Review of Petitions of Concern
The Assembly and Executive Review Committee is currently undertaking a Review of Petitions of Concern. The Terms of Reference for the Review is:
The Assembly and Executive Review Committee will review Petitions of Concern, taking into account how the Petition of Concern has been used to date and the fact that the mechanism was designed as part of the safeguards to ensure that all sections of the community are protected and can participate and work together successfully in the operation of these institutions. The Committee will:
1. Examine provisions for an Ad Hoc Committee on Conformity with Equality Requirements in relation to Petitions of Concern, including alternative procedures, e.g. the Westminster Joint Committee on Human Rights.
2. Examine the possibility of restricting the use of Petitions of Concern to certain key areas, and consider mechanisms that might facilitate this.
3. Consider whether the current threshold of 30 signatures required for a Petition of Concern should be adjusted.
4. Consider whether the Petitions of Concern mechanism should be replaced with an alternative mechanism, such as a weighted-majority vote.
This Review follows on from one of the conclusions in the Committee’s Report on its ‘Review of D’Hondt, Community Designation and Provisions for Opposition’, which was published on 18th June 2013. In that report, the Committee concluded:
“Following the evidence that was presented to the Committee regarding Petitions of Concern, the Committee concluded that further detailed work in relation to Petitions of Concern needs to be carried out.”
In the ‘Call for Evidence’ paper for the Review of D’Hondt, Community Designation and Provisions for Opposition, which was issued on 12th February 2013, the Committee asked:
“Do you believe that there should be changes to the “rules” governing Petitions of Concern? If so, what changes do you propose?”
The written and oral evidence gathered from stakeholder responses and evidence sessions will be used to inform the Committee’s current Review of Petitions of Concern. The Committee has also received relevant briefing papers from the Assembly Research and Information Service: