Research Publications 2021

Synopsis: The Northern Ireland Assembly Research and Information Service (RaISe) produces a number of Research publications each year. These cover a variety of topics which are of interest to Members, Committees and the general public.

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Number   Title Date*

Methane and Biogenic Methane - an overview

This paper has been prepared for the purpose of supporting the Committee’s scrutiny of the Climate Change Number 1 and Number 2 Bills. The paper provides an overview of methane and biogenic methane including information regarding overall emissions targets and specific methane targets as well as examples of Biogenic methane in other climate change legislation.


Charities Bill
This Bill Paper has been prepared to inform consideration of the Charities Bill. It provides background to the Bill's introduction and content, including comparison with current law in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland, and highlights potential issues for consideration.


Lough Foyle – opportunities and challenges for cross-border marine management
This research paper discusses potential issues regarding the marine management of the cross-border Lough Foyle. It describes its historic background, governance arrangements and wider policy context. It describes the opportunities for fisheries activities, and explains how unregulated activities threaten the marine environment. It considers current risks to Lough Foyle’s environment and economy. It discusses the role of the Loughs Agency and explains the calls for stronger governance arrangements.


Damages (Return on Investment) Bill
This paper has been prepared to inform consideration of the Damages (Return on Investment) Bill.
The Bill has 6 clauses and a schedule. It aims to provide a new statutory methodology for calculating the personal injury discount rate for lump sum awards in personal injury cases and establishes a timeframe for review of the rate. It also provides that the task of reviewing and setting the rate will fall to the Government Actuary instead of the Department of Justice. This paper should be read in conjunction with paper NIAR 125-21.


Private Members' Bills – Bills that have become law in other legislatures and procedures in other legislatures
This briefing paper has been prepared following a request from the Committee on Procedures. The Committee sought information on:

  • the number of Private Members’ Bills (PMBs) that have become law in the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Parliament, House of Commons and Dáil Eireann; and
  • the procedure for PMBs in other legislatures.

Online Trolling and Abuse
This briefing paper has been prepared in response to a request from the Committee for Justice, which sought research on the following:

  • comparing the laws to tackle online trolling/abuse available in other jurisdictions including the UK and the Republic of Ireland;
  • outlining examples of international good practice in this area; and
  • clarifying what powers are reserved or devolved and what areas the Assembly can either influence or take action on in this area.

The Reservoirs Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 – background, comparison, status and issues
This research paper examines the Reservoirs Act (Northern Ireland) 2015, which aims to protect people and property from dam failure. It compares reservoir safety in Northern Ireland, other UK devolved administrations and the Republic of Ireland. It explains why few provisions of the Act have been commenced and indicates possible timescales for the Act’s full implementation. It discusses issues associated with the Act. It also raises questions which the Committee for Infrastructure may wish to consider as the Department seeks to bring forward regulations to commence the Act.


School Uniforms: Cost, Gender and Behavioural Considerations
The school uniform is a long-contested topic in education circles. The purpose of this paper is to present an overview of some of the arguments put forward regarding the advantages and disadvantages of school uniforms and any evidence to support those arguments.


A High Street Task Force for Northern Ireland: A Comparative Perspective
This Briefing Paper is provided to support the Committee for the Executive Office in its consideration and scrutiny of the development of a High Street Task Force for Northern Ireland. It is to support the Committee when comparing and assessing the effectiveness of a selection of national and international High Street Regeneration (HSR) examples. Specifically, the Paper presents evidence from six jurisdictions identified by the Committee, namely: Detroit (US); Toronto (Canada); Greater Manchester (UK); Lille (France); Gothenburg (Sweden); and, Berlin (Germany).


Comparative analysis of the Historical Institutional Abuse Redress Board
A paper for the Committee for the Executive Office, comparing the Historical Institutional Abuse Redress Board of Northern Ireland with similar redress schemes in other countries, and with the Troubles Permanent Disablement Payment Scheme.


Electric and Ultra-low emission vehicles: Public survey results
This research paper reports on the results of a public survey into electric and ultra-low emission vehicles in Northern Ireland. It also raises a number of questions to assist the Committee for Infrastructure in its scrutiny of electric car policy.


