Legislative Consent Motion vs Accelerated Passage

I have noticed a slight disagreement between Sinn Fein and the SDLP over the virtues of Margaret Ritchie as Social Development introducing a Welfare Reform Bill under accelerated passage and the current move by the DUP/Sinn Fein to introduce reforms through the Legislative Consent Motion (LCM).

Legislative Consent Motion

So let’s start off with, what exactly is a Legislative Consent Motion? The NI Assembly website says it is…

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HOWEVER, a Legislative Consent Motion (governed under Standing Order 42a) usually must go before a committee to receive scrutiny as the order states;

(6) Upon a legislative consent memorandum being laid before the Assembly, those provisions of the Bill dealing with a devolution matter shall stand referred to the appropriate statutory committee unless the Assembly shall order otherwise.

(7) The committee may, within 15 working days from the date of referral, consider those provisions of the Bill which deal with a devolution matter and report its opinion thereon to the Assembly.

(8) A legislative consent motion shall not normally be moved until at least—

(a) 5 working days after publication of the committee report; or

(b) 20 working days after the date of referral to the committee.

But this morning the Assembly suspended this standing order and the motion will pass through without committee scrutiny. It should be noted that according to Twitter, the Northern Ireland Office only published this bill at 10:47am this morning on social media (The debate began in the chamber just after 11am).

The other key question being laid by the SDLP is that Sinn Fein are handing over Welfare Powers to London. From what I can find, they are right in that Westminster will deal with this (although this will be dealt with as an “Order in Council” and is unlikely to even go before the House of Commons). However, in this case, Westminster is only acting upon what the DUP and Sinn Fein have agreed to here.

Although, if the order has powers in it to change things such as benefit caps, then that could have future impacts and would have been likely found if it had gone before a committee.

Accelerated Passage

What is it? Back to the Assembly website;

Under the Accelerated Passage procedure, a Bill can pass all stages in as little as ten days, but in no less time. This process skips the Committee Stage. Accelerated Passage Procedure requires cross-community support within the meaning of the Act.

This was used by the SDLP’s Margaret Ritchie in 2007 in putting through a Welfare Reform bill. This does skip the Committee stage which is an important party of the scrutiny process, but this process is 100% controlled by the Assembly and there is an opportunity for scrutiny at Consideration Stage.

If I have missed anything, please let me know in the comments section….

 

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  • Catcher in the Rye

    David,

    From what I can find, they are right in that Westminster will deal with this (although this will be dealt with as an “Order in Council” and is unlikely to even go before the House of Commons).

    Small correction. The Bill says that each Order in Council made under the proposed legislation must be laid before and approved by both houses of parliament. In both cases they’re likely to be waved through on an oral vote, although theoretically, the SDLP and Labour could get together to force a recorded vote.

  • Granni Trixie

    I think leaving out scrutiny is, at the very least, not good practice. Like many I also think that handing over Welfore Reform to Westminster is tantamount to throwing in the sponge as regards being self governing, Whatever.

    But from the POV of getting Welfare over the line we have had a good result.
    The SDLP are in a weak position in all their criticisms however because of a lack of practical solutions. At least with some meeting of minds on the welfare problem NI can go ahead but if we followed SDLP “principles” it would be stalemate.
    When will SDLP learn that politics is the art of the possible?

  • Catcher in the Rye

    it is more than bad practice. The assembly were asked to vote blindly on a bill without even having a chance to actually discuss it.

    The SDLP were right to highlight this abuse of procedure. I don’t agree with all of their objections but there was no need for welfare to be kicked back to Westminster. The only reason why this was done was so that Sinn Féin could blame the British.

  • SDLP supporter

    Granni, do you not feel even a teeny bit embarrassed that, having called for a week to consider the implications of the Stormont House ‘deal’, Alliance rolled over within a few hours and supported the legislative consent move when they couldn’t possibly have absorbed the implications of the welfare arrangements in the ‘deal’?

  • hugh mccloy

    Does anyone know why the standing orders were removed to for the vocal vote? and who did not want a on record vote SF or DUP

  • Kevin Breslin

    Thanks David.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    “although theoretically, the SDLP and Labour could get together to force a recorded vote” No Chance ! Jeremy is already in the Sinn Fein Bag !

  • Granni Trixie

    Not even a teeny bit.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Countries and many devolved regions across Europe with higher austerity and debt down sell their autonomy down the road to their creditors. This is something that even the Greeks wouldn’t do.
    Sinn Féin’s biggest challenge to the electorate will be ensuring this measure is temporary as possible, and that autonomy over the mitigation measures is not the next thing that is “sold off”.

