What in the Northern Ireland Bill is being debated today?

22 February 2016

The Commons Library has written a briefing paper on the Northern Ireland (Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan) Bill 2015-16 which was published on 10 February 2016.

The Bill aims to implement the provisions of the Fresh Start Agreement regarding tackling paramilitarism and balancing the Northern Ireland Executive’s budgets.

The Bill’s Second Reading is scheduled for 22 February 2015.

Purpose of this Bill

The Bill is intended to implement aspects of the Fresh Start Agreement of November 2015, in particular, those parts on tackling paramilitary activity, and on balancing the Executive’s budgets.

The Bill also creates a longer period between the Assembly meeting after an election and the creation of an Executive. This is to allow greater discussion of a Programme of Government, with the aim of promoting bipartisanship. It also amends the Pledge of Office taken by ministers in the Executive.

Further legislation will be needed to implement other parts of the Fresh Start Agreement, for instance on dealing with the legacy issues.

This Bill follows on from the Northern Ireland (Welfare Reform) Act 2015.

Independent Reporting Commission

Clauses 1 to 5 of the Bill cover the Independent Reporting Commission. This was described in Section A of the Fresh Start Agreement. This section is headed “Ending Paramilitarism and Tackling Organised Crime”, and it consists of a variety of moves in this direction, concluding with a body to report on progress towards ending paramilitary activity.

A four member international body including persons of international standing will be established by the UK and Irish Governments. The UK Government and the Irish Government will nominate one member each and the Executive will nominate two members.

The Commission will:

  • report annually on progress towards ending continuing paramilitary activity connected with NI (or on such further occasions as required)
  • report on the implementation of the relevant measures of the three administrations
  • consult the UK Government and relevant law enforcement agencies, the Irish Government and relevant law enforcement agencies and, in Northern Ireland, the Executive, PSNI, statutory agencies, local councils, communities and civic society organisations

Tracking this Bill

Keep up to date with the progress of this Bill as it proceeds through Parliament.


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