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About committees

In this section we have put together the information you need to know about committees.


 

Contents

What is a committee?

What do committees do?

How are committees formed?

What are the roles in a committee?

How do committees hold the Executive to account?

How to get involved.

 


 

What is a committee?

Committees are groups of MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly) who look at specific subjects such as health, education, justice and more. Committee members come from different political parties.

Committees:

  • hold the Northern Ireland Executive (the government) to account
  • hold inquiries
  • ask for your views
  • examine bills (proposed laws) and decide on amendments (changes)
  • introduce their own bills

Committees have a remit which says what areas they are responsible for. Committees can look at anything in their remit.

 

What do committees do?

Most committees meet weekly, usually on a Wednesday or Thursday morning. Committees usually meet in a committee room in Parliament Buildings. They can also meet in other places around Northern Ireland.

Committees:

  • hold inquiries
  • look at legislation, including bills and subordinate legislation
  • hear the views of people to help with their inquiries and recommendations
  • look at the work of the Northern Ireland Executive, including plans for how money is spent

 

How are committees formed?

Committees are formed after an Assembly election. They are groups of MLAs from different political parties, appointed to specialise in a particular area of government or to carry out specific functions. Membership reflects party strength in the Assembly.

The Assembly has four main types of committee:

  • Statutory Committees examines the work of a Minister and their Department. There are 9 Statutory Committees.
  • Standing Committees undertake specific roles, mostly concerned with running the Assembly. For example, the Business Committee decides what business the Assembly will deal with in the Chamber.
  • Joint Committees consider matters of interest to more than one committee.
  • Ad Hoc Committees are set up for a limited time to deal with a particular issue.

 

What are the roles in a committee?

Chairperson

A Chairperson:

  • chairs committee meetings
  • speaks on behalf of the committee
  • agrees agendas for committee meetings

 

The Deputy Chair

The deputy chair takes on the chairperson's responsibilities when they're not available.

 

Committee members

All committee members, including the chair and deputy chair:

  • help decide on the committee's work programme
  • ask witnesses (members of the public, organisations, or experts) questions in committee meetings
  • contribute to and agree committee reports and other documents

 

How do committees hold the Executive to account?

Committees are responsible for looking at work in their remit. This includes holding inquiries and examining bills (proposed laws). They also look at the Northern Ireland Executive's work to see what it has planned and what it has already done.

The committee can hold the Northern Ireland Executive to account by:

  • publishing reports with recommendations that the Northern Ireland Executive must respond to
  • holding debates in the Chamber with ministers and other MLAs

 

Committees can also:

  • ask the Northern Ireland Executive for information
  • ask ministers and civil servants to answer questions in person

 

How to get involved

You or your organisation can get involved in a committee's work by giving your views on a bill (a proposed new law) or contributing to an inquiry. All committees can carry out inquiries into any subject in their remits (area of responsibility).

Submit your views

When a committee launches an inquiry, or starts looking at a bill, they usually ask the public to submit their views. This is your chance to tell the committee what you think about the issue they're looking at.

Anyone can submit their views to the committee. You can find out what the committee is asking and when their deadline is on the committee's webpags or on our "Call for Views" webpages.

Witnesses

Committees also speak to members of the public, organisations, or experts in person. These people are called "witnesses". Committee members decide which witnesses they would like to ask questions to.

Read our guide for witnesses appearing before Assembly Committees.

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