The first of two NIO led Bills announced yesterday, the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Bill, has had its first reading in the Commons. And the NIO have the fine detail here[pdf file] confirming March 7 as the next assembly election date.. Jeffrey’s delighted, although how the people can have their say when, assuming it goes ahead, all the main parties will be campaigning for the same agreement is anyone’s guess.. Updated According to the BBC report, SF leader Gerry Adams said the issue of the pledge of office should be viewed by republicans “in the round”, as it’s “not scheduled to happen until March next year”. Indeed. Adds Online text of Northern Ireland BillThat’s assuming a certain timetable is adhered to, of course..
2 Compliance or non-compliance with St Andrews Agreement timetable
(1) If at any time before 25 March 2007 the Secretary of State considers that (were Schedule 2 to come into force) there would be no reasonable prospect that each of the Ministerial offices would be filled in accordance with paragraph 2 of that Schedule, he may make an order bringing Schedule 3 into force on the day following the day on which the order is made.
(2) If the Secretary of State does not make an order under subsection (1) before 25 March 2007—
(a) he must on that date make a restoration order providing for section 1 of the 2000 Act to cease to have effect on 26 March 2007, and
(b) Schedule 2 shall come into force on 26 March 2007.
(3) Subsection (4) applies if—
(a) the Secretary of State makes a restoration order by virtue of subsection (2), but
(b) it appears to him that one or more of the Ministerial offices has not been filled in accordance with paragraph 2 of Schedule 2 by the end of 26 March 2007.
(4) Where this subsection applies—
(a) the Secretary of State must on 27 March 2007 make an order under the 2000 Act revoking the restoration order,
(b) that order must state that it is made by virtue of subsection (3) and must come into force on 28 March 2007, and
(c) Schedule 3 shall come into force on 28 March 2007.
(5) If the Secretary of State—
(a) makes a restoration order by virtue of subsection (2), and
(b) does not make an order by virtue of subsection (3) revoking the restoration order, Schedule 4 shall come into force on 28 March 2007.
(6) An order under subsection (1) must be made by statutory instrument.
(7) Section 7(4) to (7) of the 2000 Act (affirmative resolution etc procedure) does not apply in relation to an order made by virtue of subsection (2) or (3).
(8) In this section “the Ministerial offices” means—
(a) the offices of First Minister and deputy First Minister, and
(b) the Ministerial offices to be held by Northern Ireland Ministers.
And on that contentious Pledge of Office
7 Pledge of office
(1) In the pledge of office set out in Schedule 4 to the 1998 Act, after paragraph (c) insert—
“(ca) to promote the interests of the whole community represented in the Northern Ireland Assembly towards the goal of a shared future;
(cb) to participate fully in the Executive Committee, the North-South Ministerial Council and the British-Irish Council;
(cc) to observe the joint nature of the offices of First Minister and deputy First Minister;
(cd) to uphold the rule of law based as it is on the fundamental principles of fairness, impartiality and democratic accountability, including support for policing and the courts as set out in paragraph 6 of the St Andrews Agreement;”.
(2) At the end of the pledge of office set out in that Schedule insert—
“Paragraph 6 of the St Andrews Agreement says:
“We believe that the essential elements of support for law and order include endorsing fully the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the criminal justice system, actively encouraging everyone in the community to co-operate fully with the PSNI in tackling crime in all areas and actively supporting all the policing and criminal justice institutions,
including the Policing Board.””
Adds And a year after restoration..?
18 Report on progress towards devolution of policing and justice matters
(1) The Northern Ireland Assembly must make a report to the Secretary of State before 27 March 2008—
(a) as to the preparations that the Assembly has made, and intends to make, having regard to paragraph 7 of the St Andrews Agreement, for or in connection with policing and justice matters ceasing to be reserved matters;
(b) as to which matters are likely to be the subject of any request under section 4(2A) of the 1998 Act that policing and justice matters should cease to be reserved matters;
(c) containing an assessment of whether the Assembly is likely to make such a request before 1 May 2008.[added emphasis]
(2) The Secretary of State must lay a copy of the report before each House of Parliament.
(3) Paragraph 7 of the St Andrews Agreement says:
“Discussions on the devolution of policing and justice have progressed well in the Preparation for Government Committee. The Governments have requested the parties to continue these discussions so as to agree the necessary administrative arrangements to create a new policing and justice department. It is our view that implementation of the agreement published today should be sufficient to build the community confidence necessary for the Assembly to request the devolution of criminal justice and policing from the British Government by May 2008.”
(4) In this section “policing and justice matter” has the meaning given by section 4(6) of the 1998 Act (as inserted by section 16(5) of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006 (c. 33)) and “reserved matter” has the meaning given by section 4(1) of the 1998 Act.
(5) In section 16(3) of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006, in the inserted section 4(2A) of the 1998 Act, for “devolved policing and justice matter” substitute “policing and justice matter”.
(6) In section 16(5) of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006, in the inserted section 4(6) of the 1998 Act, for ““devolved policing and justice matter”” substitute ““policing and justice matter””.
(7) In section 17(1) of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006, in the inserted section 21A(8)(b) of the 1998 Act, for “devolved policing and justice matter” substitute “policing and justice matter”.
(8) The subject-matter of subsections (1) and (2) is to be treated as a reserved matter for the purposes of the 1998 Act.