Horse Racing (Amendment) Bill
This Bill paper provides an overview of the Horse Racing (Amendment) Bill as introduced to the Assembly on 13th April 2021. The paper also identifies those areas within the Bill which may merit further consideration and, where relevant, compares similar provisions within GB and Ireland


Executive Budget 2021-2022
This briefing paper seeks to support Assembly committees in their scrutiny and advisory roles in relation to the Executive Budget 2021-22. The paper addresses the shorter timeframe for Assembly consideration of Budget proposals; amidst announcements of additional funding confirmed as part of the Chancellor's Budget. Thereafter, the paper presents available information on the range of funding sources available to the Executive for 2021-22, before briefly assessing the Executive's allocations. Included throughout are potential issues meriting consideration.


Updated Statistics on Section 75 Categories for Education Service
This Briefing Note has been requested by the Education Service.  It updates a previous paper (NIAR 380-20) and contains statistics on the nine Section 75 categories relating to young people aged 13-17 years.


Inter-Parliamentary Relations: Committees
This briefing paper addresses a query from the Committee on Procedures on “the procedural steps required to facilitate greater joint working between committees of each of the UK’s devolved legislatures and committees of the House of Commons, for purposes including shared scrutiny of inter-governmental working on policy areas of common interest”. 


Personal Injury Discount Rate
This paper details the various impacts identified to date by a change in the discount rate in England and Wales and Scotland in recent years. It also looks at Northern Ireland’s specific circumstances to provide context to any potential issues that could arise from a change in the discount rate locally.


Physical Activity and the Wellbeing of Children and Young People
The purpose of this paper is to inform the Education Committee’s understanding of the value of physical activity (PA) and sport on children and young people’s physical health and emotional well-being. The paper begins by exploring the role of regular PA in safeguarding children’s physical and mental health, now and in their future.  The paper also explores the progressive decline in physical activity among NI Youth.  It will examine efforts to support schools in increasing the participation of children and young people in PE in Northern Ireland, including the role of the NI Curriculum Sports Programme.  The paper finishes by exploring similar initiatives in other jurisdictions in the UK and the factors that support their effective delivery.


School Starting Age: Policy and Practice in the UK
This briefing paper provides an overview of the main arguments relating to school starting age, views on appropriate education provision at ages four-five, the potential adverse outcomes for summer born children who start school early and the various policy options relating to school starting age and deferral across the UK. 


Proposed Draft Farm Welfare Bill – potential considerations
This briefing paper provides an overview of the proposed draft Farm Welfare Bill produced by NI Farm Groups. As well as considering the main elements within the Bill, the briefing paper presents an overview of the use of farm gate pricing mechanisms across a number of jurisdictions.


Approaches taken to combustible cladding materials in Ireland
This paper follows on from RaISe research paper, ‘A comparison of approaches regarding a ban on the use of combustible cladding materials’ (NIAR 1-21). It sets out the approach taken currently to cladding on high rise buildings in the Republic of Ireland.


A comparison of approaches regarding a ban on the use of combustible cladding materials
This briefing paper has been prepared on behalf of the Committee for Finance to assist in its scrutiny of proposals to amend the Building (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020. The paper seeks to provide a comparative overview of approaches taken to the banning of combustible material on external walls of applicable buildings across the UK.


Private Member Bill: Climate Change (Northern Ireland) Bill 2021
This Bill Paper provides an overview, comparison and consideration of the Climate Change (Northern Ireland) Bill 2021. The Bill was introduced to the NI Assembly on 22 March 2021.  It provides for: the declaration of a climate emergency; development of five year Climate Action Plans with an overall target of net zero by 2045, annual targets, carbon budgets, nitrogen budgets and sectoral plans; establishment of  a Northern Ireland Climate Commissioner and the Northern Ireland Climate Office as an independent body to monitor the implementation of the provisions and review the working of the PMB; and a guarantee of non-regression from existing climate and environmental standards.


Budgetary Oversight of Parliamentary Corporate Bodies: A comparative perspective
This briefing paper, commissioned by the Assembly’s Audit Committee, provides comparative research on the Committee and its counterparts located in the United Kingdom, Wales, Scotland, and the Republic of Ireland. It offers a comparison of key oversight and procedural mechanisms for scrutiny of parliamentary corporate body budgets. The paper aims to help inform the Committee in its discharge of duties associated with the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission’s budget.


Nature Friendly Farming in Northern Ireland
This paper provides a brief overview of the concept of ‘Nature Friendly Farming’ and its application in Northern Ireland, within the context of the 2014-20 CAP programme period, its associated programmes/schemes and future agricultural policy development.
In addition, the paper identifies those areas of Northern Ireland which are currently subject to some form of protective designation that may either maintain or enhance environment/habitat. It also provides an overview of what the main designations cover.


