House of Lords - Explanatory Note
Northern Ireland - continued          House of Lords

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SCHEDULE 3: NON-COMPLIANCE WITH THE ST ANDREWS AGREEMENT TIMETABLE

118.     Schedule 3 makes provision for the situation where an Executive is not formed in accordance with Schedule 2 or, before 25th March 2007, the Secretary of State considers there is no reasonable prospect that it will be formed. Paragraph 1 of Schedule 3 provides for the dissolution of the Northern Ireland Assembly either side of the election provided for in clause 3.

119.     Paragraph 2 substitutes section 31(2) of the 1998 Act. It provides that the next Northern Ireland Assembly election shall not be held until such time as the Secretary of State specifies by order. New section 31(2)(a) provides that, if Schedule 3 comes into force before the election provided for in clause 3, then that election will be indefinitely postponed. New section 31(2)(b) provides that, if Schedule 3 comes into force after the election provided for in clause 3, then it will be the next election under section 31 of the 1998 Act that will be indefinitely postponed (currently scheduled for May 2011).

120.     The date of the rescheduled election, by virtue of new section 31(2A) of the 1998 Act, must be after the date specified under section 31(1) of the 1998 Act (that is, the first Thursday of May 2007).

121.     New section 31(2B) to (2D) of the 1998 Act provides for the order to make amendments the Secretary of State considers appropriate and specifies that this may include: amending provisions of Acts (other than the 1998 Act) and of Northern Ireland legislation; making provision modifying the duties of the Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland; and making any supplementary, incidental or consequential provision.

122.     Paragraph 3 sets out the provisions of the Bill that would be repealed if Schedule 3 came into force: clause 1(1) and (2) and Schedule 1, providing for the end of the Transitional Assembly; clause 3(1), ensuring that there will be no election; Schedules 2 and 4, ensuring that there will be no restoration and the 2000 Act will remain in force; and Part 2 (and Schedules 5 to 7) ensuring the repeal of those provisions of the Bill that would make amendments to the 1998 Act relating to, amongst other things, changes to the institutions.

SCHEDULE 4: REPEAL OF THE NORTHERN IRELAND ACT 2000 ON 28TH MARCH 2007

123.     Schedule 4 provides for the repeal of the 2000 Act, which provides the current legislative basis for suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly (see also clause 2(5)). Paragraph 2 contains some saving provisions needed as a result of the repeal of the 2000 Act. Paragraph 2(10) makes clear that the inclusion of paragraph 2(1) to (9) is not meant to limit the scope of consequential, transitional or saving provision that may be made by an order under clause 23 of the Bill.

124.     Sub-paragraphs (1) and (2) of paragraph 2 largely replicate subsections (8) to (10) of section 3 of the 2000 Act. Paragraph 2(1) provides that the Northern Ireland Assembly shall not make a determination under section 47 of the 1998 Act (Northern Ireland Assembly salaries and allowances) in respect of any period of suspension, and paragraph 2(2) provides that the Northern Ireland Assembly also cannot annul or revoke any instrument made during suspension.

125.     Sub-paragraphs (3) and (4) of paragraph 2 are designed to provide certainty in relation to legislation made during the period of Northern Ireland Assembly suspension. Paragraph 2(3) provides that the restoration order and the repeal of the 2000 Act will not affect the operation (on or after the coming into force of the restoration order) of Orders in Council that were made under paragraph 1(1) of the Schedule to the 2000 Act during suspension (that is, Orders on matters which are the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Assembly under the 1998 Act). Paragraph 2(4) provides that such Orders in Council should be read as Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly so far as the context permits this (largely replicating paragraph 2(1) of the Schedule to the 2000 Act).

126.     Paragraph 2(5) to (7) similarly provides that orders and determinations made under sections 6 and 7 of, or paragraph 9 of the Schedule to, the 2000 Act are not affected by the repeal of the 2000 Act. Paragraph 2(6) is intended to ensure that any consequential, transitional or saving provision included in the restoration order continues to operate despite the repeal of section 7(2) of the 2000 Act.

127.     Paragraph 2(8) keeps alive the amendment of section 44 of the 1998 Act made by section 9(3) of the 2000 Act. That amendment would otherwise have been repealed as a result of the repeal of the 2000 Act under paragraph 2(1).

