Examination of Witness

Part of Northern Ireland (Ministers, Elections and Petitions of Concern) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:02 pm ar 29 Mehefin 2021.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Sir Jonathan Stephens:

The fundamental position is that the Bill essentially provides for a form of caretaker Administration in the absence of the formation of a full Executive. Without an Executive Committee or an Executive meeting—there cannot be an Executive without a First and Deputy First Minister—as you say, Mr Robinson, decisions cannot be taken on issues that are cross-cutting, significant or controversial. That in itself will be a significant constraint. During the absence of Ministers, cases were brought before the courts arguing that decisions had been reached without the required authority, and the courts policed that quite robustly. No doubt they will police these provisions equally robustly.

Although there might not be an Executive Committee meeting in place, there is likely to be agreement on a programme for government, even if it was of the previous Administration. That will provide an overview, as it were, of the direction of the Government under which a caretaker Administration would be able to continue to operate. I think there are protections in place, but I continue to come back to the point that no system is perfect, and there should be no doubt that the absence of a properly functioning Executive for the periods of time that could be possible under the Bill would itself have serious consequences, but at least we would not be in a situation where there was no direction and no decision making at all.