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Committee on Standards and Privileges
Inquiry on the appointment of an Assembly Commissioner for Standards, on maintaining the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Code of Conduct and Guide to the Rules Relating to the Conduct of Members (The Code of Conduct), and on handling alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct
The Northern Ireland Assembly Committee on Standards and Privileges has agreed to carry out an Inquiry on the appointment of an Assembly Commissioner for Standards, on maintaining the Code of Conduct and on handling alleged breaches in relation to it.
Terms of Reference
The Aim of the Inquiry is to establish the most appropriate means of maintaining the Code of Conduct and handling alleged breaches in relation to it.
In doing so the Committee will consider:
The Northern Ireland Assembly’s new Code of Conduct came into effect on 12 October 2009 see http://archive.niassembly.gov.uk/reports/nia24-01.htm . As per the existing arrangements, the new Code of Conduct was consulted upon and drafted by the Committee on Standards and Privileges before having been put to and agreed by the Assembly. The new Code of Conduct sets out, inter alia, the process which allows for the Interim Commissioner for Standards to investigate complaints, the Committee on Standards and Privileges to determine whether breaches have occurred and, where they have, for the Assembly to impose sanctions. The role of Interim Commissioner for Standards is fulfilled by the Northern Ireland Ombudsman, Mr Tom Frawley CBE.
The Committee now needs to formalise its arrangements in relation to a Commissioner for Standards but believes that in doing so it should also give consideration to the respective roles that the Commissioner, Committee and Assembly should fulfil, both in terms of maintaining the Code of Conduct and in terms of handling alleged breaches of it.
The respective roles of the Commissioner, Committee and Assembly are set on in detail in the Assembly’s Standing Orders 57 and 69 to 69C (enclosed) and the Code of Conduct. However, broadly speaking, the respective roles in relation to maintaining the Code of Conduct and handling alleged breaches of it are as set out below:
The Commissioner for Standards has responsibility for:
The Committee on Standards and Privileges has responsibility for:
The Northern Ireland Assembly has responsibility for:
Issues for Consideration
The Committee would welcome any comments or opinions from interested parties in respect of the terms of reference. Particular issues that respondents may wish to comment on include the following:
In terms of modifying and maintaining the Code of Conduct:
In terms of handling alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct:
In terms of appointing an Assembly Commissioner for Standards
Submission of Evidence
Ideally submissions should be submitted in MS word format by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with a single additional hard copy in the post addressed to the Clerk of Standards, at the address overleaf:
The Clerk of Standards
Responses should be submitted by Friday 18 December 2009.
Responses will be published in a report of the Committee at a later date. Written responses to the Committee should be kept confidential until published by the Committee . Further to the submission of written responses, the Committee may invite respondents to appear before it to discuss responses in further detail.
Ideally evidence should be constructed to reflect the points raised in this Issues Paper.
Please feel free to pass this on to other individuals or organisations that may have an interest in the subject.
Any further enquiries can be made to the Committee Clerk on 028 9052 0333. Information regarding the Committee can be obtained from its website
NORTHERN IRELAND ASSEMBLY’S STANDING ORDERS 57 and 69 to 69C
57. COMMITTEE ON STANDARDS AND PRIVILEGES
(1) There shall be a standing committee of the Assembly to be known as the Committee on Standards and Privileges –
(2) The committee shall be appointed at the commencement of every Assembly and may exercise the power in section 44(1) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.
69. MEMBERS’ INTERESTS
(1) A Register of Members’ Interests, which shall list the categories of registrable interest, shall be established, published and made available for public inspection.
(2) The Clerk of Standards shall compile, maintain and from time to time publish, the Register of Members’ Interests.
(3) Every member shall inform the Clerk of Standards of such particulars of their registrable interests as shall be required, and of any alterations to such interests within 28 days of each alteration occurring.
(4) Before taking part in any debate or proceeding of the Assembly or its committees, a member shall declare any interest, financial or otherwise, which is relevant to that debate or proceeding, where such interest is held by the member or an immediate relative.
(5) No member shall, in any proceeding of the Assembly –
in return for any payment or benefit specified in this context in the Code of Conduct.
(6) In this order –
“financial interest” means any registrable interest other than one falling within category 3 which is not remunerated, category 11 or category 12 of the Code of Conduct;
“registrable interest” means any category of registrable interest defined as such in the Code of Conduct.
69A. ASSEMBLY COMMISSIONER FOR STANDARDS
(1) There shall be an officer of the Assembly, to be known as the Assembly Commissioner for Standards, who shall upon referral –
carry out an investigation and make a report thereon to the Committee on Standards and Privileges.
(2) Those matters are –
(3) A report made under paragraph (1) shall not include any recommendation for any sanction to be imposed upon any member, other than a recommendation for rectification under Standing Order 69C.
(4) The Commissioner shall not, in the exercise of any function, be subject to the direction or control of the Assembly.
(5) The Commissioner shall not be dismissed unless –
(1) Where it appears to the Committee on Standards and Privileges that a member has failed to comply with any provision of the Code of Conduct or Standing Orders 69 to 69C, the committee may make a report to the Assembly. The report may include a recommendation that a sanction be imposed upon the member.
(2) In consideration of such a report, the Assembly may impose a sanction upon a member who has failed to comply with any of those provisions.
(3) Sanctions may include, but are not limited to –
and for the avoidance of doubt, the rights and privileges withdrawn under sub-paragraph (d) may include the rights to salary and allowances.
(1) Rectification under this order means –
(2) The Committee on Standards and Privileges may allow rectification under this order if –