Lords amendment: No. 83, in page 13, line 27, at end insert—
("(3A) An Assembly elected under this section or section (Extraordinary elections) shall meet within the period of eight days beginning with the day of the poll at which it is elected.
(3B) For the purposes of subsection (3A), a Saturday, a Sunday, Christmas Day, Good Friday and any day which is a bank holiday in Northern Ireland shall be disregarded.")
Mr. Deputy Speaker
With this, it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendments Nos. 84 to 86 and 104.
§ Mr. Ingram
Once again, the amendments reflect the valuable debates that we have had on the Bill here and in the other place. Amendment No. 83 provides for the Assembly to meet within eight days of its election, and is clearly an essential amendment.
The broad theme of the group is the Secretary of State's exceptional powers to deal with crises in the devolved institutions. As it passed through the House during the earlier stages, the Bill included a number of such powers. The Secretary of State had the power to dissolve the Assembly and call fresh elections if she believed that the First Minister and Deputy First Minister and the Northern Ireland Ministers were not able to carry out their functions. Similarly, the Secretary of State had the power to prorogue the Assembly without fresh elections.
During debates on the Bill, there was general agreement across the party divide in Northern Ireland that such powers amounted to planning for failure, which could prove counter-productive.
The people of Northern Ireland have made clear their views on the Belfast agreement. It is in no one's interests to be seen to undermine the structures that received such an overwhelming endorsement at the polls.
We have considered the views expressed in this place and from the parties, and the amendments accordingly remove the exceptional powers of the Secretary of State. The option of Westminster legislation always remains—
§ It being Ten o'clock, further consideration of the Lords amendments stood adjourned.