REPORT 2/99 (COMMITTEE FOR FINANCE AND PERSONNEL)
Report on the Allowances to Members of the Assembly
and Office Holders Bill (NIA Bill 2/99)
1. Finance and Personnel - Second Report to the Northern Ireland Assembly from the Committee for Finance and Personnel on the Allowances to Members of the Assembly and Office Holders Bill (NIA Bill 2/99), to be printed. [Francie Molloy, Chairman.]
2. The Minutes of Evidence taken before the Committee on 12 and 27 January 2000 and the Minutes of Proceedings of the Committee relating to the Report to be printed separately.
Ordered by the Committee to be printed
Tuesday, 8 February 2000.
REPORT 2/99 (COMMITTEE FOR
FINANCE AND PERSONNEL)
Report on the Allowances to Members of the
Assembly and Office Holders Bill (NIA Bill 2/99)
1. The Committee, on 12 January, 27 January and 3 February 2000, considered the Allowances to Members of the Assembly and Office Holders Bill (NIA Bill 2/99) that was referred to the Committee for its consideration under Standing Order 31 (1) of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
2. The Committee had before it the Allowances to Members of the Assembly and Office Holders Bill and the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill (NIA Bill 2-EFM), as introduced.
3. The Member in charge of the Bill, Mr John Fee MLA, made the following statement under Standing Order 28 of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
"In my view the Allowances to Members of the Assembly and Office Holders Bill would be within the legislative competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly."
4. Mr John Fee, on behalf of the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission, and officials appeared before the Committee on 12 January and 27 January 2000 and were questioned about the provisions of the Bill.
Consideration of Bill
Clauses 1, 2, and 4
5. The Committee examined each Clause of the Bill. The inclusion of Clause 1 was discussed and the Committee was asked to vote on a motion that the Clause be deleted from the Bill. The Committee agreed that Clause 1 should stand part of the Bill. The Committee expressed its contentment with Clause 2. The Committee's consideration of Clause 3 is detailed below. A proposed amendment to Clause 4 was withdrawn.
6. Members had concerns about the effect of Clause 3 - 'Allowances to persons ceasing to hold certain offices'. In particular, that those persons who may cease to hold office (as defined in Section 47 (3) (a) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998) at the time of a dissolution of the Assembly but who may be re-appointed to office immediately after the subsequent election could claim the allowance.
7. Mr Fee and officials returned to the Committee to give further evidence on 27 January. Mr Fee explained that the Commission agreed with the Committee that the fixed period of three weeks, as specified in Clause 3 (1) (b), was insufficient in relation to certain office holders at a time of dissolution of the Assembly. The Committee agreed to recommend to the Assembly that the period should be extended to six weeks.
8. Mr Fee confirmed that the Commission had accepted the view of the Committee that Clause 3 should be amended to ensure that in calculating the fixed period no account should be taken of any time during which the Assembly was dissolved. The fixed period for calculating office holders' entitlement to the allowance would only start when the new Assembly was elected. The Committee agreed to recommend such an amendment to the Assembly.
9. Whilst wanting to ensure that the provisions of Clause 3 be amended to prevent payment of the allowance in inappropriate circumstances the Committee also expressed a general concern about the aim of Clause 3. Members agreed that a further allowance should not be paid to a person who ceases to hold office in addition to the resettlement allowance paid to all Members. The Committee concluded that the Bill should be amended by deleting Clause 3 in its entirety.
10. The Committee agreed to recommend that when considering the Allowances to Members and Office Holders Bill (NIA Bill 2/99) the Northern Ireland Assembly should not agree that Clause 3, as amended, stand part of the Bill.
Consideration of Equal Opportunities Requirements
11. The Committee also asked for reassurances from Mr Fee that, in following the Westminster precedent on allowances, the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission had not contravened equal opportunities legislation applying to Northern Ireland, especially in relation to age discrimination.
12. Mr Fee explained that the Commission had made a comparison between equal opportunities legislation in Northern Ireland and Great Britain and had sought advice. In so far as resettlement allowances are payable at different rates between the ages of 50 to 69 (and ill-health retirement allowances up to the age of 65), the Commission accepted the recommendations as set out in the Senior Salaries Review Body Report, Command Paper 4188.
13. The Commission was satisfied that the Bill did not discriminate against anyone on the grounds of sex, marital status, race, religious belief/political opinion, or disability.
14. The Committee accepted the view of the Commission that the Commission had adequately addressed the equal opportunities matters.
15. The Committee agreed to recommend to the Northern Ireland Assembly amendments to the Assembly Members and Office Holders Bill (NIA Bill 2/99) as set out in the attached Schedule.
16. The Committee did not recommend any other amendments to the Bill.
Francie Molloy MLA
Schedule to Report 2/99 (Committee for Finance and Personnel)
The Committee considers that the Assembly Members and Office Holders Bill (NIA Bill 2/99) be amended as follows:
(i) Clause 3, page 2, line 33, leave out 'three' and insert 'six'
(ii) Clause 3, page 3, line 3, at end insert -
'(5) In reckoning the period of six weeks referred to in subsection (1) (b), no account shall be taken of any time during which the Assembly is dissolved.'
(iii) Leave out Clause 3