Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
Northern Ireland Bill must ‘not set precedent for future legislation'
The Constitution Committee releases a report on the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Bill, raising concerns over its fast-tracked timetable and the wide powers that will potentially be exercised by unelected officials.
The Bill seeks to facilitate the formation of an executive in Northern Ireland and provides for the exercise of government functions in the absence of Northern Ireland Ministers.
- Report: Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Bill (HTML)
- Report: Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Bill (PDF)
- Select Committee on the Constitution
The Committee raises concerns over the provision of powers to officials to ensure public services continue in Northern Ireland. While draft guidance seeks to limit the powers of civil servants to administrative purposes, the Bill potentially invests Northern Ireland departments with considerable scope to make policy decisions without being subject to any democratic oversight. The Committee also notes that it raises questions about whether and how decisions taken by civil servants could be subject to judicial review.
The Committee questions whether the fast-track timetable for the Bill is necessary. Power-sharing has been suspended in Northern Ireland for well over 18 months and there have been few recent signs that a resolution to the impasse is likely. The Committee understands the Government's desire to allow the negotiations to continue for as long as possible to avoid this legislation, however more time (even with a fast-track timetable) could have been made available for parliamentary scrutiny for this Bill.
The Committee reluctantly accepts that the unusual political situation in Northern Ireland requires an exceptional response to protect the people of Northern Ireland from a potentially significant damaging impact on the provision of services. However the Committee emphasises that in any other circumstances provisions in the Bill, which challenge established constitutional principles, would not be acceptable and that no part of this Bill—nor its fast-track process—should be taken as a precedent for future legislation.
Chairman of the House of Lords Constitution Committee, Baroness Taylor of Bolton said:
"The provisions in this Bill challenge fundamental constitutional principles relating to democratic accountability. However, a considerable democratic deficit already exists in Northern Ireland as a result of the political situation and the lack of a power-sharing executive. As a result, while we express serious reservations about the Bill, we accept that the legislation is needed to ensure that the administration of the province can continue to operate adequately."
Latest News from
Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
Government must end era of throwaway fashion19/02/2019 16:15:00
The Environmental Audit Committee calls on the Government to make fashion retailers take responsibility for the waste they create. A one penny producer responsibility charge on each item of clothing could pay for better clothing collection and recycling.
Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill needs more safeguards, Committee argues19/02/2019 11:25:00
The Constitution Committee yesterday released a report on the Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill, raising concerns over the Bill's use of broad delegated powers and lack of adequate safeguards.
Rethink arms licences to Saudi-coalition, Lords Committee says18/02/2019 15:25:00
The International Relations Committee believes that the Government is narrowly on the wrong side of international humanitarian law on arm sales to Saudi Arabia given the volume and type of arms being exported to the Saudi-led coalition, they are highly likely to be the cause of significant civilian casualties in Yemen.
Second report scrutinising Brexit-related international agreements published13/02/2019 14:15:00
The European Union Committee has published its second report in its new role scrutinising Brexit-related treaties.
Uncertainty over future UK participation in Erasmus and Horizon programmes13/02/2019 11:25:00
The EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee publishes its report 'Brexit: the Erasmus and Horizon programmes', highlighting the impact Brexit will have on UK participation in the EU’s international exchange and research and innovation programmes.
UK unprepared for new fisheries conservation rules11/02/2019 14:25:00
The EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee recently published its report on the implementation and enforcement of the EU landing obligation.
Committee asks Minister about ‘no deal’ Brexit security preparations08/02/2019 14:25:00
The House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee has written to Rt Hon Nick Hurd MP, Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Service, as part of ongoing correspondence on its Brexit: the proposed UK-EU security treaty report.
5 proposals made to Government to reform immigration detention07/02/2019 15:05:00
The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) makes 5 proposals to the Government to reform the immigration detention system. They conclude that the current system should be urgently reformed so that it becomes “fair, humane, decent and quick”.