    It is partially to blame the British, but the other side of the coin is that the DUP and the UK government don’t trust Sinn Féin on this issue.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Alliance could still have backed welfare reform without backing legislative consent, weren’t they on different bills? Backing legislative consent is agreeing the UK should control welfare unilaterally until 2017.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I wouldn’t rule out Labour and the SNP opposing this bill, remember when the SDLP had the social security portfolio and Labour were in government such a move wasn’t necessary. Also the damage to either Sinn Féin or Labour or indeed Corbyn will be extremely minor. Sinn Féin backed measures for the banking guarantee in the Republic and no one seems to care, Westminster, a place they don’t even go to relying on a party which is no more than a useful like-mind they’ll care even less.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    “Wesrminster, a place they don’t even go !” You underestimate the Shinners ! (They Go Everywhere – FFS they where even out on the Ravenhill Road last night ! ) I am sure some of their bright sparks are considering bending Corbyn’s ears to let the Labour Party run in NI next Assembly Elections to damage the SDLP vote, however that is also a double edged sword as it could also damage the Nationalist Vote !

  • Kevin Breslin

    I really don’t think so, firstly if Sinn Féin wanted another Labour Party competing with them in the North, they’d prefer the Irish Labour Party. Corbyn is not sold on standing in Northern Ireland, neither is the mainsteam of British Labour … and if you were to look at the Northern Ireland Conservatives impact on right-wing unionism, there’s very little difference that Labour Party NI will make much inroads against the SDLP, Alliance, Herman (unless they recruit her), the Greens, Sinn Féin and the left-wing spectrum over here.

    Finally this has very little to do with the Westminster vote.

  • Granni Trixie

    Sorry Kevin – I just don’t know enough about this.

    But I am clear that I would not have chosen to go down the route of passing the buck to Westminster – yet it seems to be the only way SF was going to agree to reforms NI style. We are where we are.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Well Welfare Reform would be an urgent priority of a United Ireland anyway. The control from Westminster will be returned, but act of returning it cannot be undone.

    Handing control back to Westminster is reputation damaging to both parties, Sinn Féin more than the DUP.

    In my opinion Sinn Féin need to look at parallel processing rather than a series of talks, where issues are treated in isolation with no consideration of the relationship one thing might have to another. Northern Irish politics and the way SF and the DUP carry it out, doesn’t allow much sideways action, it’s all about plowing forward.

    There was no obvious advantage and no obvious reason to why the Alliance would back legislative consent on this matter, unless they actually agreed with it in principle on some level, this can be broken down into two options either we don’t deserve the powers because we can’t use them or having the powers doesn’t help us anyway.

    Yes the SDLP does have to provide an alternative, but in fairness Alliance need to provide an explanation for this.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    that comparison is a bit unfair. The Brits aren’t “creditors” but they are the paymasters and they feel entitled to a say in how their money is spent, especially as they have various obligations to ensure that a more or less uniform welfare system is implemented across the UK.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    The control from Westminster will be returned, but act of returning it cannot be undone.

    Um, the powers granted to Westminster automatically expire in 2016.

    But I agree – Alliance made a mistake to back the legislative consent. I think that Alliance probably thought they wanted to show that they were being consistent in supporting the implementation of welfare reform as a means to break the logjam. But they should have stood against the needless surrender of powers by the Assembly, as well as the fait accompli presented to the assembly by OFMDFM.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    TE Lawrence,

    I am not sure how you could have missed this, but apparently you are unaware that SF have an abstention policy. That means there are no Sinn Féin MPs in the House of Commons, therefore they cannot get together with Labour to force a recorded vote.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Yeah Catcher I am fully aware of Arthur Griffiths Sinn Fein Abstentionist Policy of Westminster from 1905. As a matter of fact it must be one of the oldest policies still maintained by an active UK/Irish Political Party. As I am not a Republican it is unfair for me to make any call on it but I am certain today that a Jeremy Corbyn lead Labour Party and Scottish and Welsh Nationalists would very much welcome Sinn Fein alongside them on the opposition benches of Westminster. It would be interesting to see a survey conducted amounst Republican Supporters. My guess would be that the Over 40s would still be in favour of the Westminster Abstention but the Under 40s would wish the Party to take its seats. Would be an interesting Survey !

  • Kevin Breslin

    Sorry, I disagree the financing is not raised entirely by the English, Scottish and Welsh but mostly by the Northern Irish, that money is then given back to the Northern Irish with the Barnett subsidy minus that which the UK government takes to cover NI’s reserved powers and the administration of the NIO.

    My understanding is 80-90% is self raised, so the “it’s their money so their call” doesn’t cut it with me. They are only 10-20% paymasters, that should deprive them of an 80% call at least. Since they control defence, monetary policy, immigration services … these reserved matters they pay for they have a call over.

