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The Northern Ireland Act 1998



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Text: Government ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna
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Royal Assent

Submission by Secretary of State. 

    14. - (1) It shall be the Secretary of State who submits Bills for Royal Assent.
 

    (2) The Secretary of State shall not submit a Bill for Royal Assent at any time when-
 

 

(a) the Attorney General for Northern Ireland is entitled to make a reference in relation to a provision of the Bill under section 11; or

 

(b) any such reference has been made but has not been decided or otherwise disposed of by the Judicial Committee.

 

    (3) If-
 

 

(a) the Judicial Committee have decided that any provision of a Bill would not be within the legislative competence of the Assembly; or

 

(b) a reference made in relation to a provision of the Bill under section 11 has been withdrawn following a request for withdrawal under section 12,

 

the Secretary of State shall not submit the Bill in its unamended form for Royal Assent.
 

 

    (4) The Secretary of State may, unless he consents to it, decide not to submit for Royal Assent a Bill containing a provision-
 

 

(a) which the Secretary of State considers deals with an excepted matter and is ancillary to other provisions (whether in the Bill or previously enacted) dealing with reserved or transferred matters; or

 

(b) which the Secretary of State considers deals with a reserved matter,

 

if the Bill has not been referred to him under subsection (2) of section 10 (whether by virtue of subsection (3)(a) of that section or otherwise) before the Assembly enters on its final stage.
 

 

    (5) The Secretary of State may decide not to submit for Royal Assent a Bill which contains a provision which he considers-
 

 

(a) would be incompatible with any international obligations, with the interests of defence or national security or with the protection of public safety or public order; or

 

(b) would have an adverse effect on the operation of the single market in goods and services within the United Kingdom.

Parliamentary control where consent given. 

    15. - (1) Subject to subsections (2) and (3), a Bill to which the Secretary of State has consented under this Part shall not be submitted by him for Royal Assent unless he has first laid it before Parliament and either-
 

(a) the period of 20 days beginning with the date on which it is laid has expired without notice having been given in either House of a motion that the Bill shall not be submitted for Royal Assent; or

 

(b) if notice of such a motion is given within that period, the motion has been rejected or withdrawn.

 

    (2) Subsection (1) shall not apply to a Bill if the Secretary of State considers that it contains no provision which deals with an excepted or reserved matter except a provision which is ancillary to other provisions (whether in the Bill or previously enacted) dealing with transferred matters only.
 

 

    (3) Subsection (1) shall not apply to a Bill if the Secretary of State considers that by reason of urgency it should be submitted for Royal Assent without first being laid before Parliament.
 

 

    (4) Any Bill submitted by virtue of subsection (3) shall, if given Royal Assent, be laid before Parliament by the Secretary of State after Royal Assent, and if-
 

 

(a) within the period of 20 days beginning with the date on which it is laid notice is given in either House of a motion praying that the Act of the Assembly shall cease to have effect; and

 

(b) that motion is carried,

 

Her Majesty may by Order in Council repeal that Act with effect from such date as may be specified in the Order.
 

 

    (5) An Order in Council under subsection (4) may make such consequential and transitional provisions and such savings in connection with the repeal as appear to Her Majesty to be necessary or expedient.
 

 

    (6) Any notice of motion for the purposes of subsection (1) or (4) must be signed by not less than 20 members of the House in which it is given; and the period mentioned in that subsection shall be computed, in relation to each House, by reference only to days on which that House sits.
 

 

PART III

 

EXECUTIVE AUTHORITIES

 


Authorities

First Minister and deputy First Minister.

    16. - (1) Each Assembly shall, within a period of six weeks beginning with its first meeting, elect from among its members the First Minister and the deputy First Minister.
 

 

    (2) Each candidate for either office must stand for election jointly with a candidate for the other office.
 

 

    (3) Two candidates standing jointly shall not be elected to the two offices without the support of a majority of the members voting in the election, a majority of the designated Nationalists voting and a majority of the designated Unionists voting.
 

 

    (4) The First Minister and the deputy First Minister-
 

 

(a) shall not take up office until each of them has affirmed the terms of the pledge of office; and

 

(b) subject to the provisions of this Part, shall hold office until the conclusion of the next election for First Minister and deputy First Minister.

 

    (5) The holder of the office of First Minister or deputy First Minister may by notice in writing to the Presiding Officer designate a Northern Ireland Minister to exercise the functions of that office-
 

 

(a) during any absence or incapacity of the holder; or

 

(b) during any vacancy in that office arising otherwise than under subsection (7)(a);

 

but a person shall not have power to act by virtue of paragraph (a) for a continuous period exceeding 6 weeks.
 

