What is Legislative Consent?

On occasion, the UK Parliament will consider a bill that affects a devolution matter in Northern Ireland.  When this happens, the consent of the Assembly is sought through a process called legislative consent.  The legislative consent process involves the Northern Ireland Executive, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the UK Parliament.

How legislative consent is sought from the Assembly is set down in Standing Order 42A.

The process begins when a legislative consent memorandum is laid before the Assembly in the Assembly’s Business Office. The memorandum can:

    1. set out the case for the Assembly to grant legislative consent (under Standing Order 42A (4)(a); or
    2. explain why the relevant Minister is not seeking the Assembly’s legislative consent (under Standing Order 42A (4)(b). 

The memorandum is usually laid by the Northern Ireland Minister whom the devolution matter concerns. However, a Member of the Assembly may also lay a memorandum in certain circumstances.

There may be more than one memorandum laid for a single UK bill.

Once laid at the Assembly, the legislative consent memorandum is then referred to the relevant Assembly committee for consideration.  The committee will then have 15 working days consider and form a view on the memorandum.  The form that committee scrutiny takes, and the nature of its report, is a matter for the committee itself.  The committee does not have to report, however committees endeavour to report in order to inform Assembly Members and debate on a legislative consent motion in plenary.

If a decision of the Assembly is being sought, the next stage in the process is the tabling of a legislative consent motion in the Business Office. The Business Committee will schedule the legislative consent motion onto an Order Paper for debate in plenary.  The debate should not normally take place until at least five working days after the Committee has reported, or 20 working days after the date the legislative consent memorandum was referred to the Committee. At the conclusion of the debate, the question is put on the motion.  If the Assembly votes in favour of the motion, it is granting consent to Westminster to legislate on the devolution matters identified in the motion.  If the Assembly votes against the motion, consent for Westminster to legislate on the devolution matters is withheld.

Finally, the Clerk of the Assembly, writes to the Clerk of the House of Commons and the Clerk of the Parliaments, conveying the decision of the Assembly on whether to grant legislative consent or otherwise.



Learn more about Legislative Consent at the Assembly                               

Legislative Consent at the Scottish Parliament and the Senedd


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