Statement by the Assembly on a Plenary Sitting
Date: 10 January 2020
Reference: SO 02/19/20
An Assembly spokesperson said:
“Following the request from the Secretary of State to the Speaker to call a sitting on Friday, 10 January 2020 it may be helpful to clarify the arrangements for calling a further sitting of the Assembly.
It is the Speaker’s responsibility to ensure that arrangements are in place for a plenary sitting to facilitate the appointment of an Executive by the next deadline of 13 January 2020 under the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019. Preparations have been made to allow a sitting of the Assembly to be called before the next deadline of 13 January 2020 under the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019.
It is not for the Speaker to react to political speculation and he has been clear that whether or not the deadline of 13 January can be met is a matter entirely for parties.
While the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has requested that the Speaker call a sitting of the Assembly, the process of doing so remains one for the Speaker to undertake in consultation with the parties.
In letters to party whips in July 2017, and again in December 2019, the Speaker made clear that he would not call any further sitting of the Assembly unless parties were to approach him to indicate that agreement had been reached to allow the business to be concluded successfully. Alternatively, 30 Members could request a sitting under Standing Order 11(1) and the Speaker would have no discretion but to summon Members to a sitting, as occurred in October 2019.
The Speaker recognises the significant efforts that are continuing to be made by all parties to enable a sitting of the Assembly to be held as soon as possible to elect a new Speaker and appoint Ministers. If sufficient agreement is reached for this to be achieved, it only requires parties to inform the Speaker and request him to commence the process to call a sitting.
The speed and timing of any sitting therefore depends entirely on when the Speaker hears positively from the parties.”