Northern Ireland Orders: memorandum by
the Leader of the House
In the run-up to Christmas, Lords interested in Northern
Ireland affairs complained that Orders in Council under paragraph
1 of the Schedule to the Northern Ireland Act 2000 were receiving
inadequate scrutiny in the Lords. These are the Orders which do
the work of NI Assembly Bills while the Assembly is suspended.
I agreed at the Despatch Box on 16 December to the proposition
that "the usual channels should look at this matter with
a degree of urgency".
Having consulted the usual channels and other interested
members, I now invite the Procedure Committee to recommend the
creation of a "Northern Ireland Orders Committee".
The Committee would be of open membership, like a
Grand Committee. If it was considered that a particular Order
warranted its attention, then following discussion in the usual
channels I would move a formal motion referring the Order to the
Committee. The Committee would, I hope, be able to meet at any
convenient time and at fairly short notice. I accept that resource
constraints apply, and in particular that it should not meet at
the same time as a Grand Committee. It would meet in the Moses
Room if this was available.
The Committee's proceedings would be the same as
in Grand Committee, with the Chairman of Committees or a Deputy
in the Chair, a Minister speaking for the Government, and a section
in Hansard. Its only business would be "to consider
the So-and-So Order", and its report would say only that
it had done so.
The motion to approve the Order would be taken on
the Floor of the House, as at present. There would be no bar on
further debate at this stage (and if necessary a division); but
in most cases an Order considered in Committee might be expected
to be approved without further extensive debate.
It is important that this initiative is not seen
in any way as a signal for long-term suspension of the Assembly.
By definition, Orders of this type are made only when the Assembly
is suspended. When the Assembly is restored, which the Government
hope will be soon, the new procedure would lapse.
WILLIAMS OF MOSTYN
22 January 2003