Another day, another failed attempt to agree on who should chair
Hain’s Committee the Preparation for Government Committee. The options noted yesterday appear to have fallen through, including the one whereby the Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland, Peter Hain, would appoint someone himself. Update NIO Statement from Peter Hain [Peter Hain or Pontius Pilate? – Ed] Other reports here and hereWhile the other parties are blaming the DUP for the deadlock, it’s worth pointing out that the announcement of the Committee followed Sinn Féin’s decision to boycott the assembly debates.. it was constructed on the direction of Peter Hain and, as the name suggests, seemed to be intended to take over the remit originally envisaged for the assembly itself.. i.e. preparing for government.
From Peter Hain’s statement to the Commons, 18 April:
The Assembly will also have opportunities to prepare for Government by considering issues crucial to the future of Northern Ireland, such as the economy, and reforms to education, water charges and public administration.
Peter Hain was, of course, deliberately vague about what the preparation, by the Committee, would cover… apart from specifically ruling out any forced negotiations.
And he retains the ability to set assembly business as he sees fit.. personally, the suggested justification for the Preparation for Government Committee’s existence in the first place is, to me, distinctly unconvincing.
The initial task of the committee will be “to scope the work which, in the view of the parties, needs to be done in preparation for Government”. The committee may choose to develop this remit by consensus over time or to establish sub-groups to address particular issues.
It would be beneficial for appropriate issues, as they are identified, to be referred by this committee to the Business Committee for debate in the Assembly.
In short, there shouldn’t really be that much surprise at this Committee running aground.. even if that may have happened sooner than some expected.