128.     Paragraph 3 provides for the repeal of Schedule 3 in its entirety

SCHEDULE 5: EXECUTIVE SELECTION: CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS

129.     Schedule 5 makes consequential amendments in relation to the arrangements for Ministerial appointments provided for in Clause 8.

130.     Paragraph 2 amends section 18 of the 1998 Act to remove the trigger within it to run d'Hondt after an election (because this is superseded by the provisions of the new section 16A) and to bring the definition of "nominating officer" into line with the definition in Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

131.     Paragraphs 3 to 7 make minor consequential amendments to ensure that the cross-references within the 1998 and 2000 Acts reflect the changed arrangements in new sections 16A to 16C.

132.     Paragraphs 8 to 14 make consequential amendments to the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006, Schedule 2 to which inserted a new Schedule 4A to the 1998 Act.

133.     Paragraph 9 provides that, where the Assembly has established a Department with policing and justice functions in the charge of a Minister elected by resolution of the Assembly, that office is to be filled after the nominations of First and deputy First Minister under new section 16A of the 1998 Act but before the nominations of the Northern Ireland Ministers under section 18 of that Act. Paragraph 11 makes the same provision in relation to circumstances where the Assembly has established such a department in the charge of two Ministers and paragraph 13 does so in relation to circumstances where the Assembly has established such a department with rotation between the Minister and junior Minister. Paragraphs 10, 12 and 14 make minor consequential amendments to the cross-references within the Schedule.

SCHEDULE 6: DEPARTMENT WITH POLICING AND JUSTICE FUNCTIONS: NOMINATIONS ETC OF MINISTERS

134.     Schedule 6 amends Schedule 2 to the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006 by inserting new Schedule 4A (Department with policing and justice functions) to the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

135.     Responsibility for policing and justice matters in Northern Ireland has been reserved to Westminster since the introduction of direct rule in 1972, but the Government has a longstanding commitment to devolve it when circumstances are right to do so. Schedule 4A to the 1998 Act adds three further possible models for a department with policing and justice functions to that already permitted under the 1998 Act. Schedule 6 to the Bill amends Schedule 4A, making identical changes to all three of these additional models as follows.

136.     New paragraphs 3(3A), 7(3A) and 11(3A) of Schedule 4A to the 1998 Act provide that a member of the Assembly who is a member of a political party cannot be nominated by the First Minister and deputy First Minister to a ministerial post in a department with policing and justice functions without the consent of the nominating officer of the member's political party.

137.     New paragraphs 3(9)(d), 7(9)(d) and 11(9)(d) of Schedule 4A to the 1998 Act provide that a Minister of the department with policing and justice functions shall cease to hold office if he is dismissed by the nominating officer of his own party. (Currently a Minister can be dismissed only by the First Minister and deputy First Minister).

138.     New paragraphs 3(10A) - (10C), 7(10A) - (10C) and 11(11A) - (11D) of Schedule 4A to the 1998 Act provide that, in circumstances where a Minister ceases to hold office and the appointment of a successor alters the number of ministerial posts held by a political party, thereby distorting the balance achieved by the d'Hondt process, all Ministers shall cease to hold office and the d'Hondt process shall be run anew. The exception to this rule is in circumstances where a party dismisses its own Minister and declines to nominate a replacement or the nominated replacement does not take up office.

139.     New paragraphs 3(14), 7(14) and 11(15) of Schedule 4A to the 1998 Act apply the definition of "nominating officer" set out in section 18(13) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (as substituted by paragraph 2(3) of Schedule 5 to the Bill) to these provisions.

SCHEDULE 7: NORTH-SOUTH MINISTERIAL COUNCIL ETC: CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS

140.     Schedule 7 makes a number of minor and consequential amendments to the 1998 and 2000 Acts made necessary by the new and amended clauses contained in Part 2 of this Bill.

SCHEDULE 8: RECONSTITUTION OF THE DISTRICT POLICING PARTNERSHIPS

141.     This Schedule sets out revised arrangements for the reconstitution of District Policing Partnerships (DPPs), which it is intended to use in the event that Sinn Fein should decide to support the policing institutions in Northern Ireland before the next Local Government Election. These provisions will be brought into force by a commencement order on a date to be determined by the Secretary of State.

