COMMONS

Northern Ireland Affairs Committee calls for evidence on draft legislation

13 February 2013

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee today launches an inquiry into the Government’s draft Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee is undertaking pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill (published 11 February 2013). The publication of the draft Bill follows a consultation by the Northern Ireland Office on measures to improve the operation of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Committee invites written evidence with a view to holding oral evidence sessions over the next two months and publishing a report at the end of March. The first two evidence sessions for this inquiry will be held on Monday 25 and Tuesday 26 February in the Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings in Northern Ireland. Witnesses and exact timings are to be confirmed, but will be announced shortly.

Terms of reference

Written evidence is invited on any aspect of the draft Bill, but the Committee will be looking in particular at:

  • Are the proposals in the draft Bill sufficient to balance the dual objectives of increasing transparency of political donations and providing proportionate protection to past and present donors? Could they be improved, if so how?
  • The draft Bill contains clauses which would prevent Members of the House of Commons from sitting concurrently in the Northern Ireland Assembly. To what extent are the Government’s proposals on dual mandates justifiable and proportionate? Should a similar provision apply in respect to Members of the House of Commons sitting in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly?
  • To what extent do the Government’s proposals relating to the appointment and tenure of the NI Justice Minister adequately reflect the expectations of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the wider community in Northern Ireland?
  • In addition to the clauses pertaining to Electoral Registration and Administration, the Government had stated that it intends to implement recommendations made by the Electoral Commission in its 2012 report on the electoral register in Northern Ireland. What further issues should the Government consider in order to ensure that the electoral regime reflects high performance standards?
  • The Government has identified a number of measures which are still under consideration for potential inclusion in the final Bill. These include the size of the Northern Ireland Assembly; Length of Assembly Terms and Future Election Dates; Government and Opposition; and Devolution of responsibilities relating to Arm’s-Length Bodies. The Government has made clear that any significant institutional changes would only be made on the basis of broad consensus among both NI parties and the wider community. What steps, if any, should the Government take to build consensus on the matters still under consideration? Is sufficient consensus on any of these issues likely to develop before this draft Bill completes pre-legislative scrutiny? If not, what timetable would be realistic so as to tackle these issues with the agreement of Northern Irish parties?
  • Are there any risks or gaps in the draft legislation which the Committee should consider?
  • Does the draft legislation give rise to any human rights or equality concerns?

Submitting written evidence

The Committee invites any individual or organisation with an interest in this matter to submit written evidence. The deadline for submissions is Friday 1 March 2013. Submissions should be sent by e-mail to [email protected] marked "Draft Northern Ireland Bill".

Written submissions should:

  • be no more than 3,000 words in length;
  • have numbered paragraphs, and
  • be in Word format with as little use of colour or images as possible. Please do not send PDFs.

Where possible, comments on particular parts of the draft Bill should specify which clause they refer to.

Submissions should be original work, not previously published or circulated elsewhere. Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a proposed piece of written evidence, in which case a hard copy of the published work should be included. Once submitted, your submission becomes the property of the Committee and no public use should be made of it unless you have first obtained permission from the Clerk of the Committee.

The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to publish the written evidence it receives, either by printing the evidence, publishing it on the internet (where it will be accessible by search engines)  or  by  making  it  publicly  available  through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure; the Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.

You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which the House of Commons will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Additional guidance on the submission of written evidence is detailed in the guide for witnesses (PDF PDF 1.25 MB).

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