CAIN Web Service
Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention Report
- Appendix 2 Policy Documents
Text: Northern Ireland Office (NIO) ... Page Compiled: Brendan Lynn
NORTHERN IRELAND CONSTITUTIONAL
Together with the Proceedings of the Convention
and other Appendices
U.U.U.C. Policy Position
1. The U.U.U.C. emphatically rejects any system of executive government that is in essence an imposed or compulsory coalition of political parties or elected representatives. Furthermore the U.U.U.C, would oppose any such system of government no matter how it is arrived at.
2. The U.U.U.C. believes that it is fundamental to democratic government:-
(a) that it is elected to carry out policies submitted to the electorate and to fulfil commitments of an ideological nature and of a general political intent;
(b) the electorate must always be in a position to both endorse and reject;
(c) government must always be united on policy and general intent and the executive be collectively responsible for all decisions;
(d) the Prime Minister or head of government must always be in a position to hire or fire subject only to his ability to maintain a majority in Parliament;
(e) the government is ultimately answerable to the people but in its legislative proposals and day to day administration it is vital that the government be effectively answerable to Parliament;
(f) accountability in any meaningful and responsible sense depends on powerful parliamentary opposition;
(g) it is desirable that all sections of the people identify with the institutions of the State but not at the price of giving any section a guaranteed position in government; and
(h) the parliamentary system should seek in every practical way to safeguard minority interests and that such interests should be meaningfully represented and call into account any action that might be deemed unfair or unjust to them.
3. The U.U.U.C. believe that the British Parliamentary system provides not only for effective government but for effective and powerful opposition. It is capable of further development to strengthen the position of opposition generally and more particularly, minority parties. The United Kingdom Parliament has developed the role and position of the leader of the Opposition and has lately sought to aid the effectiveness of all political parties in Parliament. U.U.U.C. proposals for powerful scrutiny and investigatory Parliamentary Committees would significantly strengthen Parliament in its relationship with government, particularly increasing the power of the Opposition. The watchdog powers of such Committees would addition be an important safeguard for minority interests.
4. It is envisaged that there would be a Committee covering each important department government. It is proposed that each committee would have equal representation from Government and Opposition supporters. The value of the Committee depends to a large extent on their effectiveness. The demands on Members of Parliament would be very heavy. It is considered necessary that the Chairman should give virtually his full time to the job and he would have to be provided with an office and suitable staff. The Chairmanís remuneration would need to be on a Ministerial scale, whilst members of Committee would receive additional remuneration by way of attendance fees.
5. The powers of the Committee to scrutiny would be extensive either through sending for persons or papers. The Committee would be able to conduct enquiries and public hearings on appropriate matters. Legislation would have its first reading in the Committee when the principle of the Bill could be challenged. A public hearing procedure could be adopted. The second reading would be on the floor of the House with a Committee Stage bringing it back to the Committee. The Committee would have access to appropriate expertise and research.
6. The Chairmanship of the Committees is a critical factor. The U.U.U.C. believe that the role of the Opposition entitles opposition parties to a favoured position in the selection of Chairman. The U.U.U.C. believes that in certain sensitive areas Opposition parties have a special claim to the Chairmanship. The position of the Chairman vis-a-vis is the government and the exchange of information might be helped by a Privy Council status.
7. Coalition Government.
The U.U.U.C. believes that a multi-party government can come into existence in three ways:
(i) By agreement between Parties before an election and obtains approval from the electorate.
(ii) Where the largest Party in Parliament has not an overall majority and needs to obtain it by agreement with another Party. At best this can only be a short term government.
(iii) Where an emergency or crisis situation exists and parties by agreement come together in the national interest for the duration of the crisis. But any such coalition must be based on the principles contained in paragraphs 1, 2 and 3.
(The policy position dated 26 August was revised and released to the Press on 9 September. It differs from the draft of 26 August in that a paragraph dealing with part of the Committee structure was omitted and a final sentence added in the light of independent expert advice).
OUTLINE S.D.L.P. POSITION
1. Maximum devolved power to Northern Ireland Assembly and Government. All sections of community represented at Government level.
2. Institutions freely agreed between North and South.
A. Development of agreed matters of common concern in socio-economic field.
B. Standing agreement on security between North and South to be activated when State of Emergency is declared in either part.
Small North/South Security Council to implement and oversee the agreement and to operate only during state of emergency.
3. Policing powers to be devoted to the new administration.
Support for the new institutions to be fully given by all sections in Northern Ireland expressed through a referendum.
5. Request to South to give full support to institutions by means of referendum of the people.
Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention
Return to list of contents