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Functioning of Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill

Call for Evidence

The Committee for Finance would like to hear your views!

 

Functioning of Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill

 

In exercising its statutory functions, the Committee for Finance is currently scrutinising the draft Functioning of Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.

The Bill was formally introduced to the Assembly on 3 February 2020 and, following its second reading on 16 March 2020, was referred to the Committee for Finance for Committee Stage.  At its meeting on 26 February 2020, the Committee received a preliminary briefing from the Bill sponsor, Mr Jim Allister MLA on the key principles contained within the Bill.

The accompanying Explanatory and Financial Memorandum (EFM) highlights that the Bill has fourteen objectives:

1) to render ineffective any appointment of a special adviser which does not comply with the provisions of the code for appointments;

2) to provide that special advisers are subject to the processes and procedures of the disciplinary code operative in the Northern Ireland Civil Service;

3) to make it plain that an appointing minister is accountable and responsible for his special adviser;

4) to restrict the remuneration of special advisers so that it cannot be greater than that applicable within the Senior Civil Service Pay Structure to Assistant Secretary (Grade 5);

5) to impose a statutory duty on a departmental minister and Permanent Secretary to ensure no person exercises the functions or enjoys the privileges of a special adviser other than the duly appointed person;

6) to reduce the number of special advisers within the Executive Office from 8 to 4;

7) to prevent the amendment of the Civil Service Commissioners (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 by the exercise of prerogative powers;

8) to extend the powers of the Commissioner for Standards to include investigation of complaints against ministers;

9) to ensure the activities and meetings of ministers and special advisers are adequately recorded within the Civil Service;

10) to provide for a register of interests in respect of ministers and special advisers;

11) to ensure special advisers are not subject to inappropriate control and direction;

12) to make it a criminal offence for any minister, civil servant or special adviser to use personal accounts in regard to electronic communication relating to government business;

13) to make it a specific criminal offence for a minister or special adviser to communicate confidential government information to a third party; and

14) to require the First Minister and deputy First Minister to report biennially on the functioning of government and act to improve same.

Any organisation or individual with an interest in this Bill is invited to submit evidence to the Committee by email to:

committee.finance@niassembly.gov.uk

or by post to:

Committee Clerk,
Room 373, Parliament Buildings,
Ballymiscaw,
Stormont,
Belfast,
BT4 3XX

The evidence must be structured to address the specific clauses of the Bill and, if appropriate, should include any amendments you wish to propose to the text.

Organisations or individuals responding to this call for evidence will wish to note that their submission (either in whole or part) may be published on the Committee website.

Closing date for submissions is

Friday, 24 April 2020

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