Peat and Peatlands
This briefing paper provides information on peat and peatlands across the UK and the Republic of Ireland. It discusses the current extent and conditions of peatlands across the jurisdictions and natural capital and ecosystem services provided by peatlands. The various jurisdictions' national peatland strategies are outlined and peatland restoration efforts are discussed. The role peatlands play in climate change targets are examined and finally future considerations are detailed.


Gender budgeting in government: a comparative perspective on legal bases
On request, this briefing paper was prepared for the Ad Hoc Committee on a Bill of Rights (the "Committee"), to examine legal bases underpinning current uses of gender budgeting in government, in particular a constitutional basis. To provide such a comparative perspective, the paper draws on the experience of individual countries belonging to the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Throughout, potential issues are identified, aiming to help inform the Committee's future consideration in this area.


CEDAW and the Istanbul Convention: A comparative view on transposition and implementation in domestic law and practice
This paper is provided following a request from the Assembly Ad Hoc Committee on a Bill of Rights. It details research on the implementation of the United Nations ('UN') Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women ('CEDAW'), and provisions relating to violence against women, in domestic law. As the most relevant international treaty relating to violence against women, the Istanbul Convention is considered in particular.


Anaerobic Digestion in Northern Ireland
This briefing paper provides an overview of anaerobic digestion (AD) in Northern Ireland (NI). The paper explores what AD is, the extent and usage of AD in NI, the regulation of AD in NI, funding support available for AD in NI, and opposition to AD development in NI. It also provides information on environmental considerations and AD’s potential role in NI’s future energy strategy.


Internal Market Act 2020 and the Protocol on Ireland/ Northern Ireland
Within the current unsettled context, and from a layperson’s perspective, this paper seeks to explain how provisions contained in the Internal Market Act 2020 (the “IMA”) and the “Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland” appear to relate to each other; while also highlighting their relevance to the work of the Committee for Finance. Throughout, potential issues for consideration are provided, to support the Committee when discharging its advisory and scrutiny roles.


Sport and disability in Northern Ireland
This research examines Northern Ireland’s sports and physical activity participation rates for those with a disability. The second part of the paper provides details of key challenges for disability sport, how relevant organisations are tackling those challenges, the resulting impacts and future plans.


Female participation in sport and physical activity in Northern Ireland
This research paper explores key issues relating to female participation in sport and physical activity in Northern Ireland and compares findings with neighbouring jurisdictions. The paper also includes a summary of different strategies and policies to increase female participation


Protection from Stalking Bill
This paper has been prepared to inform consideration of the Protection from Stalking Bill, which completed its second stage on 8th February 2021.  The Bill has 20 clauses and is divided into three parts. Its predominant policy objectives are creating two new offences relating to stalking and introducing provision for Stalking Protection Orders.


Topical issues in other legislatures
This briefing paper has been prepared following a request from the Committee on Standards and Privileges. It discusses issues in other legislatures in relation to standards that have arisen between January 2017 and January 2020.


Suicide: Northern Ireland
This research paper considers the complex issue of suicide in the context of: mental health; the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic; support services; suicide data - including the most recent suicide data for Northern Ireland (2020) and suicide rates from neighbouring jurisdictions; and suicide prevention strategies.


Statutory Time Limits in other jurisdictions
This paper has been prepared in response to a request from the Committee for Justice for information about statutory case time limits and statutory custody time limits in other jurisdictions and whether they have contributed to a reduction in delays in criminal proceedings.
The statutory time limits that apply to custody and case proceedings in national and international jurisdictions vary considerably. This paper details the various limits and examines their application in practice. It also looks at Northern Ireland's current legislative provisions and processes to provide background and context to the issue.


Reform of the Criminal Justice Process in other jurisdictions
This briefing paper provides information in response to the Committee for Justice’s request regarding:  what other relevant jurisdictions have reformed or removed the committal process and the impact and/or effectiveness this has had on reducing delays in the criminal justice trial process; and the proposed changes and the anticipated impact of the introduction of a pre-trial hearing in the criminal trial process in the Republic of Ireland.


