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|Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) (No. 2) Bill|
These notes refer to the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) (No. 2) Bill as introduced in the House of Commons on 27th March 2007 [Bill 84 ]
NORTHERN IRELAND (ST ANDREWS AGREEMENT) (NO. 2) BILL
1. These explanatory notes relate to the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) (No. 2) Bill as introduced in the House of Commons on 27th March 2007. 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. So where a clause or part of a clause does not appear to require any explanation or comment, none is given.
BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY
3. The purpose of the Bill is to extend the deadline for the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly and formation of a power-sharing Executive, as set by the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act 2006, to 8 May 2007.
4. The Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act 2006 ("the 2006 Act") gained Royal Assent on 22 November 2006. This Act gave legislative effect to the St Andrews Agreement and set 26 March 2007 as the deadline for the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Accordingly, the Northern Ireland Assembly was restored by order at the beginning of 26 March 2007.
5. However, under the terms of the 2006 Act, if the Northern Ireland Assembly has not formed a power-sharing Executive Committee by the end of 26 March 2007, the Secretary of State is under a statutory obligation to make an order revoking restoration, and Schedule 3 to the 2006 Act would come into force. In these circumstances, the Northern Ireland Assembly would be dissolved, the next election postponed indefinitely and most of the changes to the devolved institutions effected by the 2006 Act would be repealed.
Bill 84EN 54/2
6. Following a further commitment between the Northern Ireland political parties to participate in the power-sharing arrangements agreed at St Andrews, a decision was taken to amend the timetable for restoration of the institutions. On that basis, this Bill amends the deadlines provided for under the 2006 Act to facilitate restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly on 8 May.
TERRITORIAL EXTENT AND APPLICATION
7. This Bill extends to the whole of the UK but its practical effect will largely be restricted to Northern Ireland.
8. The Bill does not affect the National Assembly for Wales and has no particular effect on Wales.
9. Because the Sewel Convention provides that Westminster will not normally legislate with regard to devolved matters in Scotland without the consent of the Scottish Parliament, if amendments were made that related to such matters the consent of the Scottish Parliament would be sought for them.
COMMENTARY ON CLAUSES
Clause 1: Modification of the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act 2006
10. Clause 1 extends the deadline for restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly, set at 26 March 2007 in the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act 2006, to 8 May 2007. It does this by deeming the date of restoration set out in section 2 of the 2006 Act to be (and to have been always) 8 May 2007, and making consequential amendments to the other dates in the 2006 Act that are part of the same framework for either restoration or dissolution of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
11. Subsection (1) does not alter the validity of two matters relating to the Northern Ireland Assembly which were settled before 26 March 2007. Paragraphs 4 and 5 of Schedule 1 to the 2006 Act required the Transitional Assembly to agree before 24 March 2007 a Ministerial Code and Standing Orders for use in the restored Northern Ireland Assembly, after which point, if agreement had not been reached, the Secretary of State would impose a Code or Standing Orders. The Transitional Assembly agreed a Ministerial Code on 20 March 2007 but did not agree amended Standing Orders for the Northern Ireland Assembly. Accordingly, the Secretary of State imposed a set of Standing Orders on 25 March 2007. Under the terms of this Bill, the agreed Ministerial Code and the imposed Standing Orders will become the Ministerial Code and Standing Orders of the Northern Ireland Assembly when it is restored on 8 May 2007.
12. Subsection (2) of Clause 1 identifies the most significant consequences of the amendments made in subsection (1).
13. Subsection (2)(a) provides that the restoration order that took effect on 26 March 2007 shall be deemed not to have been made, with the effect that the Northern Ireland Assembly shall be deemed to have remained in suspension since the Northern Ireland Act 2000 (Suspension of Devolved Government) Order 2002 (S.I. 2002/2574) was signed in October 2002.
14. Subsection (2)(b) deems the amendments and repeals made by Part 2 of, and Schedule 2 to, the 2006 Act not to have been made. This preserves the status quo ante and, in effect, allows the Transitional Assembly to continue in existence until the Northern Ireland Assembly is restored on 8 May 2007. Subsection (2)(c) provides that the purpose of the Transitional Assembly - to take part in preparations for the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland in accordance with the St Andrews Agreement - is to be construed in accordance with the amended timetable provided for in subsection (1).
15. Subsection (2)(d) provides that any revocation order made by the Secretary of State revoking the restoration of devolution shall be deemed not to have effect. Under the terms of the 2006 Act, such a revocation order would, were it not for this Bill, be required to be made following the failure to select a power-sharing Executive on 26 March 2007. The failure to select the Executive would also have triggered the coming into force on 28 March 2007 of Schedule 3 to the Act. That would have meant the dissolution of the Assembly, the indefinite postponement of the next election and the repeal of the institutional changes provided for in Part 2 of that Act. Subsection (2)(e) explains that Schedule 3 to the 2006 Act (and the repeals and amendments made by it) shall be deemed not to come into force.
FINANCIAL EFFECTS OF THE BILL
16. No financial implications are anticipated.
EFFECTS OF THE BILL ON PUBLIC SERVICE MANPOWER
17. The Bill is not expected to have a significant effect on public service manpower.
EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
18. 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 Secretary of State has made the following statement:
Discussion of ECHR issues
19. It is not thought that the Bill raises any Convention issues.
20. This Bill will come into force upon Royal Assent.
|© Parliamentary copyright 2007||Prepared: 27 March 2007|