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Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act 2006

Miscellaneous

Section 13: Community designation

76.Section 13 amends section 4 of the 1998 Act to require standing orders of the Assembly to provide that an MLA may only change his community designation of “Nationalist”, “Unionist” or “Other” between elections if he changes his political party affiliation.

Section 14: Power of Executive Committee to call for witnesses and documents

77.Section 14 inserts a new section 28C into the 1998 Act to give the Executive Committee the power to call for witnesses and documents. The section applies the provisions of section 44 of the 1998 Act (which provides the Assembly and its Committees with the power to compel witnesses and documents) to the Executive Committee with certain modifications. The power is exercisable in relation to senior civil servants working in Northern Ireland Departments where a matter falls within the Executive’s functions under section 20(3) and (4) of the 1998 Act.

Section 15: Strategies in relation to Irish language and Ulster Scots language etc

78.Section 15 of the Act inserts a new section 28D into the 1998 Act. Section 28D places a duty on the incoming Executive Committee to adopt a strategy relating to the enhancement and protection of the development of the Irish language and also to adopt a strategy relating to the enhancement and development of the Ulster Scots language, heritage and culture.

79.Subsection (3) of new section 28D of the 1998 Act provides for the Executive Committee to review and revise these strategies.

Section 16: Strategy in relation to poverty, social exclusion etc

80.Section 16 inserts a new section 28E into the 1998 Act. The new section places a duty on the Executive Committee to adopt a strategy for tackling poverty and social exclusion and patterns of deprivation; and for that strategy to be based on objective need.

81.Subsection (2) of new section 28E places a duty on the Executive Committee to keep the strategy under review, and gives the Executive Committee a power to revise the strategy or adopt a new strategy.

Section  17: Vacancy in the Assembly

82.Section 17 inserts a new paragraph 5 into Schedule 6 to the 1998 Act. This enables the Assembly to make standing orders preserving the exercise of the right to vote in the Assembly in cases where a vacancy in membership would otherwise prevent this right from being exercised. Paragraph 9(6) of Schedule 1 enables equivalent standing orders to be made for the Transitional Assembly. The standing orders could, for example, provide for voting in the Transitional Assembly to take account of any seats won by a party, but subsequently vacated and not filled as a result of section 3(2) and (3).

Section 18: Report on progress towards devolution of policing and justice matters

83.Section 18 places an obligation on the Assembly to provide a report to the Secretary of State before 27 March 2008 on its consideration of policing and justice matters. The report is to address:

  • the preparations the Assembly has made, and intends to make, for the devolution of such matters;

  • which of the matters the Assembly are likely to seek to have devolved; and

  • whether a request is likely to be made before 1 May 2008 that responsibility for such matters should be devolved.

The Secretary of State must lay the report before Parliament.

84.Subsections (4) to (6) contain technical amendments to the definition of a “devolved policing and justice matter”. They remove the adjective “devolved” from the definitions contained in sections 4(2A), 4(6) and 21A(8)(b) of the 1998 Act (inserted by the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006) to clarify that they remain reserved until devolved.

85.The section does not affect any of the safeguards on the transfer of responsibility set out in section 4 of the 1998 Act, as amended by the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006. It remains the case that the First Minister and deputy First Minister, acting jointly, must table a motion for a resolution of the Assembly that policing and justice matters be devolved; the Assembly must so resolve with cross-community support; the Secretary of State must concur and lay a draft order before Parliament; and Parliament must approve that order.

Section 19: Minor and consequential amendments

86.Section 19 gives effect to Schedule 7 which makes minor and consequential amendments relating to Part 2 of the Act.

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