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Northern Ireland (Monitoring Commission etc.) Act 2003

Filling of vacancies in ministerial office

26.Subsection (2) makes consequential amendments to section 18 of the 1998 Act, to provide the for the running of d’Hondt mechanism to fill Ministerial offices following the exercise of the Secretary of State’s new powers. The d’Hondt mechanism is designed to allocate ministerial positions to parties in turn in the light of the number of seats they hold following an Assembly Election.

27.New section 18(1)(d) and (da), inserted by subsection (2), add the following two cases to the list:

  • When the Secretary of State directs that all members of a political party are excluded from holding office under section 30A(5) and the direction causes ministerial offices to become vacant (new section 18 (1)(d)) ; and

  • On the coming to an end of a period of exclusion imposed on a political party by a direction given by the Secretary of State under section 30A(5) or an Assembly resolution under section 30(2) (new section 18(1)(da)).

28.Subsection (5) provides that regardless of how a period of exclusion may have been extended, it is treated as a period of exclusion under the original excluding provision. For example, if a period of exclusion is initially imposed by a resolution of the Assembly under section 30(1) and is later extended by direction of the Secretary of State under section 30A(3), it is still regarded as an exclusion under section 30(1). This ensures that the d’Hondt procedure is only triggered when a period of exclusion, however extended, finally runs out.

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