“The deputy First Minister and I have agreed..”

How blatant is the attempted power grab by the semi-detached polit-bureau? Answer: Very. The explanatory notes of the Financial Assistance Bill, to be fast-tracked through the Northern Ireland Assembly tomorrow, may say “that the legislation would provide the necessary permissive powers to take remedial action in response to any circumstances that the Executive agrees warrants rapid and effective financial intervention.” But, as it stands, the detail in the Financial Assistance Bill itself reveals that the NI Executive will not need to be consulted in advance.

1. — (1) The powers conferred by this section are exercisable if the First Minister and deputy First Minister, acting jointly, determine :
(a) that exceptional circumstances exist,
(b) that it is desirable to provide financial assistance to prevent, control or mitigate any aspect or effect of those circumstances, and
(c) that such assistance ought to be provided in accordance with a scheme or schemes under this section.

Those powers will include the ability to designate a “relevant Department”, which may or may not be OFMDFM themselves, to make a scheme to provide financial assistance – the detail of which must in all circumstances be approved by OFMDFM. In his answers to questions in the Assembly today Northern Ireland First Minister, the DUP’s Peter Robinson, added that

“The deputy First Minister and I have agreed that there should be a change to the Ministerial code which would ensure that that all of the schemes that would flow from this legislation would go to the Executive and would need to be approved before the schemes would proceed.”

i.e. The NI Executive, where the semi-detached polit-bureau can carry any vote, would only need to be consulted at the end of the process – although that detail isn’t in the Bill either. Full supplementaries here.

In addition to the Exceptional Circumstances described in clause 1 of the Bill

Exceptional circumstances: power to provide financial assistance

1. — (1) The powers conferred by this section are exercisable if the First Minister and deputy First Minister, acting jointly, determine :

(a) that exceptional circumstances exist,

(b) that it is desirable to provide financial assistance to prevent, control or mitigate any aspect or effect of those circumstances, and

(c) that such assistance ought to be provided in accordance with a scheme or schemes under this section.

There is also clause 2

Unsatisfactory funding arrangements: power to provide financial assistance

2. — (1) The powers conferred by this section are exercisable if the First Minister and deputy First Minister, acting jointly, determine :

(a) that a situation exists which requires financial assistance to be provided to tackle poverty, social exclusion or patterns of deprivation based on objective need,

(b) that arrangements to provide such financial assistance are not in place, or that such arrangements as are in place for that purpose are, or are likely to be, ineffective, inadequate or for any other reason unsatisfactory, and

(c) that such assistance ought to be provided in accordance with a scheme or schemes under this section.

, , , ,

  • Jimmy Sands

    This would be quite sinister if it were a real government. There is really no point in the UUP or SDLP staying on if this goes through.

  • Parrot Clocker

    Heho,

    The DUP/SF coalition have come up with another way to circumvent power sharing.

  • ZoonPol

    We are obliged to respect the rule of law but what if the rule of law itself becomes corrupt….

  • ulsterfan

    Should we be surprised if politicians seek greater power ,and what can we do if they are unaccountable?
    We need an active opposition.
    It would do no harm to the prospects of UU and SDLP if they took on that role.

  • Pete Baker,

    Is there a reason why you call (twice) the power-sharing dual monarchy a polit-bureau rather than the more commonly used speling politburo? If it were another blogger I would assume carelessness (or plain ignorance), but I am not so sure with you – I assume you’re making an obscure point, but I don’t get it.

  • Pete Baker

    Horseman

    There’s no obscure point being made.

    Just read it as ‘politburo’.

  • crownesq

    Yes another way of stealing the thunder of other Ministers – wait for an announcement on Housing around February time and poor old Margaret will have been outwitted again by the DUP/SF alliance party – I expect Dodds will make the announcement as he is fully aware of the pressing housing need (particularly in his own area) although it did take a bit if time for it to sink in as his reading of the allocations to various departments was not very clever but then he is a lawyer and not an accountant or was this really part of a sinister plot to neutralise SDLP/Unionists – lets hear the announcement Nigel

  • Wake up NI

    Haven’t we given these parties a mandate? You get what you vote for, and no surprise come 2011 they will dominate the political agenda again.

  • stupid question

    This may be this is a stupid question, but if we now have this three tiered ‘government’, would there be any merit in having a directly elected OFMDFM (obviously the name would change). Done on a weighted majority vote, so the candidate (or candidates) would have to have an overall majority in unionism and nationalism.

    The rationale being that it might encourage the assembly to be more of a … legislative assembly.

    Im sure there’s something that I’m missing (bar the loss of community veto), as I’ve never heard it mentioned.

  • Mick Fealty

    If this proposal goes through, then not only is the Belfast Agreement, to use the First Minister’s own words, ‘dead and cast into a Sadducee’s Grave’, so is the St Andrews Agreement.

    To which I can only say: that was bloody quick!

    Oh, and: “Welcome to the Joint Peronist Presidency of Northern Ireland!”

  • ZoonPol

    In very basic layman’s terms what does the above Bill mean in practice and what are the checks and balances in the Assembly for this to become law?