Programme for Government: Draft Outcomes Framework
This briefing note has been prepared for the Committee for the Executive Office, as an addendum to the paper entitled ‘Outcomes Based Accountability and the Programme for Government’ (NIAR 362-20, published 29th January 2021). The note details the key changes to outcomes since the first outcomes-based Programme for Government in 2016, and then considers the lack of detail in the draft Outcomes Framework beyond the nine proposed outcomes. Throughout, questions are specified which the committee may wish to consider.


Mental ill health and substance misuse: Dual Diagnosis
This paper has been compiled in response to an MLA request on the complex issue of 'dual diagnosis' in the context of service provision. Specifically, the paper provides the following: An overview of dual diagnosis; estimated prevalence rates; the impact of dual diagnosis on people's lives; types of services available and challenges in terms of accessibility; recommendations for service delivery and the policy context in Northern Ireland and neighbouring jurisdictions.


Ireland/ Northern Ireland Protocol and Net Zero
This briefing note is a follow up to the RaISe paper Northern Ireland and Net Zero (NIAR 47-21)It provides examples of some of the potential impacts of the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol in achieving Net Zero, and should not be considered as a comprehensive analysis or assessment.


Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill: Motion under Assembly Standing Order 34
This paper supplements section 5 of the RaISe Bill Paper entitled 'Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill', dated 5th March 2021 (Paper 16/21, NIAR 54-21). It details the Assembly debate on the 8th March 2021 regarding a Member's motion under Standing Order 34, which sought the Bill's referral to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission for advice on its human rights compatibility. Although the Assembly passed this motion, the Bill still progressed to its Second Stage, and has since passed this before being referred to the Committee for Health.


Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill
This paper aims to support MLAs’ consideration of the Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill. It discusses relevant legislative and policy background in this area, before considering the content of the Bill as introduced; the Assembly’s consideration of the Bill so far; and key issues arising from the Bill as introduced.


The Public Procurement Common Framework
This paper explores issues arising from the Public Procurement Common Framework, to assist the Committee for Finance in its scrutiny role.


Northern Ireland and Net Zero
This paper has been provided in response to an AERA Committee request for information on net zero targets across the UK, Republic of Ireland (RoI), and particularly Wales; it also examines departmental programmes aimed at addressing climate change across different sectors in Northern Ireland (NI).  Finally, examples of “greenhouse gas removing technologies” are provided, as mentioned in the Climate Change Committee Letter on Northern Ireland’s contribution to UK Net Zero and DAERA’s response Letter.


Draft Executive Budget 2021-2022
This Briefing Paper seeks to support Assembly committees in their scrutiny and advisory roles in  relation  to the draft Executive Budget 2021-22. The Paper addresses  the  compressed timescale for Assembly consideration of the draft Budget proposals; amidst ongoing funding allocation  changes,  including  those  from  Treasury  to  the  Executive.  Thereafter, the  Paper presents available information on the range of funding sources available to the Executive for 2021-22,  before  briefly  assessing  the  Executive’s draft proposals. Included  throughout  are potential issues meriting consideration.


Restraint and Seclusion of Children with Additional Needs in Schools
This briefing paper discusses the use of restraint and seclusion in schools in the UK, specifically with children and young people who have additional needs. It explores the relationship between challenging behaviour and the use of restrictive practices, as well as the impact that the use of such practices have on children, their families and education staff.
The paper examines the use of restrictive practices and their implications for children's human rights as well as presenting an overview of policies and actions being introduced across the UK aimed at reducing their use. Finally, the paper provides a brief overview of positive behaviour support (PBS) strategies as an alternative approach to managing challenging behaviour with restraint and seclusion used only as a last resort option.


Children's Rights and Educational Policy in Northern Ireland: Implementation of the UNCRC
The UK’s 6th periodic reporting cycle to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is underway.  In February 2021, the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is expected to send the UK Government a request for specific information, known as a ‘List of Issues Prior to Reporting’ (LOIPR). The list asks the UK government and its devolved administrations to detail measures and developments relating to its implementation of the UNCRC.
The purpose of this paper is to highlight the predominant issues currently impacting on a child’s right to education in Northern Ireland (NI).  It will provide an overview of the UNCRC including how it is implemented and monitored across the UK. The paper will also focus on the concerns and recommendations raised by the CRC in relation to education in its previous round of reporting in 2016, progress made by the NI government on the relevant issues, as well as commentary by key stakeholders in NI.