142.     Paragraph 2 places a requirement on the Northern Ireland Policing Board to review the membership of each DPP. The Board must consider the political membership, and in particular the balance of political parties prevailing on the date of coming into force of this Schedule. This review must be completed within fifteen days. On completion of the review the Board is required to submit a report of its findings to the Secretary of State and any report on a DPP should also be sent to the district council which established that DPP. The Board must also publish a list of the DPPs which it considers should be reconstituted, because the political members of the DPP do not reflect, so far as practicable, the balance of the parties prevailing among the members of the relevant council.

143.     Paragraphs 3 and 4 set out the subsequent arrangements for the reconstitution of those DPPs affected by the Board's review. These paragraphs provide for the appointment of new political members and new independent members for those particular DPPs.

144.     Paragraph 5 deals with any supplementary amendments including providing the Secretary of State with powers to take action if a district council fails to comply with the requirement to reconstitute its DPP.

SCHEDULE 9: DISTRICT POLICING PARTNERSHIPS: BELFAST SUBGROUPS

145.     This Schedule amends Section 19 of and Schedule 1 to the Police (NI) Act 2003 bringing Schedule 3A to the Police (NI) Act 2000 into line with the District Policing Partnership (NI) Order 2005 for the Belfast Sub Groups.

FINANCIAL EFFECTS OF THE BILL

146.     It is anticipated that any expenditure arising from this Bill will be met from within existing funding sources.

EFFECTS OF THE BILL ON PUBLIC SERVICE MANPOWER

147.     The Bill is not expected to have any significant effect on public service manpower.

EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

Introduction

148.     Section 19 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (c.42) requires the Minister in charge of a Bill in either House of Parliament to make a statement about the compatibility of the provisions of the Bill with the Convention rights (as defined by section 1 of that Act). The Lord Rooker has made the following statement:

    "In my view the provisions of the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Bill are compatible with the Convention rights".

Discussion of ECHR issues

149.     It is not thought that the Bill raises any significant Convention issues. For completeness, the implications of Article 3 of the First Protocol are discussed below.

150.     Article 3 of the First Protocol states that:

    "The High Contracting Parties undertake to hold free elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballot under conditions, which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature

151.     While certain of the provisions in the Bill may lead to the dissolution of the Assembly, and postponement of the next Assembly election, in fact its overall purpose is the enhancement of political accountability in Northern Ireland by restoration of devolved government. Dissolution of the Assembly, and the postponement of the next election will only occur in the event that the political parties are not able to form an executive within the framework of the St Andrews Agreement, contrary to the general purpose of the Bill. Further, the law in the United Kingdom allows for free elections to the Westminster Parliament, and for local elections, and in this context therefore, the requirements of Article 3 of the First Protocol are fully met in respect of Northern Ireland.

COMMENCEMENT

152.     By virtue of section 27, the following provisions will come into force on Royal Assent:

  • clause 1 (preparations for the restoration of devolved government)

  • clause 2 (compliance or non-compliance with St Andrews Agreement timetable)

  • clause 3(2) and (3) (disapplication of by-election provisions for vacancies arising before next Assembly election)

  • Part 4 (supplemental)

  • Schedule 1 (the Transitional Assembly)

153.     The following provisions will come into force on a day appointed by the Secretary of State:

  • clause 4 (remuneration of members of the Assembly)

  • clause 20(1) and Schedule 8 (reconstitution of district policing partnerships)

154.     Schedules 2 to 4 (consequences of compliance or non-compliance with St Andrews Agreement timetable) shall only come into force in the circumstances specified in clause 2.

155.     Subject to paragraph 3(1)(b) of Schedule 3, clause 3(1) (election of the next Northern Ireland Assembly to be in March 2007) will come into force on 26th January 2007.

156.     Part 2 (amendments of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 etc), including Schedules 5 to 7 shall come into force on 26th March 2007 if (and only if) the Secretary of State makes a restoration order under section 2(2).

157.     Clause 20(2) and Schedule 9 (district policing partnerships: Belfast sub-groups) will come into force in accordance with provision made by an order under the relevant policing legislation (section 19(2) of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2003.

158.     Clause 21(2) (different selection criteria for different descriptions of school) will come into force only if Schedule 4 does (see clause 21(3) and (4)).

 
 
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Prepared: 22 November 2006