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:

I think that is where the provisions in the Bill for the Secretary of State to call an election in the event that he judges that there is no longer broad cross-community support are critical. That underpins the whole basis of government in the Good Friday agreement, which is that Government should have broad cross-community support. If one ended up in a situation in which there were Ministers of only one party, that would be very unlikely indeed to command broad cross-community support, and you would expect the Secretary of State to step in. I think there are protections against that.

I have also identified the fact that if there is no Executive Committee meeting, because there is no First or Deputy First Minister, the ability of Ministers to take significant, controversial or cross-cutting decisions is heavily constrained. They cannot take such decisions, and the courts have already demonstrated their readiness to step in if they think that that boundary has been crossed. So this sets up a mechanism in which this is a caretaker Administration keeping the business of government and public services going, but unable to take it in new, strategic directions. So I think there are protections in place.