The Ulster Unionists have launched a 5 point plan to clean up Stormont;
Election of Speaker
It is vital that the public and the Assembly can have confidence in the impartiality of the Speaker. In the last mandate this was brought into disrepute.
The election of the Speaker can no longer be subject to a carve-up between the two largest parties. We want to see future Speakers elected through a secret ballot of MLAs.
Executive Ministers must be effectively scrutinised. That role should be performed by the Assembly’s statutory committees, yet their legal duty is to “advise and assist” Ministers, not scrutinise them. We want to strengthen the role of Assembly Committees, making effective, detailed scrutiny a statutory duty.
Petitions of Concern
We must put an end to the abuse of Petitions of Concern, which were designed specifically to protect minority interests, not political parties. No one envisaged the situation where one party had sufficient MLAs to bring forward a PoC on their own. This has corrupted the intent of the PoC, allowing one party to hold a veto over the Assembly. The Petition of Concern was designed to be a valuable mechanism to protect minorities from harmful law changes. Instead we have seen it deployed to protect Nelson McCausland, Sammy Wilson and most recently the Speaker Robin Newton from criticism.
The reduction in the number of MLAs sees the need for a review of the operation of the Petition of Concern mechanism. We would propose a requirement that the signatories must come from more than one party, this maintains the original intent of the petition while limiting opportunities for misuse.
Transparency in Political Donations
The time is right to introduce transparency in political donations. The public want openness at the heart of government, something the DUP and Sinn Fein Executive have a shabby record of.
We want the public to have confidence in the decision makers, and providing them with the information on who is making donations to political parties would be an important step in the right direction.
We have written to the Secretary of State proposing that records of donations to political parties are published from the start of the 2017/2018 financial year.