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Assembly Members (Independent Financial Review and Standards) Act (Northern Ireland) 2011

Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards

6.All Members of the Assembly are required to comply with the requirements of the Assembly’s Code of Conduct and Guide to the Rules Relating to the Conduct of Members (“the Code of Conduct”). The Assembly agreed a new Code of Conduct which came into effect in October 2009. Following this, the Committee began an inquiry into enforcing the Code of Conduct and the appointment of a Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards (“the Commissioner”). The aim of the inquiry was to establish the most appropriate means of maintaining the Code of Conduct and handling alleged breaches in relation to it.

7.As part of this inquiry the Committee carried out a consultation and received written submissions and oral evidence from key stakeholders. These helped the Committee to conclude that, in relation to handling alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct, it was appropriate that an independent Commissioner should carry out investigations into complaints; that the Committee should determine whether a breach had occurred; and the Assembly should impose sanctions where appropriate. The Committee also concluded, inter alia, that legislation was required and that the Commissioner’s role, powers (including the power to call for witnesses and documents) and independence from the Assembly in respect of specific investigations should all be set out on a statutory basis. In addition, the Committee also agreed that the Commissioner should have the power to initiate an investigation if the Commissioner believes that a breach of the Code of Conduct may have occurred. It is this particular power, which had been recommended by the Committee on Standards and Public Life, which makes the Northern Ireland model distinct.

8.The Assembly endorsed these conclusions when it approved the Committee’s report on the inquiry on 1 June 2010. This Act therefore establishes an Assembly Commissioner for Standards. The Act provides for the Commissioner to receive and investigate complaints and other issues concerning Members, to initiate investigations, and to report the outcome to the Assembly. The Act provides for the independence of the Commissioner. The Act also provides for the Commissioner to have the power to call for witnesses and documents and creates offences in relation to refusing to provide or otherwise failing to give evidence.

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Text created by the Northern Ireland Assembly department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes accompany all Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly.


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