    If it were a system where the UK government controlled the subvention for reserved powers, central government, the NIO AND welfare, and the NI Assembly funds the rest from its own taxpayers for the devolved stuff. NI would simply be a colony with 18 MPs. Personally I’d be surprised if the Reserved Powers, the NIO, NI’s share of Defence spend, Monetary spend and the unmitigated Welfare spend combined was smaller than the Barnett contribution. In other words their money may not even cover it.

  • Kevin Breslin

    As if Stormont will be opporatonal on New Year’s Eve!

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Sorry, I disagree the financing is not raised entirely by the English, Scottish and Welsh but mostly by the Northern Irish

    No, you’re wrong. The gap in welfare funding is made up exclusively by the British government. They agree to fund the gap in exchange for us retaining parity.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    If you’re fully aware of it, why did you bring up the topic of Sinn Féin in the context of procedural matters in the House of Commons ?

  • Kevin Breslin

    I don’t think you understand how the Barnett System works, there is a set figure subvention of around 14% on top of raised revenues to be spent on the region. Some of the 114% of locally raised revenue gets taken back in terms of a national contribution anyway, another bit goes to the NIO, and what’s left goes to Stormont. Except there is no control over welfare. I’m saying that the combined sum of NI’s national contribution, the NIO costs and welfare combined would be more than 14%.

    Stormont would have administrative control over less than its self-raised revenue in that case.

  • “My understanding is 80-90% is self raised…”

    Your understanding is flawed.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    kevin, I am very sorry but I cannot understand a word of this. What’s this 114% you’re talking about ?

    The British government provide top-up funding to support welfare spending which is above the level of the Barnett support. The last time I checked, which was several years ago, that figure was something like £2.8bn. It has increased since then. This is nothing to do with Barnett, as far as I know.

  • “I don’t think you understand how the Barnett System works, there is a set figure subvention of around 14% on top of raised revenues to be spent on the region.”

    I don’t think you understand how the Barnett System works. Or anything else, for that matter…

    Here’s a useful primer

    The UK’s devolved administrations are, for the most part, financed by what is known as a ‘block grant and formula’ system’. As a block grant, the funding allocated to them can be spent freely by the devolved administrations as they see fit. They are not tied to spending it on any particular functions. The ‘formula’ part relates to how it is calculated – for which the Barnett formula is used.

    The formula does not relate to all public spending in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. The UK Government continues to spend on a range of non-devolved functions as well. More than 60 per cent of ‘territorially identifiable’ public spending in Scotland comes from the Scottish Government, and the balance from the UK Government. In Wales, the proportion is about 55 per cent of all territorially identifiable spending. The rest is by the UK Government, and social security payments – welfare benefits and pensions – makes up the bulk of that. (The figures for Northern Ireland are rather confusing, as social security is devolved but subject to requirements to ensure there is parity with the system in Great Britain – something that has become an increasing source of controversy in 2014, with the UK Government’s welfare reform agenda.)

    The formula gives the devolved administrations a proportionate share of spending on ‘comparable’ functions in England, given their populations compared to England’s. [added emphasis throughout]

    It has has nothing to do with “raised revenues” in Northern Ireland, nor in Scotland, nor in Wales.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I agree with that. It’s something like English spend per capita X population X a scaling factor.

    Barnett formula arrangement also gives each devolved region a block grant which is their’s to spend under UK law as in the second sentence. Which means Westminster surrendered control over the money. Basically the it’s “their money argument” is an attack on how Barnett works. It’s a lot more complicated on a who pays what basis.

    Based on last year’s figures, The (known) raised revenue from NI is around £15 billion annually, with a total annual spend of around £25 billion, of which Stormont and the NIO controls £20 billion, and which welfare is £2.8 billion, (but £8.8 billion as social protection if pensions are included). The difference is made up of £3 billion goes towards NI’s UK national contributions in terms of defence, debt interest, civil list, national capital projects etc. with £2 billion in non identifiable spend. All things the UK government controls.

    Westminster spends £5billion of its own money on NI’s total national contribution. Stormont spends £5 billion more than NI raises as it stands. Take welfare out of the equation it’s £2.2 billion over NI’s revenue.

    Westminster would be spending £7.8 billion on “NI stuff” it has control over, including NI’s share of the deficit and allocated national contribution to things like defence etc. This is closer to £8 billion when NS oil receipts are included.

    So in terms of its net fiscal deficit with the U.K. of 10 billion, half is spent by Westminster and half by Stormont. However Stormont hands over welfare and it’s closer to four fifths by Westminster, one fifth by Stormont.

    Of course while I acknowledge Stormont isn’t living within its means to a tune of £2.2 billion if welfare is Westminster controlled, the elephant in the room is that neither is the UK. So apologies where necessary.