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Northern Ireland (Monitoring Commission etc.) Act 2003

Section 4: Resolutions about exclusion

13.This section amends section 30 of the 1998 Act. Section 30 currently enables the Assembly, by resolution, to exclude Ministers, junior Ministers or all members of a political party from holding ministerial office for a period of twelve months (subject to extension).

14.The amendments made by this Act impose a minimum duration on any exclusion, and distinguish in this respect between exclusion of individual Ministers, and exclusion of all members of a party. The test for exclusion remains the same.

15.The procedural safeguards provided for in section 30 at present will also continue to apply. These are –

  • a motion for an exclusion resolution cannot (section 30(5)) be moved unless:

    • it is supported by at least 30 members of the Assembly;

    • it is moved by the First Minister and the deputy First Minister acting jointly; or

    • it is moved by the Presiding Officer in pursuance of a notice served by the Secretary of State; and

  • an exclusion resolution will require cross-community support in the Assembly (section 30(8)). Cross-community support, as defined in section 4(5) of the 1998 Act, can take two forms:

    • Parallel consent: a majority of the members voting, including a majority of designated nationalists voting and a majority of designated unionists voting; or

    • Weighted majority: the support of 60% of the members voting, including 40% of the designated Nationalists voting and 40% of the designated unionists voting.

Exclusion of Individual Ministers

16.In order to exclude an individual Minister or junior Minister from holding ministerial office, the Assembly will (as now) have to resolve that the individual concerned:

  • is not committed to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means, or

  • has failed to observe any other terms of the pledge of office (section 30(1) of the 1998 Act).

17.The pledge of office is defined in section 16(10) of the 1998 Act as the pledge of office which, together with the Code of Conduct to which it refers, is set out in the Belfast Agreement. The text is set out in Schedule 4 to the 1998 Act. Minister means the First Minister, Deputy First Minister or a Northern Ireland Minister (section 7(3) of the 1998 Act).

18.Subsection (2) amends section 30(1) of the 1998 Act, with the effect that exclusion of an individual Minister must be for a minimum of three months. The maximum period remains at twelve months but will, as now, be capable of being renewed by further resolution (subsection (3), inserting new subsection (1A) into section 30 of the 1998 Act). Any renewal must, however, be for a minimum of three and maximum of twelve months starting with the date of the resolution (new section 30(1A) inserted by subsection (3)).

Exclusion of members of a party

19.In order to exclude the members of a party from holding ministerial office the Assembly will, as now, have to resolve that the party:

  • is not committed to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means; or

  • is not committed to such of its members as are or might become Ministers or junior Ministers observing other terms of the pledge or office (section 30(2)).

20.Subsection (4) amends section 30(2) of the 1998 Act to provide that exclusion of all members of a party must be for a minimum of six months. The maximum remains at 12 months as now but is subject to extension for a further period of between six and twelve months starting with the date of the resolution (section 30(3) as substituted by subsection (5)).

21.At present section 30 provides that the Secretary of State must take into account the four factors listed in section 30(7) when deciding whether to require the presiding officer to move an exclusion motion for the Assembly’s consideration. New section 30(7) (substituted by subsection (7)) adds a fifth factor to the list, namely any recommendation contained in a Commission report about steps the Assembly might consider taking (paragraph (e)). The four factors listed in paragraphs (a) to (d) are unchanged.

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