Commentary on provisions of Bill
Clause 1 - Extension of period for filling Ministerial offices
24 Clause 1 extends the period for filling Ministerial offices in the Northern Ireland Executive. Subsection (1) makes clear that this relates only to the first occasion that those offices must be filled following the Northern Ireland Assembly election on 2 March 2017. It provides a 108 day statutory period for offices to be filled after the Assembly has first met, rather than the current 14 day period. This has the effect of requiring an Executive to be formed by 29 June, enabling a deal reached by the parties to be implemented by that point. Subsection (2) retrospectively applies subsection (1), such that the new deadline is treated as having been in place since 2 March. Subsection (3) clarifies that the offices in question are the offices of the First Minister and deputy First Minister for Northern Ireland and the other Ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive.
Clause 2 - Regional rates
25 This clause fixes the levels of the regional domestic and regional non domestic rates that are to be used in the assessment of rates and the billing of ratepayers in Northern Ireland for the year ending 31 March 2018. Subsection (3) sets the domestic regional rates, expressed in terms of ‘pence per pound of rateable value’, at 0.4177 pence and subsection (2) sets the non-domestic regional rate at 32.92 pence.
26 Subsection (4) clarifies that the Department of Finance in Northern Ireland may subsequently vary the rates set by this Bill, using the established procedure of an Order under the Rates (Northern Ireland) Order 1977. Subsection (5) makes clear that any such order may only be made after the formation of an Executive after 1 April 2017 and that it may set the rates for the whole of the year in which the Order is made. This clarifies that the same power that the Department of Finance would ordinarily have to vary a regional rate, if it had been set by means of a Rates Order, applies following the passage of this Bill.