Session: 2011/2012

Date: 12 November 2012

ISBN: Only available online

Committee: Procedures

Remit and Powers

1. The Committee on Procedures (the Committee) is a Standing Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly established in accordance with paragraph 10 of Strand One of the Belfast Agreement and under Assembly Standing Order 54. 

2. The Committee has the power to:

  • Consider and review on an ongoing basis the Standing Orders and procedures of the Assembly;
  • Initiate inquiries and publish reports;
  • Republish Standing Orders annually; and
  • Call for persons and papers.

Membership

3. The Committee has eleven Members including a Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson and a quorum of five.  The membership of the Committee since its establishment on 23 May 2011 has been as follows:

Mr Gerry Kelly (Chairperson) [1]
Mr Trevor Clarke (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Jim Allister
Mr Samuel Gardiner  
Mr Chris Lyttle
Mr Oliver McMullan
Mr Alban Maginness
The Lord Morrow
Ms Sue Ramsey
Mr George Robinson
Mr Mervyn Storey

[1] Mr Gerry Kelly replaced Ms Sue Ramsey as Chairperson with effect from 6 February 2012

End of Session Report

4. This report details the work of the Committee on Procedures from its establishment in the current mandate and covers the period from 12 May 2011 to 31 August 2012.  

5. At its first meeting, the Committee agreed to consider a number of matters that the Committee from the previous mandate had highlighted in its legacy report.

6. These items included: Committee Stage of Bills; drafting new Standing Orders for Legislative Consent Motions following the Committee inquiry into this subject; Legislative Competence of Bills; Standing Orders relating to standards and privilege; Standing Orders relating to Policing and Justice matters; Standing Order 59(4A) – transferring responsibility to review the operation of the process for judicial appointments and removals from the Assembly and Executive Review Committee to the Committee for Justice; Standing Order 27 – voting/divisions; Standing Order 65(6) – suspending sittings in the case of grave disorder; family friendly practices and impact of late sittings.

Meetings

7. The Committee met on fifteen occasions during the period of the report.  Six meetings were held in public session, two were held in closed session and seven were in part public/part closed session.  All meetings were held in Parliament Buildings.  

Inquiries

8. The first item of business undertaken by the Committee was an inquiry into the creation of the post of Principal Deputy Speaker.  On 16 May 2011, the Assembly agreed the following motion: “That this Assembly agrees that there shall be a Principal Deputy Speaker and directs the Committee on Procedures, as its first priority, to table the necessary amendments to Standing Orders by 6 June 2011”.  Following the inquiry, a new Standing Order 5A was drafted, setting out the process for appointing a Principal Deputy Speaker.  The amendments were agreed by the Assembly on 14 June 2011.

Review of Standing Orders and Procedures

9. In accordance with its agreed work programme, the Committee reviewed a number of Standing Orders (SOs) and procedures of the Assembly, and the main items of business considered are summarised below.  

Standing Order 20(9) – Written responses to Oral Questions

10. The Speaker wrote to the Committee requesting a review of SO20(9), which sets out the procedure to be followed if a Member is not present in the Chamber to ask his or her question.  Following consideration of the matter, the Committee agreed that there should be no change to this Standing Order.

Standing Order 27 – Voting (Divisions)

11. The Committee agreed that SO27 should be amended to give the Speaker, after consultation with the Whips, discretion to dispense with the three minutes before putting the question a second time, where more than two divisions relating to the same subject were to be held in succession.  The amendments were agreed by the Assembly on
30 April 2012.

Standing Order 30 – Types of Bills

12. The Committee reviewed SO30 in relation to the types of Public Bills referred to and agreed that there should be no change to this Standing Order.

Standing Order 42A – Legislative Consent Motions (LCMs)

13. A key recommendation in the previous Committee’s inquiry report into Legislative Consent Motions (LCMs) was that a Standing Order should be put in place to set out the procedure for dealing with LCMs.  Following consideration of the matter, a new Standing Order (42A) was agreed by the current Committee and the amendments were supported by the Assembly on 24 January 2012.

Standing Order 47 – Statutory Committees

14.  In anticipation of departmental reorganisation by the Executive, the Committee reviewed SO47 as it only made provision for the establishment of statutory committees following an election.  The Committee agreed to introduce a new Standing Order (49B), to reflect establishing the number and membership of statutory committees during the course of a mandate.  The proposed amendments are scheduled for debate by the Assembly in September 2012.

Standing Orders 48 and 49 – Establishment and Membership of Statutory Committees

15. The Committee considered whether SOs 48 and 49 were sufficiently transparent in relation to whether a committee chairperson, or deputy chairperson, ceases to be a Member of a committee if they no longer hold the position.  The Committee agreed that the procedures set out in SOs 48 and 49 are sufficiently clear and transparent in relation to this issue and did not need to be amended.

Standing Orders 49A, 49B and 59(4A) – Committee for Justice

16. These amendments were primarily as a consequence of the establishment of the Committee for Justice.  Responsibility to review the operation of amendments made by the Northern Ireland Act 2009 to the process of judicial appointments and removals was transferred from the Assembly and Executive Review Committee to the Committee for Justice, following agreement by both committees.  The amendments were agreed by the Assembly on 28 November 2011.

Standing Orders 69A, 69C and 57(1) – Assembly Commissioner for Standards

17. These amendments were drafted to give power to and reflect the requirements introduced by the Assembly Members (Independent Financial Review and Standards) Act (NI) 2011. The Committee agreed the proposed amendments and these are scheduled for debate by the Assembly in September 2012, to coincide with the appointment of the Assembly Commissioner for Standards.

Standing Order 76 – Remuneration and Pensions

18.  The Assembly Members (Independent Financial Review and Standards) Act (NI) 2011 also necessitated amendments to SO76, which relates to Members’ remuneration and pensions.  Following consideration of the matter, the proposed amendments were agreed by the Committee and supported by the Assembly on 30 April 2012.

Use of Electronic Devices in the Chamber

19.  The Committee considered the use of electronic devices in the Chamber and agreed that Members should be allowed to use hand held electronic devices in the Chamber such as iPads and Blackberries.  It was agreed that devices must be kept on silent mode, to ensure that the dignity of the House is preserved at all times and that there is no interference with the audio system or proceedings.  It was also agreed that laptops cannot be used because of size and noise issues.  The Speaker was advised of the Committee’s decision and the House was informed accordingly. 

Inquiry into Topical Questions

20.  The Committee commenced a mini inquiry on whether the introduction of a system for asking Topical Questions of Ministers is appropriate and, if so, how could it best be done.  It is expected that the inquiry report will be presented to the Assembly in autumn 2012.

Motions in Plenary

21. Apart from minor and technical changes, amendments to Standing Orders must be agreed by cross-community vote in the Assembly.  Consequently, the majority of the Committee’s output must be agreed by the Assembly before implementation.

22. The Committee had twelve motions debated and agreed by the Assembly.

Expenditure

23. Details of the Committee’s expenditure are attached at Annex A.  

ANNEX A

Committee on Procedures

Expenditure for the period 12 May 2011 – 31 August 2012

Budget area

Details

Expenditure

Printing of Committee reports

Inquiry into Standing Orders for Principal Deputy Speaker

£308.68

Consultancy support - the cost of drafting Standing Orders

Draftsperson for Standing Orders

£5,400.00

General expenses

Cost of lunch and refreshments for Committee meetings

£890.97

Total Expenditure

£6,599.65

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