34 bills in four and a half years; Example of a “Do Nothing” Executive?

It is now pretty much seen as very likely that our government will fall at some point in the next few months. In this fit of pessimism I thought I would take a look back at the record of this Assembly since it was elected back in May 2011.

I must confess the Irish News political correspondent, John Manley back in March 2013 did take a look at this and found that the Assembly had passed just 11 bills in nearly two years. To put this in context, the Scottish Parliament passes more than that in just one year.

Using the good old Assembly website, I was able to add up all of the pieces of legislation passed by our MLAs and to date they have passed 37 pieces of legislation. When you drill down, you actually find that the bulk of these bills are mostly housekeeping pieces of legislation like the Budget Bill. Probably the most substantive bill of the lot is the 2014 Local Government Bill. What’s even more remarkable that even though our MLA’s have a decent number of powers to bring in private members bills just 3 of the 37 bills passed have been “Non-Executive bills” (most famous one was Civil Service (Special Advisors) Bill)

In comparison, the Scottish Parliament even with the Independence Referendum as a huge focus, has passed 64 bills during the same period. The Welsh Assembly (with less powers in fairness) passed 21 pieces of legislation. 

Another polarized legislature would be the United States Congress, where the most recent 113th session (regarded as more un-productive than the famous “Do nothing” Congress from 1946-48) passed a total of 251 laws. 

No shortage of issues facing us from unemployment, health care, poverty, investment and the environment. Does our Executive lack the will to act or the imagination to come up with solutions? Perhaps this is all a bit harsh, we do have a divided government, but one consequence has been a possible “do nothing” Executive.

UPDATE-During the 2007-2011 Assembly term the house passed 69 pieces of legislation. 64 of which were Executive bills. That means the number of Executive bills has halved from the previous session.

David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs