Following the deadlock over who would chair Hain’s Committee, and after a long hard weekend of struggling to find a way forward, the Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland has appointed the two deputy Presiding Officers of the asembly [the DUP’s Jim Wells and Sinn Féin’s Francie Molloy] to chair his committee. Presumably Francie Molloy won’t have a problem with that? [But will they alternate, or chair the meetings jointly? – Ed] Alternate, it would seem. Update What about the legal advice to the Speaker?Peter Hain has also reminded everyone of what the Committee is supposed to do:
“The Committees initial task is to identify the issues that need to be addressed to prepare for government and to refer appropriate topics that need to be publicly aired and debated in the Assembly as part of the preparation process.”
That’s the assembly which is being [selectively] boycotted…
Update As Briso noted in the comments below, Peter Hain has explicitly directed the Deputy Presiding Officers to take the chair:
The Secretary of State has directed that the Committee will be chaired alternately by the Deputy Presiding Officers, Jim Wells MLA and Francie Molloy MLA.
Mr. Wells and Mr. Molloy will chair the meetings in their role as impartial Deputy Presiding Officers and not as party representatives.
But, according to the report at the end of last week, there is a letter from the Speaker of the Assembly, Eileen Bell, to the parties explaining that the legal advice given to her was that she, in the Office of Speaker, could have no role in chairing the committee
Another proposal that Mrs Bell and the two Deputy Speakers in the Assembly, the DUP`s Jim Wells and Sinn Fein`s Francie Molloy, should chair its proceedings was also explored.
However in a letter to the parties yesterday explaining how she had sought legal advice, Mrs Bell reaffirmed her view that she could have no role on the committee.
If there’s a copy of that letter available it would make interesting reading.. because, surely if the legal advice given was that the Speaker couldn’t take the chair… then neither can the Deputy Speakers?