The blandly titled Northern Ireland Bill announced by Peter Hain on Tuesday and setting out the procedure for recalling the Assembly has been published on the parliament website, containing 6 clauses and 3 schedules [text of Bill here], and explanatory notes here, and it does include a provision, in the event that an Executive can be formed, to delay the Assembly elections until May 2008. If an Executive isn’t formed the BBC predict it could cost £3.5million to close the Assembly down.Schedule 2, which details the procedure if an executive is formed, includes this –
Postponement of next Northern Ireland Assembly election to May 2008
4 (1) In section 31 of the 1998 Act (Northern Ireland Assembly: dates of elections and dissolutions), for subsection (2) substitute—
“(2) In relation to the poll for the election of the Assembly next following the Assembly elected at the poll on 26th November 2003, subsection (1) is to have effect as if for “fourth calendar year” there were substituted “fifth calendar year”.”
(2) In section 96 of the 1998 Act—
(a) in subsection (2), “31(2),” shall be repealed;
(b) subsections (2A) to (2D) shall be repealed.
(3) The amendments made by this paragraph shall have effect on and after the effective date.
The explanatory section has this to say
36. Paragraph 4 amends section 31 of the 1998 Act in order to provide for the postponement of the next Northern Ireland Assembly election by one year. Under paragraph 4 the election will take place on the first Thursday of May 2008 (rather than the first Thursday of May 2007) in order to allow the Northern Ireland Assembly a stable period of operation under full restoration.[added emphasis]