About Non-Executive Bills
Most primary legislation that passes through the Northern Ireland Assembly is brought forward by the relevant Minister. However, bills can also be introduced by an individual Member or Assembly Committees.
Before introducing a Public Bill, the individual Member must first lodge an initial proposal with the Bill Office. This should consist of the proposed short title of the Bill and a brief explanation of its proposed purpose or policy objective. They are then required to conduct a consultation on their proposal. Exceptionally, they may lodge a written a statement of reasons in the Bill Office, making the case for proceeding to drafting without engaging in consultation (e.g. where a full public consultation has already been held). Subject to the Speaker’s acceptance of the reasons, this would exempt them from the obligation to consult. In such cases, the Member is still expected to notify the relevant Minister(s), Committee(s) and key stakeholders.
The Member is required to lodge their consultation paper with the Bill Office within 4 months of the date on which the initial proposal was lodged. A final proposal should then be lodged with the Bill Office as soon as possible after the end of consultation and in any case within 4 months of the consultation paper being lodged.
Once completed, the final legislative proposal will be submitted to the Speaker. Subject to the Speaker’s approval, the Assembly will provide access to the drafting service.
This process is managed under guidance approved by the Speaker.
Committees (and the Commission) may also initiate legislation. In this case the Committee Clerk will liaise with the Bill Office and Legal Services to seek advice on the competence and complexity of the proposal. A secretariat team will then be formed to assist the Committee in defining its policy and to prepare drafting instructions in liaison with the Committee. When the Bill has been drafted and introduced, this team will become the Bill Team for the Bill. In some cases an ad hoc Committee may be set up to scrutinise the Bill at its Committee Stage; in others the Assembly may agree to grant the Bill accelerated passage under SO 42.
For further information contact:
The Bill Office
152 Parliament Buildings