 

    (6) The First Minister or the deputy First Minister-
 

 

(a) may at any time resign by notice in writing to the Presiding Officer; and

 

(b) shall cease to hold office if he ceases to be a member of the Assembly otherwise than by virtue of a dissolution.

 

    (7) If either the First Minister or the deputy First Minister ceases to hold office at any time, whether by resignation or otherwise, the other-
 

 

(a) shall also cease to hold office at that time; but

 

(b) may continue to exercise the functions of his office until the election required by subsection (8).

 

    (8) Where the offices of the First Minister and the deputy First Minister become vacant at any time an election shall be held under this section to fill the vacancies within a period of six weeks beginning with that time.
 

 

    (9) Standing orders may make provision with respect to the holding of elections under this section.
 

 

    (10) In this Act "the pledge of office" means the pledge of office which, together with the code of conduct to which it refers, is set out in Annex A to Strand One of the Belfast Agreement (the text of which Annex is reproduced in Schedule 4).
 

Ministerial offices.

    17. - (1) The First Minister and the deputy First Minister acting jointly may at any time, and shall where subsection (2) applies, determine-
 

 

(a) the number of Ministerial offices to be held by Northern Ireland Ministers; and

 

(b) the functions to be exercisable by the holder of each such office.

 

    (2) This subsection applies where provision is made by an Act of the Assembly for establishing a new Northern Ireland department or dissolving an existing one.
 

 

    (3) In making a determination under subsection (1), the First Minister and the deputy First Minister shall ensure that the functions exercisable by those in charge of the different Northern Ireland departments existing at the date of the determination are exercisable by the holders of different Ministerial offices.
 

 

    (4) The number of Ministerial offices shall not exceed 10 or such greater number as the Secretary of State may by order provide.
 

 

    (5) A determination under subsection (1) shall not have effect unless it is approved by a resolution of the Assembly passed with cross-community support.
 

Northern Ireland Ministers.

    18. - (1) Where-
 

 

(a) an Assembly is elected under section 31 or 32;

 

(b) a determination under section 17(1) takes effect;

 

(c) a resolution which causes one or more Ministerial offices to become vacant is passed under section 30(2);

 

(d) the period of exclusion imposed by a resolution under section 30(2) comes to an end; or

 

(e) such other circumstances obtain as may be specified in standing orders,

 

all Northern Ireland Ministers shall cease to hold office and the Ministerial offices shall be filled by applying subsections (2) to (6) within a period so specified.
 

 

    (2) The nominating officer of the political party for which the formula in subsection (5) gives the highest figure may select a Ministerial office and nominate a person to hold it who is a member of the party and of the Assembly.
 

 

    (3) If-
 

 

(a) the nominating officer does not exercise the power conferred by subsection (2) within a period specified in standing orders; or

 

(b) the nominated person does not take up the selected Ministerial office within that period,

 

that power shall become exercisable by the nominating officer of the political party for which the formula in subsection (5) gives the next highest figure.
 

 

    (4) Subsections (2) and (3) shall be applied as many times as may be necessary to secure that each of the Ministerial offices is filled.
 

 

    (5) The formula is-

S / 1 + M

where-

S = the number of seats in the Assembly which were held by members of the party on the day on which the Assembly first met following its election;

M = the number of Ministerial offices (if any) which are held by members of the party.
 

 

    (6) Where the figures given by the formula for two or more political parties are equal, each of those figures shall be recalculated with S being equal to the number of first preference votes cast for the party at the last general election of members of the Assembly.
 

 

    (7) The holding of office as First Minister or deputy First Minister shall not prevent a person being nominated to hold a Ministerial office.
 

 

    (8) A Northern Ireland Minister shall not take up office until he has affirmed the terms of the pledge of office.
 

 

    (9) A Northern Ireland Minister shall cease to hold office if-
 

 

(a) he resigns by notice in writing to the First Minister and the deputy First Minister;

 

(b) he ceases to be a member of the Assembly otherwise than by virtue of a dissolution; or

 

(c) he is dismissed by the nominating officer who nominated him (or that officer's successor) and the Presiding Officer is notified of his dismissal.

 

    (10) Where a Ministerial office is vacant otherwise than by virtue of subsection (1), the nominating officer of the party on whose behalf the previous incumbent was nominated may nominate a person to hold the office who is a member of the party and of the Assembly.
 

 

    (11) If-
 

 

(a) the nominating officer does not exercise the power conferred by subsection (10) within a period specified in standing orders; or

 

(b) the nominated person does not take up the office within that period,

 

the vacancy shall be filled by applying subsections (2) to (6) within a period specified in standing orders.
 

