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Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2013-14
Type of Bill:
Following, the publication of a draft Bill by the government in February 2013, which was given pre-legislative scrutiny by the Northern Ireland affairs select committee. The Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill was introduced to the House of Commons by Theresa Villiers MP on 9 May 2013.
The Bill proposes abolishing the practice of "double-jobbing," whereby assembly members could also sit in the House of Commons, gives the secretary of state power to make transparent the declaration of donations to political parties in Northern Ireland from September 2014 and improves electoral registration procedures.
The Bill will allow for:
- Increasing transparency in donations and loans to political parties
- Ending the practice of MLAs holding a duel mandate to sit concurrently as MPs
- Changing the appointment and dismissal process for the Northern Ireland justice minister
- Extending the length of terms of the Assembly to five years
- Determining the future size of the Assembly
- Allowing for the potential devolution of functions relating to the Northern Ireland Civil Service Commission, NI Human Rights Commission and district electoral areas.
The Bill will only extend to Northern Ireland.
The Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill was read for a second time on 24 June 2013, in the House of Commons.
Introducing the Bill, Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers said it would "open the way for more transparency about political donations, modernise the way that elections were run and see an end to dual mandates in the Assembly and the House of Commons". Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Vernon Coaker said that whilst the proposals would be examined in detail at committee stage, he considered that "by and large they make sense." After a short debate, the Bill was passed to a Public Bill Committee.
On 9 July 2013, the Bill was considered in committee. Amendments 7, 8, 2 and 6 to clause 1 of the Bill on donations to political parties were debated. Alliance MP Naomi Long (Belfast East) explained that the aim of the amendmens was to ensure that all donation made to Northern Ireland political parties from January 2014 would be subject to publication. Amendments 7 and 8 were pressed to a vote but negatived. Other issues discussed included the reduction of the size of the Assembly to be a reserved matter (clause 6), the extension of Assembly terms (clause 7) and the appointment of the justice minister (clause 8). Clauses 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 were ordered to stand as part of the Bill and Clauses 1 to 9 were reported, without amendment.
Amendments to the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill were debated in the House of Commons on 18 November 2013, before it was passed at third reading stage. The Bill proceeded to the House of Lords.
The first reading in the House of Lords took place on 19 November 2013, where the Bill was ordered to be printed. The second reading took place on the 3 December 2013. After a short debate, the Bill was passed to a Committee of the Whole House.
The Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill passed its committee stage in the Lords on 3 February 2014 without amendment. A number of amendments were tabled without success, including provisions relating to the devolution of the civil service commission and the creation of an official opposition enshrined in law.
The Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill completed its report stage in the House of Lords on 25 February 2014 with all five amendments tabled withdrawn. Previous amendments moved in committee resurfaced and were again unsuccessful. These included the creation of an official opposition status in the Northern Ireland Assembly, the devolution of the Defamation Act to Northern Ireland and the devolution of civil service commission appointments.
The third reading stage took place on 4 March 2014. The House of Lords considered amendments to clauses 6, 10, 11 and 28 of the Bill. The Bill was subsequently passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.