee has four members of staff to provide its secretariat functions:

  • Kevin Pelan Assembly Clerk
  • Neil Currie Assistant Assembly Clerk
  • Tara McKee Clerical Supervisor
  • Andrienne Magee Clerical Officer

This report covers the work of the Committee for the period September 2010 – March 2011.

3.0 Key Activities, Outputs and Achievements 2010-2011

3.1 At its first meeting in September 2010 the Committee decided to take forward two issues:

  • The ‘size’ of the Assembly in terms of the number of MLAs; and
  • The operation of sections 16A to 16C of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

3.2 While it awaited the outcome of the passage of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill through Westminster which would impact on the ‘size’ of the Assembly, the Committee decided to focus on reviewing the operation of sections 16A to 16C of the Northern Ireland Act. This was a specific requirement under section 29A of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and Standing Order 59 (3)(a) and (b).

3.3 To facilitate this, the Committee sought submissions from all the political parties and independent Members represented in the Assembly.

3.4 Although the Committee recognized the importance attached to reaching a consensus on this important issue, ultimately this could not be achieved.

3.5 The Committee considered two proposals and divided on both.

3.6 The Committee decided by a majority vote to recommend to the Secretary of State that he should not make an order reversing the effects of the executive selection amendments.

3.7 The Committee agreed to write to the Secretary of State indicating the Committee’s position that section 16C(6) should be removed from the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

3.8 The Committee report on the Review of the Operation of Sections 16A to 16C of the NI Act 1998 was published on 31 January 2011.

3.9 The report was debated by the Assembly on 31 January 2011 and the
following motion was agreed by the Assembly:

That this Assembly approves the Report of the Assembly and Executive Review Committee on the Review of the Operation of sections 16A to 16C of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

3.10 In total the Committee held 14 meetings, 9 of which were held in closed session.

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