 

    (12) Where-
 

 

(a) the Assembly has resolved under section 30(2) that a political party does not enjoy its confidence; and

 

(b) the party's period of exclusion has not come to an end,

 

the party shall be disregarded for the purposes of any application of subsections (2) to (6).
 

 

    (13) In this section "nominating officer"-
 

 

(a) in relation to a party registered under the Registration of Political Parties Act 1998, means the registered nominating officer or a member of the Assembly nominated by him for the purposes of this section;

 

(b) in relation to any other political party, means the person who appears to the Presiding Officer to be the leader of the party, or a member of the Assembly nominated by that person for the purposes of this section.

Junior Ministers.

    19. - (1) The First Minister and the deputy First Minister acting jointly may at any time determine-
 

 

(a) that a number of members of the Assembly specified in the determination shall be appointed as junior Ministers in accordance with such procedures for their appointment as are so specified; and

 

(b) that the functions exercisable by virtue of each junior Ministerial office shall be those specified in relation to that office in the determination.

 

    (2) Procedures specified in a determination under this section may apply such formulae or other rules as the First Minister and the deputy First Minister consider appropriate.
 

 

    (3) A determination under this section shall-
 

 

(a) make provision as to the circumstances in which a junior Minister shall cease to hold office, and for the filling of vacancies; and

 

(b) provide that a junior Minister shall not take up office until he has affirmed the terms of the pledge of office.

 

    (4) A determination under this section shall not take effect until it has been approved by a resolution of the Assembly.
 

 

    (5) Where a determination under this section takes effect-
 

 

(a) any junior Ministers previously appointed shall cease to hold office; and

 

(b) the procedures specified in the determination shall be applied within a period specified in standing orders.

The Executive Committee.

    20. - (1) There shall be an Executive Committee of each Assembly consisting of the First Minister, the deputy First Minister and the Northern Ireland Ministers.
 

 

    (2) The First Minister and the deputy First Minister shall be chairmen of the Committee.
 

 

    (3) The Committee shall have the functions set out in paragraphs 19 and 20 of Strand One of the Belfast Agreement.
 

Northern Ireland departments.

    21. - (1) Subject to subsection (2), the Northern Ireland departments existing on the appointed day shall be the Northern Ireland departments for the purposes of this Act.
 

 

    (2) Provision may be made by Act of the Assembly for establishing new Northern Ireland departments or dissolving existing ones.
 

 

    (3) If an Act of the Assembly which establishes a new Northern Ireland department provides for it to be in the charge of the First Minister and the deputy First Minister acting jointly-
 

 

(a) the department shall not be regarded as a Northern Ireland department for the purposes of subsection (2) or (3) of section 17; and

 

(b) the office held by those Ministers as the head of the department shall not be regarded as a Ministerial office for the purposes of subsection (4) of that section or section 18.

 


Functions

Statutory functions.

    22. - (1) An Act of the Assembly or other enactment may confer functions on a Minister (but not a junior Minister) or a Northern Ireland department by name.
 

 

    (2) Functions conferred on a Northern Ireland department by an enactment passed or made before the appointed day shall, except as provided by an Act of the Assembly or other subsequent enactment, continue to be exercisable by that department.
 

Prerogative and executive powers.

    23. - (1) The executive power in Northern Ireland shall continue to be vested in Her Majesty.
 

 

    (2) As respects transferred matters, the prerogative and other executive powers of Her Majesty in relation to Northern Ireland shall, subject to subsection (3), be exercisable on Her Majesty's behalf by any Minister or Northern Ireland department.
 

 

    (3) As respects the Northern Ireland Civil Service and the Commissioner for Public Appointments for Northern Ireland, the prerogative and other executive powers of Her Majesty in relation to Northern Ireland shall be exercisable on Her Majesty's behalf by the First Minister and the deputy First Minister acting jointly.
 

 

    (4) The First Minister and deputy First Minister acting jointly may by prerogative order under subsection (3) direct that such of the powers mentioned in that subsection as are specified in the order shall be exercisable on Her Majesty's behalf by a Northern Ireland Minister or Northern Ireland department so specified.
 

Community law, Convention rights etc.

    24. - (1) A Minister or Northern Ireland department has no power to make, confirm or approve any subordinate legislation, or to do any act, so far as the legislation or act-
 

 

(a) is incompatible with any of the Convention rights;

 

(b) is incompatible with Community law;

 

(c) discriminates against a person or class of person on the ground of religious belief or political opinion;

 

(d) in the case of an act, aids or incites another person to discriminate against a person or class of person on that ground; or

 

(e) in the case of legislation, modifies an enactment in breach of section 7.

