Lords amendment: No. 77, in page 12, line 18, leave out from ("because") to ("other") in line 19 and insert
("it is not committed to such of its members as are or might become Ministers or junior Ministers observing the")
§ Mr. Murphy
The Government amendments in this group reflect comments made during earlier stages of the Bill and during our consultation with the Northern Ireland parties during the recess.
Amendment No. 77 addresses the feelings that many had that the Bill's provisions on excluding parties from office were too vague. In particular, it was felt that the ability to exclude a party because of the "likely failure" of its members to uphold the pledge of office was too hard to judge and could leave a party vulnerable to exclusion because of the behaviour of an individual.
The amendment makes it clear that exclusion under the provision is based on the Assembly's judgment of the party's policy and is possible if the Assembly believes that the party is not committed to its Ministers upholding the pledge of office. For example, a party might come up with a firm policy of not complying with the decisions of the Executive Committee or reject out of hand the provisions of the ministerial code of conduct.
Amendment No. 81 ensures that if the Secretary of State believes that the Assembly should consider a motion for exclusion, she must require the Presiding Officer to move a motion for the Assembly to debate and to vote on.
During earlier stages of the Bill in this place, hon. Members pointed out that the Bill gave the Secretary of State the option not to press for a motion for exclusion, even if she felt that one would be justified in the circumstances. Government amendment No. 79 is therefore purely a drafting point, making it clear that all resolutions under the clause will require cross-community support to be successful. I commend the amendments to the House.
§ Lords amendment agreed to.
§ Lords amendments Nos. 78 to 82 agreed to.