10/21 2020-21 Spring Supplementary Estimates: Key Points
This briefing note – commissioned by the Assembly’s Finance Committee – aims to support the Committee’s consideration of the 2020-21 Spring Supplementary Estimates (SSEs), the 2021-22 Vote on Account, and the corresponding Supply Resolutions; prior to the scheduled debate in the Assembly plenary on 1 March 2021. In particular, the briefing summarises and contextualises the 2020-21 SSEs highlighting key points meriting the Committee’s attention.

Analysis of Departmental Bids Relating to Monitoring Rounds and Separate Covid-19 Exercise
This briefing paper - commissioned by the Assembly's Finance Committee (the Committee) - aims to support the Committee's oversight of departments' Monitoring Round bids and the separate Covid-19 funding exercise; both processes directed by the Minister of the Department for Finance (DoF). The paper provides a brief analysis of those bids (Monitoring Round and Covid-19 exercise) overall, and at the departmental level. A table containing aggregated departmental bid responses is appended to facilitate the Committee's consideration.


Select literature review: Autism and its economic costs
This briefing paper was commissioned by a Member of the Assembly, to aid consideration of the issue of autism and related economic costs. As requested, the paper provides an overview of key findings arising from a selection of relevant available literature addressing economic and financial costs associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) - i.e. costs for both individuals who have ASD and their families, as well as government, when ASD is addressed and unaddressed. The examined literature concerns research undertaken in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Canada and the United States.


Departmental Outturn and Forecast Outturn: Commentary on Quarter 3 2020-21 Data
This Commentary is part of an ongoing pilot project, proactively undertaken by the Public Finance Scrutiny Unit (PFSU) of the Assembly's Research and Information Service (RaISe). Ultimately, the project aims to further support Assembly committees when discharging their advisory and scrutiny roles and responsibilities under current Northern Ireland (NI) devolution financial arrangements. In particular, it seeks to enhance committees' understanding of departmental Outturn and Forecast Outturn data; so that committees use that data to scrutinise departments' forecasting accuracy – i.e. to scrutinise how effectively departments plan and actually spend their expenditure.


UK Freeport policy and the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland
This paper has been prepared for the Committee for Finance to assist in its scrutiny role. The paper’s central focus is to examine the interaction between United Kingdom (UK) Freeport Policy and the “Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland” (the Protocol). It also provides a range of background information to provide a useful context for the analysis. 


Brexit Outcomes and Northern Ireland: A Reading List (updated 29 July 2021)
In the period between the referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union in June 2016 and its formal departure on 31 January 2020, the Assembly’s Research and Information Service (RaISe) published 31 versions of ‘Brexit and Northern Ireland: A Reading List’. This was followed by 6 versions of ‘Brexit Transition and Northern Ireland: A Reading List’, the last appearing on 31 December 2020. This new reading list focuses specifically on the period following the departure of the UK from the EU – that is, the period from 1st January 2021. The list is intended to assist Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and others in scrutinising this new situation, and particularly the ways in which it affects Northern Ireland and the border. 


The Executive's International Relations and comparisons with Scotland & Wales
This briefing provides information on the Northern Ireland Executive’s international relations strategy and places this in a comparative context, in which the approaches of the Scottish and Welsh governments are also detailed.


Departmental Financial Forecasts & Outturns: Dashboard User Guide
The Dashboard presents Departmental Total Forecast Outturn (TFO) data for capital and resource spending in three parts, across five pages to cover:  monthly expenditure profiles, annual expenditure profiles, and monthly forecast performance. The monthly expenditure profile and monthly forecast performance pages cover the current financial year running from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021. The Annual expenditure profile pages cover the financial years of 2017-18 to 2020-21.


Outcomes Based Accountability and the Programme for Government
This research paper considers Outcomes Based Accountability, in the context of the publication of the Executive’s Outcomes Framework for consultation in January 2021. The paper has been developed in advance of the publication of a new Programme for Government (PfG) in 2021. The key points detail findings that may be of value when considering and scrutinising the new PfG, its delivery and the allocation of associated budgets.


Public Health (Coronavirus Restriction) Regulations: emergency procedures
This briefing note has been prepared following a request from the Committee for Health. It considers the use across the UK of an 'emergency procedure' to make public health regulations which, due to the coronavirus pandemic, place restrictions on a range of activities. It also considers the ability of the relevant legislatures to scrutinise these measures.


* Please note: Date refers to the date on which the paper was published on the website.


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