 

    (2) Subsection (1)(c) and (d) does not apply in relation to any act which is unlawful by virtue of the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1976, or would be unlawful but for some exception made by virtue of Part V of that Act.
 

Excepted and reserved matters.

    25. - (1) If any subordinate legislation made, confirmed or approved by a Minister or Northern Ireland department contains a provision dealing with an excepted or reserved matter, the Secretary of State may by order revoke the legislation.
 

 

    (2) An order made under subsection (1) shall recite the reasons for revoking the legislation and may make provision having retrospective effect.
 

International obligations.

    26. - (1) If the Secretary of State considers that any action proposed to be taken by a Minister or Northern Ireland department would be incompatible with any international obligations, with the interests of defence or national security or with the protection of public safety or public order, he may by order direct that the proposed action shall not be taken.
 

 

    (2) If the Secretary of State considers that any action capable of being taken by a Minister or Northern Ireland department is required for the purpose of giving effect to any international obligations, of safeguarding the interests of defence or national security or of protecting public safety or public order, he may by order direct that the action shall be taken.
 

 

    (3) In subsections (1) and (2), "action" includes making, confirming or approving subordinate legislation and, in subsection (2), includes introducing a Bill in the Assembly.
 

 

    (4) If any subordinate legislation made, confirmed or approved by a Minister or Northern Ireland department contains a provision which the Secretary of State considers-
 

 

(a) would be incompatible with any international obligations, with the interests of defence or national security or with the protection of public safety or public order; or

 

(b) would have an adverse effect on the operation of the single market in goods and services within the United Kingdom,

 

the Secretary of State may by order revoke the legislation.
 

 

    (5) An order under this section shall recite the reasons for making the order and may make provision having retrospective effect.
 

Quotas for purposes of international etc obligations. 

    27. - (1) A Minister of the Crown may make an order containing provision such as is specified in subsection (2) where-
 

(a) an international obligation or an obligation under Community law is an obligation to achieve a result defined by reference to a quantity (whether expressed as an amount, proportion or ratio or otherwise); and

 

(b) the quantity relates to the United Kingdom (or to an area including the United Kingdom or to an area consisting of a part of the United Kingdom which is or includes the whole or part of Northern Ireland).

 

    (2) The provision referred to in subsection (1) is provision for the achievement by a Minister or Northern Ireland department (in the exercise of his or its functions) of so much of the result to be achieved under the international obligation or obligation under Community law as is specified in the order.
 

 

    (3) The order may specify the time by which any part of the result to be achieved by the Minister or department is to be achieved.
 

 

    (4) Where an order under subsection (1) is in force in relation to an international obligation or an obligation under Community law, the obligation shall have effect for the purposes of this Act as if it were an obligation to achieve so much of the result to be achieved under the obligation as is specified in the order by the time or times so specified.
 

 

    (5) No order shall be made by a Minister of the Crown under subsection (1) unless he has consulted the Minister or department concerned.
 

Agency arrangements between UK and NI departments. 

    28. - (1) Arrangements may be made between-
 

(a) any department of the Government of the United Kingdom or any public body, or holder of a public office, in the United Kingdom; and

 

(b) any Northern Ireland department,

 

for any functions of one of them to be discharged by, or by officers of, the other.
 

 

    (2) No such arrangements shall affect the responsibility of the person on whose behalf any functions are discharged.
 

 

    (3) In this section-
 

 

(a) references to a department of the Government of the United Kingdom include references to any Minister of the Crown; and

 

(b) references to a Northern Ireland department include references to a Minister.

 


Miscellaneous

Statutory committees.

    29. - (1) Standing orders shall make provision-
 

 

(a) for establishing committees of members of the Assembly ("statutory committees") to advise and assist each Northern Ireland Minister in the formulation of policy with respect to matters within his responsibilities as a Minister;

 

(b) for enabling a committee to be so established either in relation to a single Northern Ireland Minister or in relation to more than one; and

 

(c) conferring on the committees the powers described in paragraph 9 of Strand One of the Belfast Agreement.

 

    (2) Standing orders shall provide that-
 

 

(a) the nominating officer of the political party for which the formula in subsection (3) gives the highest figure may select a statutory committee and nominate as its chairman or deputy chairman a person who is a member of the party and of the Assembly;

 

(b) if the nominating officer does not exercise the power conferred by paragraph (a) within a period specified in standing orders, or the nominated person does not take up the selected office within that period, that power shall be exercisable instead by the nominating officer of the political party for which the formula in subsection (3) gives the next highest figure; and

 

(c) paragraphs (a) and (b) shall be applied as many times as may be necessary to secure that a chairman and deputy chairman are nominated for each of the statutory committees.

