House of Commons - Explanatory Note
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Session 2001- 02
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Northern Ireland Arms Decommissioning (Amendment) Bill


These notes refer to the Northern Ireland Arms Decommissioning (Amendment) Bill
as introduced in the House of Commons on 6th December 2001 [Bill 63]




1.     These explanatory notes relate to the Northern Ireland Arms Decommissioning (Amendment) Bill as introduced in the House of Commons on 6th December 2001. They have been prepared by the Northern Ireland Office in order to assist the reader of the Bill and to help inform debate on it. They do not form part of the Bill and have not been endorsed by Parliament.

2.     The notes need to be read in conjunction with the Bill. They are not, and are not meant to be, a comprehensive description of the Bill.


3.     The Northern Ireland Arms Decommissioning Act 1997 ("the 1997 Act") empowered the Secretary of State to make a decommissioning scheme which would provide an amnesty for those decommissioning weapons in accordance with it. The 1997 Act, which came into force on 27 February 1997, limited the period during which that amnesty could be provided to five years.

4.     This Bill extends the period during which an amnesty may be provided for in a decommissioning scheme. Initially it may be extended so as to end before 27 February 2003 and further extensions may be made by order of the Secretary of State up to and including 26 February 2007. Any such order will be subject to the same Parliamentary scrutiny and control as at present.


Clause 1

5.     This clause extends the maximum length of the amnesty period that may be provided for in a decommissioning scheme. It does so by amending section 2 of the 1997 Act.

Subsection (2)

6.     This subsection amends section 2(2)(a) of the 1997 Act which provides that the amnesty period must end before the first anniversary of the day on which the 1997 Act was passed, unless extended by order of the Secretary of State. The amendment has the effect of extending the initial maximum period of an amnesty to end at midnight on 26 February 2003.

Subsection (3)

7.     This subsection amends section 2(3)(b) of the 1997 Act. Under section 2(2)(b) of the Act the Secretary of State has the power by order to appoint from time to time a later date before which the amnesty period must end. Section 2(3) of the Act provides that such later date must be not more than (a) twelve months after the order is made, or (b) five years after the 1997 Act was passed. Subsection (3) of this Bill does not affect the condition set out in (a), but it substitutes 27 February 2007 for the five-year period set out in (b). The effect of this is to extend the Secretary of State's order-making power for a further five years beyond the expiry of the current period.

Subsection (4)

8.     In the event that clause 1 does not come into force until after 26 February 2002, this subsection provides that a scheme which would at any time have been a decommissioning scheme for the purposes of the 1997 Act, but for the fact that the amnesty period had not been extended by clause 1 at that time, will be treated as having been such a scheme at that time. This means that anything done in accordance with such a scheme will, once the Bill is enacted, fall within the amnesty provided for by section 4(1) of the 1997 Act.

Clause 2

9.     This clause gives the short title of the Bill.


10.     The Bill will come into force on Royal Assent.


11.     The provisions of the Bill are expected to have no significant impact upon public finances.


12.     The provisions of the Bill are expected to have no significant staffing implications.


13.     The proposals have not been the subject of a regulatory impact assessment since they will have no impact upon businesses or charities.


14.     Section 19 of the Human Rights Act 1998 requires the Minister in charge of a Bill in either House of Parliament to make a statement, before second reading, about the compatibility of the provisions of the Bill with the Convention Rights (as defined by section 1 of that Act). The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has made the following statement:

    In my view the provisions of the Northern Ireland Arms Decommissioning (Amendment) Bill are compatible with the Convention rights.

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Prepared: 6 December 2001