Stormont House Agreement (reduced to 750 words, then further digested to 350 and 140 words) #StormontTalks

For those who don’t want to read the full document here’s an easy to digest 750-word summary!. (At the bottom you’ll find an even more concise 350 word digest, along with downloadable versions to re-use.)

Wordle of Stormont House Agreement December 2014Final balanced budget to be agreed in January 2015.

Legislation before Assembly in January 2015 to push through Welfare changes; no new money for ‘flexibilities and top-ups’ added to address local Welfare need. The £114m welfare reform deduction to be proportionately reduced if implementation of welfare reform completed during 2015-16.

Devolution of Corporation Tax in April 2017 – still 27 months away. Welfare Bill needs to pass through Consideration Stage in Assembly before end of February 2015. Additional fiscal devolution may include Aggregates Levy, Stamp Duty Land Tax and Landfill Tax.

Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition to be established by June 2015 and report by December 2016.

Based on earlier Party Leader Talks (rather than the specific negotiations in Stormont House) the UK Government propose devolving responsibility for parades and protests to NI Assembly. OFMDFM to bring range of proposal to Executive by June 2015.

£150m of new UK Government funding (£30m annually for 5 years) for bodies to deal with the past.

Oral History Archive – independent and free from political interference – to be formed by Executive by 2016. Academic-led historical timeline and statistical analysis of the Troubles to report within 12 months of Archive establishment.

Mental Trauma Services (as recommended by Commission for Victims and Survivors) to be established within NHS but working closely with Victims and Survivors Service.

Legislation to establish independent Historical Investigations Unit (HIU), overseen by NI Policing Board, and aiming to complete work within five years of establishment. Legacy inquests (compliant with ECHR Article 2 requirements) to continue as separate process to HIU.

New Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR) to be established by UK and Irish Governments. Limited to five years of operation. Information provided to it will not be disclosed to law enforcement or intelligence agencies, and such information will be inadmissible in criminal and civil proceedings. Immune from judicial review, FOI, data protection and national archives legislation in both jurisdictions.

Implementation and Reconciliation Group (IRG) established to oversee themes, archives and information recovery. Themes report to be commissioned after five years.

By March 2015, Opposition arrangements to be put in place in Assembly allowing parties entitled to ministerial positions but who choose not to take them to be recognised and supported. [This falls short of John McCallister’s reform bill which would have allowed smaller parties to form part of Opposition.] Research and financial assistance to be provided cost neutral from within existing NI Assembly budgets. Speaking rights and ability to table business.

After an Assembly election and before FM/dFM selected and d’Hondt run, representatives from parties who confirm their intention to take Executive ministries will have seven days (or 14 days if Westminster legislation amended in time) to draft Programme for Government.

Executive departments to reduce from 12 to 9 in time for 2016 Assembly election. Independent audit of departmental spending to identify how societal divisions impact delivery of goods facilities and services, leading to ‘consideration’ of how best to reconfigure service delivery consistent with shared future. In future, Executive meeting agenda to be circulated a day in advance; process to stop papers festering and not being discussed; three ministers to be able to request Executive meeting to be convened within 3 days; any minister to be able to raise item under Any Other Business.

Establishment of new civic advisory panel by June 2015 to advise NI Executive. Chair appointed by OFMDFM.

Assembly to shrink in time for 2021 election down to five member constituencies (“or such other reduction as may be agreed”). Petition of Concern threshold remains at 30 members. Parties to agree protocol to change how Petition of Concern is used. New process for “more transparent and robust system” of MLA salaries and expenses.

Maximum policy consultation period requirement drops from 12 to 8 weeks.

UK and Irish Governments [but no mention of local parties] endorse the need for respect for and recognition of the Irish language in NI.

£700m capital borrowing to fund civil service voluntary exit scheme (£200m in 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18 and £100m in 2018-19).

Contribution of £500m new capital funding to support shared and integrated education subject to individual projects being agreed between Executive and UK Government.

Additional £350m of borrowing for infrastructure projects (£100m in 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18 and £50 in 2018-19).

Proceeds from sale of specific agreed assets [likely to include Belfast Harbour] to be retained in their entirety by NI Executive. The £100m loan from Treasury and £114m welfare deductions can be paid off from asset sales and capital budgets.

Additional €50m contribution towards PEACE IV funding by UK Government.

UK Government may gift surplus properties to provision of shared housing.

