What's happening in the Chamber - Tuesday 31st March 2020

Tuesday 31st March

Assembly Business

Motion: Committee Membership. Kellie Armstrong, John Blair
That Mr Andrew Muir replace Mr Trevor Lunn as a member of the Public Accounts Committee. 
Motion: Trustees of the Assembly Members’ Pension Scheme. Keith Buchanan, John O’Dowd, Dolores Kelly, Robbie Butler, John Blair
That this Assembly appoints Dr Caoimhe Archibald, Mr Pat Catney and Mr Andrew Muir as Trustees of the Assembly Members' Pension Scheme.
Establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee on COVID-19. Keith Buchanan, John O’Dowd, Dolores Kelly, Robbie Butler, Kellie Armstrong, Clare Bailey

Ministerial Statement

Budget. Minister of Finance.

Executive Committee Business

First Stage: Domestic Abuse Bill. Minister of Justice.

Legislative Consent Motion: for the UK Government Agriculture Bill. Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs
That this Assembly endorses the principle of the extension to Northern Ireland of the Agriculture Bill, as introduced into the House of Commons on 16 January 2020, and consents to the Agriculture Bill being taken forward by the Westminster Parliament.

Committee Business

Motion: Amend Standing Orders. Chairperson, Committee on Procedures
Temporary amendments to Standing Orders in respect of proxy voting/voting in Divisions/Committee meetings/Committee quorums. See Order Paper for full details.
Resolutions under 110 (2)—Resolutions under paragraph (1) shall require cross-community support.

Standing Orders or SOs are are the rules that govern the legislative operation of the Assembly. Take a look at Standing Orders - http://nia1.me/3u1

SO 112. Voting by Proxy

This will provide temporary provision for proxy voting. Members who want to vote by proxy will have to tell the Speaker before the vote and tell the Speaker who will take the Member’s proxy, the period of time that the proxy will be effective and that the proxy is happy to vote on behalf of the Member. The proxy could be a Whip or any other Member of the same party.

SO 113. Voting—Divisions
For the first time, proxies will be counted when recording a vote. Before calling for a recorded vote, the Speaker (like he does now) calls for a voice vote. Under the temporary Standing Orders, the Speaker can count proxies. If the Speaker then calls for a recorded vote, proxies can form part of the decision—this is new; previously if a Member was not present they were unable to vote.

SO 115 Temporary Provision for Statutory Committees*
This Standing Order allows for Committees to meet on any day and importantly, allows for any Member of the Committee, including the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson to attend by video-link or by telephone. Committee decisions will be taken by consensus, but if a vote is taken, those attending remotely can also vote (thereby being part of the Committee quorum). 
In addition, a Committee member can give his/her proxy vote to another Committee member, including the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson—this mirrors the temporary Standing Order for voting in Plenary.
Also new—Committees will now be able to take decisions without meeting, including on whether to have a meeting, for example, by telephone/video link/email and employing proxy votes.
*Each Department has a (Statutory) Committee that examines the work of the Minister and the Department. There are 9 Statutory Committees.

SO 116. Temporary Provision for Standing Committees*
Changes some of the quorum requirements for decision making in Standing Committees. Some of these Committees—Audit, for example, already has fewer members than Statutory Committee. Audit will go down to two and will also include proxy votes - for example the Chair and one other member could agree a course of action. 
For other Standing Committees, those that have the same number of members as Statutory Committees, the quorum for decision-making will remain at five members, but they will not be required to be present; they will be able to give their votes to proxies, mirroring the new temporary provisions for Statutory Committees.

*There are 6 Standing Committees (permanent committees). Each committee has specific roles assigned to them from Standing Orders:

  • Business Committee
  • Audit Committee
  • Public Accounts Committee
  • Procedures Committee
  • Standards & Privileges Committee
  • Assembly & Executive Review Committee

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