Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Bill returns to the Lords

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23 July 2019

The Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Bill returned to the House of Lords for consideration of a Commons amendment in 'ping pong' on Monday 22 July.

Members discussed a change made by the Commons which adds detail to a previous amendment agreed in the Lords regarding government progress reports on the formation of a Northern Ireland Executive.

The Commons change requires Parliament to convene for a specified period in order for the government's reporting obligations to be met in the event of potential closure of Parliament (prorogation).

A motion was put forward by Lord Duncan of Springbank (Conservative) that the amendment should not be agreed to. Following a debate on the floor of the House, there was a division (vote) on the motion.

146 members voted in favour of the motion and 260 voted against, and so the motion was not agreed to and the Commons amendment was accepted.

Both Houses have now agreed on the text of the bill. It awaits Royal Assent when it will become an Act of Parliament (law).

Royal Assent is scheduled for 24 July.

Lords third reading: Wednesday 17 July

The normal rules on how Lords business runs were suspended for this bill, to allow all the remaining stages - report stage and third reading - to be taken on the same day.

Members discussed the passage of the bill at the conclusion of its Lords stages and agreed some changes without votes.

Lords report stage: Wednesday 17 July

Members discussed:

  • progress reports on the formation of the executive
  • same-sex partnerships
  • rights of women regarding abortion 

Following a debate in the chamber there were three divisions (votes) on proposed amendments (changes) to the Bill.

The first amendment required the Secretary of State to make arrangements for progress reports on the formation of an Executive in Northern Ireland to be debated in both Houses of Parliament within five calendar days of their publication.

272 members of the Lords voted in favour of the amendment and 169 voted against, and so the change was made.

The second division was on an amendment relating to the availability of abortion in Northern Ireland.

182 members voted in favour of the amendment and 87 voted against, and so the change was made.

The final division was on an amendment relating to the consultation of Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) on changes to abortion law in Northern Ireland.

39 members voted in favour of the amendment and 138 voted against, and so the change was not made.

 Lords committee stage: Monday 15 July

 Members discussed a range of subjects, including:

  • pensions for victims and survivors of Troubles-related incidents
  • transparency of political donations and loans, in the event an Executive is not formed by 21 October 2019
  • requirement for the majority of Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) to support regulations
  • protection for freedom of expression and religion as in England and Wales
  • same-sex marriages

Lords second reading: Wednesday 10 July

Lord Duncan of Springbank (Conservative), parliamentary under-secretary in the Northern Ireland Office, opened the debate on the bill and responded on behalf of the government.

Members discussed a range of subjects highlighted by the bill, including:

  • government obligations to introduce regulations on abortion and same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland in the event an Executive is not formed
  • the implementation of a strategy for apprenticeships and small businesses in Northern Ireland
  • implications for Northern Ireland of a potential closing down of the UK Parliament prior to EU withdrawal.

Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill summary

This bill will aim to:

  • extend the period for Northern Ireland Ministers to be appointed until 21 October 2019, following the Assembly election on 2 March 2017
  • confer powers on the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to further extend the formation of a Northern Ireland Executive until 13 January 2020
  • require the Secretary of State to publish a report, to be laid before Parliament before or after 21 October 2019, on the progress made on forming an Executive.

Further information

More news on: Parliament, government and politics, Devolution, Parliament, House of Lords news, Lords news, Northern Ireland, Bill news, Political parties, Public administration, Northern Ireland Assembly, Legislative process, Local government, Central government, Constitution

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