 

    (3) The formula is-

S / 1 + C

where-

S = the number of seats in the Assembly which were held by members of the party on the day on which the Assembly first met following its election;

C = the number of chairmen and deputy chairmen of statutory committees (if any) who are members of the party.
 

 

    (4) Standing orders shall provide that, where the figures given by the formula for two or more political parties are equal, each of those figures shall be recalculated with S being equal to the number of first preference votes cast for the party at the last general election of members of the Assembly.
 

 

    (5) Standing orders shall provide that-
 

 

(a) a Minister or junior Minister may not be the chairman or deputy chairman of a statutory committee; and

 

(b) in making a selection under the provision made by virtue of subsection (2)(a), a nominating officer shall prefer a committee in which he does not have a party interest to one in which he does.

 

    (6) For the purposes of subsection (5) a nominating officer has a party interest in a committee if it is established to advise and assist a Northern Ireland Minister who is a member of his party.
 

 

    (7) Standing orders shall provide that a chairman or deputy chairman shall cease to hold office if-
 

 

(a) he resigns by notice in writing to the Presiding Officer;

 

(b) he ceases to be a member of the Assembly; or

 

(c) he is dismissed by the nominating officer who nominated him (or that officer's successor) and the Presiding Officer is notified of his dismissal.

 

    (8) Standing orders shall provide that, where an office of chairman or deputy chairman is vacant, the nominating officer of the party on whose behalf the previous incumbent was nominated may nominate a person to hold the office who is a member of the party and of the Assembly.
 

 

    (9) Standing orders shall provide that if-
 

 

(a) the nominating officer does not exercise the power conferred by subsection (8) within a period specified in standing orders; or

 

(b) the nominated person does not take up the selected office within that period,

 

the vacancy shall be filled by applying the provision made by virtue of subsections (2) to (5).
 

 

    (10) In this section "nominating officer" has the same meaning as in section 18.
 

Exclusion of Ministers from office.

    30. - (1) If the Assembly resolves that a Minister or junior Minister no longer enjoys the confidence of the Assembly-
 

 

(a) because he is not committed to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means; or

 

(b) because of any failure of his to observe any other terms of the pledge of office,

 

he shall be excluded from holding office as a Minister or junior Minister for a period of twelve months beginning with the date of the resolution.
 

 

    (2) If the Assembly resolves that a political party does not enjoy the confidence of the Assembly-
 

 

(a) because it is not committed to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means; or

 

(b) because it is not committed to such of its members as are or might become Ministers or junior Ministers observing the other terms of the pledge of office,

 

members of that party shall be excluded from holding office as Ministers or junior Ministers for a period of twelve months beginning with the date of the resolution.
 

 

    (3) The Assembly may, before a period of exclusion comes to an end, resolve to extend it for twelve months beginning with the date of the resolution.
 

 

    (4) A period of exclusion shall come to an end if the Assembly-
 

 

(a) is dissolved; or

 

(b) resolves to bring the exclusion to an end.

 

    (5) A motion for a resolution under this section shall not be moved unless-
 

 

(a) it is supported by at least 30 members of the Assembly;

 

(b) it is moved by the First Minister and the deputy First Minister acting jointly; or

 

(c) it is moved by the Presiding Officer in pursuance of a notice under subsection (6).

 

    (6) If the Secretary of State is of the opinion that the Assembly ought to consider-
 

 

(a) a resolution under subsection (1)(a) in relation to a Minister or junior Minister; or

 

(b) a resolution under subsection (2)(a) in relation to a political party,

 

he shall serve a notice on the Presiding Officer requiring him to move a motion for such a resolution.
 

 

    (7) In forming an opinion under subsection (6), the Secretary of State shall in particular take into account whether the Minister or junior Minister or the political party-
 

 

(a) is committed to the use now and in the future of only democratic and peaceful means to achieve his or its objectives;

 

(b) has ceased to be involved in any acts of violence or of preparation for violence;

 

(c) is directing or promoting acts of violence by other persons;

 

(d) is co-operating fully with any Commission of the kind referred to in section 7 of the Northern Ireland Arms Decommissioning Act 1997 in implementing the Decommissioning section of the Belfast Agreement.

 

    (8) A resolution under this section shall not be passed without cross-community support.
 

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