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Assembly and Executive Reform (Assembly Opposition) Act (Northern Ireland) 2016

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PurposeN.I.

PurposeN.I.

1  The purpose of this Act is—

(a)to provide for the formation of an Assembly Opposition (“the Opposition”) to scrutinise the work of the Executive Committee, Ministers and departments and hold them to account,

(b)to confer on the Opposition certain rights and benefits within the Assembly,

(c)to promote constitutional change to facilitate the development and enhancement of the role of the Opposition, and

(d)to reform the Executive.

Assembly OppositionN.I.

Formation of the OppositionN.I.

2—(1) Standing orders must make provision for the formation of an Opposition in accordance with this section.

(2) The Opposition may be formed by one or more qualifying parties.

(3) In this Act “qualifying party” means a political party which does not have a member who is a Minister, but which was entitled to nominate a person to Ministerial office under section 18(2) to (6) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, at the time when those nominations were made; or whose members comprise 8% or more of the total number of members of the Assembly, and which does not contain a member who is a Minister.

Timing of formation of the OppositionN.I.

3—(1) Standing orders must make provision for the timing of the formation of the Opposition in accordance with this section.

(2) The Opposition may be formed by one or more qualifying parties at the time when a Ministerial office is to be filled by applying section 18(2) to (6) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 following—

(a)the first meeting of the Assembly in accordance with section 16A of the Northern Ireland Act 1998,

(b)all Ministers ceasing to hold office in accordance with section 18(1) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998,

(c)the application of section 18(10) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 where a Ministerial office is vacant for any other reason but the nominating officer of the party on whose behalf the previous incumbent was nominated does not nominate a person to hold that office, or

(3) The Opposition may also be formed by one or more of the qualifying parties before the 30th June 2016.

Dissolution of the OppositionN.I.

4  Standing orders must make provision that, if all Ministers cease to hold office in accordance with section 18(1) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, the Opposition is dissolved.

Leadership of the OppositionN.I.

5—(1) Standing orders must make provision for the offices in the leadership of the Opposition in accordance with this section.

(2) Where the Opposition is formed by one qualifying party, then the nominating officer of that party must nominate a person to be the Leader of the Non-Executive Party.

(3) Where the Opposition is formed by two or more qualifying parties, then—

(a)the nominating officer of the largest party must nominate a person to be the Leader of the Largest Non-Executive Party,

(b)the nominating officer of the second largest party must nominate a person to be the Leader of the Second-Largest Non-Executive Party.

(4) Standing orders may provide for alternative names for the offices in the leadership of the Opposition.

Topical questions from the leadership of the OppositionN.I.

6  Standing orders must make provision that the first and second questions put to the First Minister and deputy First Minister during topical questions come from theleadership of the Opposition.

Speaking rights in the AssemblyN.I.

7  Standing orders must make provision that speaking rights in the Assembly are allocated on the basis of party strength.

Enhanced speaking rights for the OppositionN.I.

8—(1) Standing orders must make provision for enhanced speaking rights for the Opposition in accordance with this section.

(2) In this section, “enhanced speaking rights” means more speaking rights than a member of the Opposition would otherwise be entitled to on the basis of numerical party size in the Assembly, and includes a minimum of 10 days per year set aside for Opposition business.

Opposition right to chair Public Accounts CommitteeN.I.

9—(1) Standing orders must make provision for the rights of the Opposition to chair any committee established to consider accounts and reports on accounts laid before the Assembly, in accordance with this section.

(2) The chairperson of the committee is to be nominated by the Leader of the Non-Executive Party or Leader of the Largest Non-Executive Party.

(3) The deputy chairperson of the committee is to be nominated by the Deputy Leader of the Non-Executive Party or Leader of the Second-Largest Non-Executive Party.

Membership of Business Committee for the OppositionN.I.

10  Standing orders must make provision for membership for the Opposition in any committee established to look after the business of the Assembly.

Financial assistance for Opposition partiesN.I.

11—(1) Section 1 of the Financial Assistance for Political Parties Act (Northern Ireland) 2000 is renumbered as subsection (1) of that section.

(2) After that subsection (as renumbered) insert—

(2) If there is an Assembly Opposition (within the meaning of the Assembly and Executive Reform (Assembly Opposition) Act (Northern Ireland) 2016), the scheme shall provide for additional payments to be made to political parties in the Opposition..

Assembly and Executive Transfer of Responsibilities MotionN.I.

Assembly and Executive Transfer of Responsibilities MotionN.I.

12—(1) An Assembly and Executive Transfer of Responsibilities Motion is a motion, passed with cross-community support in the Assembly, requesting that the Secretary of State bring forward legislation (being legislation which is beyond the legislative competence of the Assembly), to allow matters to be dealt with as Reserved rather than Excepted matters.

(2) The Schedule makes further provision in respect of the arrangements to be dealt with as reserved rather than excepted matters.

(3) Only those arrangements laid out in the Schedule can be contained in the Assembly and Executive Transfer of Responsibilities Motion.

(4) If the Assembly passes an Assembly and Executive Transfer of Responsibilities Motion the Speaker must send a copy of it to the Secretary of State.

Tabling of Assembly and Executive Transfer of Responsibilities MotionN.I.

13—(1) The AERC must ensure that an Assembly and Executive Transfer of Responsibilities Motion is tabled for debate as soon as is possible, and in any event not later than five sitting days after this section comes into operation.

(2) In this section and section 14—

the AERC” means the committee established in accordance with section 29A of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (committee to review functioning of Assembly and Executive Committee), and

sitting day” means a day on which the Assembly sits in plenary.

Reports by the AERCN.I.

14—(1) This section applies where the Assembly has passed an Assembly and Executive Transfer of Responsibilities Motion.

(2) Standing orders must provide for the AERC to make reports to the Assembly on progress made by the Secretary of State in bringing forward the legislation referred to in section 12 in accordance with this section.

(3) The AERC must ensure that these reports are laid before the Assembly at least every three months until the legislation has been made.

Topical questions and debate on Executive legislative timetableN.I.

Topical questions and debate on Executive legislative timetableN.I.

15—(1) Standing orders must make provision that the first question put to a Minister during topical questions comes from the chairperson of the committee established to advise and assist the Minister in the formulation of policy with respect to matters within the Minister's responsibilities, in accordance with this section.

(2) But this section is subject to section 6 (topical questions from leadership of the Opposition).

(3) Standing Orders must make provision for an annual debate on the Executive legislative timetable.

GeneralN.I.

InterpretationN.I.

16  In this Act—

Minister” means a Northern Ireland Minister within the meaning of the Northern Ireland Act 1998,

nominating officer” has the same meaning as it does in the Northern Ireland Act 1998,

the Opposition” means the Assembly Opposition referred to in section 1, and

qualifying party” has the meaning given in section 2.

CommencementN.I.

17  This Act comes into operationthe day after it receives Royal Assent.

Short titleN.I.

18  This Act may be cited as the Assembly and Executive Reform (Assembly Opposition) Act (Northern Ireland) 2016.

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