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Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill

Published Monday, June 17, 2013

This Bill was introduced to the Commons on 9 May 2013. This Paper provides background for the second reading debate on this Bill expected on 24 June 2013. The Bill creates a new method for appointing the Justice Minister in the Northern Ireland Executive, and allows for transparency in donations and loans to political parties, as well as ending dual mandates between the Assembly and the UK House of Commons. There are also some electoral administration reforms and miscellaneous changes to Northern Ireland law. Most of the provisions were subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee which published a report in March 2013.

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This Paper sets out the main provisions of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which was introduced to the Commons on 9 May 2013. A draft bill was given pre-legislative scrutiny by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, in the previous session and the report was published on 25 March 2013. The bill as introduced to the Commons on 9 May contains some extra clauses.

The main provisions of the Bill are to:

• Give the Secretary of State power to make transparent the declaration of donations and non-commercial loans to political parties in Northern Ireland from September 2014;

• Abolish the practice of double-jobbing, whereby Assembly Members also sit in the House of Commons; and disqualify Dail Members from becoming Assembly Members;

• Modify the way in which the Justice and Policing Department is allocated to a minister under the d’Hondt process;

• Set a five year term for the Assembly, so that the next election would be in 2016;

• Enable the Assembly to reduce its own size with the consent of the Secretary of State and the UK Parliament;

• Improve electoral administration and registration procedures, including the canvass form; and introducing the power to set performance standards

• Amend the Secretary of State’s power to designate bodies in respect of equalities legislation.

The Bill does not alter the number of seats in the Assembly. The parliamentary boundary review for the UK under the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 was postponed until 2018. The review was expected to reduce the number of Assembly seats, as well as Westminster seats, since the boundaries are co-terminous.

The Bill also does not address the particular make-up of the Northern Ireland Executive, whereby ministries and chairs of committees are allocated by the d’Hondt formula and there is no government or opposition in the usual Westminster sense. The Assembly Executive Review Committee of the Assembly is currently conducting an inquiry into this issue.

General background on political developments in Northern Ireland is set out in Standard Note 6518 Political Developments in Northern Ireland January to December 2012.

Commons Briefing papers RP13-38

Authors: Oonagh Gay; Isobel White; Oonagh Gay; Isobel White; Richard Kelly; Alexander Horne

Topic: Northern Ireland Assembly

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