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Bonus – a 350 word version. Feel free to re-use and adapt these digests (attribution requested). Download as Word, PDF or JPEG

  • Executive budget agreed in January 2015. No new money for Welfare but local flexibilities and top-ups to be agreed.
  • Corporation Tax devolved in April 2017. Aggregates Levy, Stamp Duty Land Tax and Landfill Tax may be devolved.
  • Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition reports in 18 months. Responsibility for parades and protests devolved; Executive to propose mechanism.
  • NHS to run Mental Trauma Services working with Victims and Survivors Service.
  • £150m new funding for bodies dealing with past. Oral History Archive established, free from political interference. Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) overseen by NI Policing Board given five years. ECHR Article 2-compliant legacy inquests continue separately. Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR) given 5 years outside reach of police, intelligence agencies, courts, judicial review, FOI, data protection in both jurisdictions. Implementation and Reconciliation Group (IRG) to look at themes.
  • ‘Compact’ civic advisory panel by June 2015 to advise Executive.
  • Opposition arrangements by March 2015 give parties entitled to ministerial positions opportunity to be supported in Opposition with rights to speak, table business, research and funding.
  • Immediately after an Assembly election, big parties not going into Opposition given 7-14 days to draft Programme for Government before d’Hondt runs.
  • Executive departments drop to 9 in 2016. Departments will deliver services consistent with shared future. Executive to circulate agenda in advance; stop ignoring unpopular papers; allow three ministers to call emergency meeting within 3 days.
  • Five MLA constituencies by 2021 election. Petition of Concern protocol to be agreed. MLA salaries and expenses to be more transparent and robust
  • Maximum policy consultation period drops from 12 to 8 weeks.
  • Two governments say Irish language to be respected and recognised in NI.
  • £700m loan for civil service voluntary exit scheme.
  • £500m capital funding for shared and integrated education projects (agreed by Executive and UK Government).
  • £350m loan for infrastructure projects.
  • Specific agreed assets to be sold; proceeds retained by Executive and used to pay off £100m Treasury loan and £114m welfare deductions which may yet be reduced.
  • UK to invest additional €50m in PEACE IV.
  • Surplus UK Government properties could be gifted to shared housing.

And in 140 words …

Corporation Tax devolved by April 2017. £700m loan for civil service voluntary redundancies; £500m capital for shared and integrated education; £350m infrastructure loan; additional €50m for PEACE IV. Executive to bank proceeds from sale of local assets.

No new money but local flexibilities/top-ups for Welfare.

£150m to fund Oral History Archive, Historical Investigations Unit (HIU), Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR) and Implementation and Reconciliation Group (IRG) looking at themes.

Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition reports by January 2016. Parading will be devolved (mechanism proposed by Executive). NHS-run Mental Trauma Services for victims.

‘Compact’ civic advisory panel to advise Executive (drops to 9 departments by 2016). Platform for Government in future drafted before d’Hondt run.

Opposition arrangements by March 2015. Five MLA constituencies by 2021; their salaries/expenses to be more transparent/robust. Changes to Petition of Concern mechanism.

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  • smcgiff

    Nothing really “sexy” in that? What’s the most significant thing, what caused the impasse? Are we to be impressed the above was agreed?

    Maybe I’m missing something.

  • streetlegal

    This is a big win for the DUP and David Cameron as they have got the budget through and Provisional Sinn Fein have conceded to welfare cuts and the austerity agenda, while the DUP have conceded nothing on the Sinn Fein wishlist. No agreement on parades or flags, no Irish language act. Nothing in fact, but some cosmetic stuff on ‘the past’.

  • Jag

    Many thanks Alan, that’s some precis, well done.

    “Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition to be established by June 2015 and report by December 2016.”

    Talks, commissions and inquiries (and in 2014 “graduated responses”) are the tools by which politicians kick issues into the long grass.

  • aber1991

    You are correct. A total victory for the Protestants.

    “Independent audit of departmental spending to identify how societal divisions impact delivery of goods facilities and services, leading to ‘consideration’ of how best to reconfigure service delivery consistent with shared future”

    If that means what I suspect it means, I oppose it.

  • Tacapall

    “New Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR) to be established by UK and Irish Governments. Limited to five years of operation. Information provided to it will not be disclosed to
    law enforcement or intelligence agencies, and such information will be inadmissible in criminal and civil proceedings. Immune from judicial review, FOI, data protection and national archives legislation in both
    jurisdictions”

    Indeed the DUP got everything they wanted, so is the above a different way of handing out comfort letters and royal royal prerogatives for all those RUC special branch/UVF/UDA officers ?

  • Jag

    As Madame Villiers said yesterday, the Devil is in the detail.

    MMG has just issued a statement which includes the following

    “We agreed a welfare protection package for the most vulnerable people in our society to ensure there is no reduction in benefits within the control of the Assembly.

