NORTHERN IRELAND (ELECTIONS)
by the Northern Ireland Office
describes the powers to make subordinate legislation which will
be conferred by the Northern Ireland (Elections) Bill 1998. The
Bill makes provision for the establishment of the New Northern
Ireland Assembly and for the election of its members. Further
amendments to the provisions about the Assembly will need to be
made by the subsequent legislation giving effect to the agreement
referred to in clause 1(1) of this Bill.
(5) of clause 2 confers power on the Secretary of State to make
provision about the initial election to the Assembly (as to which,
see clause 2(1)) and any matter relating to it. The order making
powers are supplemented by clauses 2(6) and 6(2)(b).
3. The power
to make provision for the conduct of elections by subordinate
legislation is included in various enactments. For example, similar
provision was made in respect of the earlier Northern Ireland
Assembly by section 2(5) of the Northern Ireland Assembly Act
1973 (c.17); in respect of elections to the European Parliament
by paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 to the European Parliamentary Elections
Act 1978 (c.10); and in respect of elections under the Northern
Ireland (Entry to Negotiations, etc) Act 1996 (c.11) by paragraph
1 of Schedule 1 to that Act.
4. The powers
in clause 2(5) and (6) differ from those in section 2(5) and (6)
of the 1973 Act in that they do not list all of the items in connection
with an election which may be included in such an order. It is
thought that such detail is unnecessary. Clause 2(6)(b) expressly
mentions the deposit (for which provision was made by section
2(4) of the 1973 Act). Clause 2(6)(a) allows the inclusion of
a cut-off date in respect of alterations to the register of electors
like the one in respect of parliamentary and local government
elections (section 11(3) of the Representation of the People Act
1983 (c.2), as substituted by Schedule 4 to the Representation
of the People Act 1985 (c.50)).
the precedents of the 1978 and 1996 Acts, the order is made subject
to the affirmative resolution procedure by clause 6(2)(a).
2 provides for the initial election of members of the new Northern
Ireland Assembly. Clause 3 confers power on the Secretary of State
by order to provide for the filling of casual vacancies. By clause
6(2)(a), an order under this clause is subject to the affirmative
3(2) contemplates the provision for the filling of vacancies to
be by by-elections or substitutes or by some other means. The
other Bills this Session which introduce the use of proportional
representation (the European Parliamentary Elections Bill, the
Scotland Bill and the Government of Wales Bill) similarly contemplate
the filling of vacancies by means other than by elections.
8(2) contains a provision used in many Bills which allows the
Secretary of State to make an order bringing the Bill into force.
An Order under clause 8(2) must be made by statutory instrument
(clause 6(1)) but is not subject to any parliamentary procedure.
However, the power to make a commencement order is subject to
clause 8(3); this, in effect, requires a "Yes" vote
in the referendum in Northern Ireland on the agreement referred
to in clause 8(3)(b) if the power is to be exercised.
9. Paragraph 5 of
the Schedule confers power on the Secretary of State to make provision
by order for the payment of salaries and allowances to members
of the Assembly. An order under this paragraph must be made by
statutory instrument (clause 6(1)) but is not subject to any parliamentary
procedure. The equivalent subordinate legislation in respect of
members of the earlier Assembly (section 26(2) of the Northern
Ireland Constitution Act 1973 (c.36)) was also not subject to
parliamentary procedure. Allowances paid to persons elected under
the 1996 Act were not set out in subordinate legislation (see
section 6 of that Act).
10.Paragraph 10 of the
Schedule confers power on the Secretary of State to determine
the Assembly's standing orders. The orders will not be made by
statutory instruments and are not subject to any form of parliamentary
control. However, paragraph 35 of Strand One of the Agreement
set out in Command Paper 3883 envisages that, during its initial
period, the Assembly will devise its own standing orders. Accordingly,
paragraph 10 is likely to apply during a transitional period only.
27 April 1998