    “These protections are unique to the north of Ireland and are in sharp contrast to the austerity-driven welfare system being rolled out in Britain.”

    http://www.sinnfein.ie/contents/32751

  • Dan

    that, as far as i’m concerned, should be subject to a referendum

  • Mister_Joe

    If the UK and Irish Prime Ministers can both pretend that this represents enormous progress, why can’t you?

  • Zig70

    Did I read an amnesty between the lines? such information will be inadmissible in criminal and civil proceedings. Immune from judicial review, FOI, data protection and national archives legislation in both jurisdictions. Didn’t some get caught out before taking someones word for legal fact? 96MLAs is still far too many.

  • Bryan Magee

    I think its impressive in its range,

  • Ian James Parsley

    Did they? Which paragraph?

  • Zeno1

    I’ll read the link in the morning but what really happened is SF are now implementing Tory policy, cutting jobs and borrowing the money and selling assets to do it. No new money for welfare, but they were allowed to pay for that by putting people on the dole. They couldn’t even get a reduction in the fines. They bent the knee.

  • Jag

    I’m still looking for it too Ian, am getting the sinking feeling that the Devil really is lurking in this detail. Can’t see how SF has squared the circle.

  • Not an amnesty. So participating won’t lead to prosecution – but it offers no guarantee from prosecution if the police and courts find the evidence from other sources at a later date.

  • tmitch57

    Alan,
    I really appreciate the summaries–especially the 350 word one. I think the most important thing to come out of this was the provisions for an official opposition at Stormont–potentially the start of the breaking of the duopoly and the musical chairs at Stormont. Something is better than nothing. But it seems like small potatoes for two years of negotiations.

  • Jag

    Do we yet have any estimates of the anticipated scale of headcount loss in the public sector?

    According to the ONS, a fortnight ago (see linked report below), NI has a public sector of 213k representing 26.5% of the workforce. The UK average is 17%, in London it is just 15%. If we’re to move to the UK average, that implies a loss of 70,000 jobs to bring us down to 141,000. Surely to God the GBP 700m loan from Westminster to fund public sector redundancies doesn’t equate to 70,000 jobs? And where are these people to find work, will we see the unemployment rate double from 6.6% to 13% (the Republic’s unemployment rate is currently estimated at 10.7%) ? Don’t expect the private sector to take up that sort of slack, with 50,000 private sector jobs added in the past four years.

    http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_387993.pdf

  • Zeno1

    Because it’s a voluntary scheme I imagine the people at the top end of their pay scales and nearer to retirement will be those most likely to take it up. Around 12.000 redundancies at 60k each would cost around £700 million. But that would take about £400 million a year out of the economy in lost salaries and lead to further job losses.

    We can’t go down to the UK average because we don’t have the economies of scale. They have over 60 million mostly in fairly dense population centres, while we have 1.8 million spread over NI.

  • Zeno1

    ” £700m loan for civil service voluntary redundancies;”

    Hold on, does it actually say Civil Service? They only employ 26,500

  • Jag

    It’s nearly one week later, and we still don’t know what specific welfare payment will be reformed/cut. Will it be disability, rent assistance, housing allowance, unemployment, child allowances? Will there be caps?

    If there is in fact a different system used in NI, will there still be a GBP 1bn bill for a new software system, or was that all a load of “who shot John”

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Most encouraging bits of this are in the middle:
    – Oral History Archive – “Academic-led historical timeline and statistical analysis of the Troubles” – sounds very promising! We need the central ‘big picture’ facts and patterns to be more widely known. Will help reconciliation big time.
    – Mental Trauma Services to be established within NHS – huge problem that needs tackling, step in right direction.
    – Historical Investigations Unit (HIU), overseen by NI Policing Board, and aiming to complete work within five years of establishment. Works gets done, but there is a finite end to it. Needs proper funding though. Important too.
    – New Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR) – another essential part of the jigsaw. Good too that it’s finite – and it needs proper funding so it can get through its work in the time.
    – Implementation and Reconciliation Group (IRG) established to oversee themes, archives and information recovery. The devil will be in the detail of what gets covered as a theme. As I mentioned at time of Haass, the Haass example list betrayed a rather nationalist-biased take on events. Important that ‘themes’ include detailed exploration of several aspects of Republican ideology which underpinned the ‘Armed Struggle’ e.g. ideas of cultural purity, misapplication of developing world colonial theory, revering of blood sacrifice, etc, as well as the more familiar territory of unionist political misrule, industrial decline etc.
    – Opposition arrangements – it’s clear this is needed. Very encouraging there is movement on this.