Northern Ireland Politics (continued)

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  • Created on: 25-04-18 21:59
what are the 3 ways that the Assembly may hold the Executive to account over questions/issues that concern them or their constituents?
questions for oral answer, written questions and adjournment debates
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how are questions for oral answer chosen?
questions are submitted in advance, 20 of these will be randomly selected and MLAs will have an opportunity for a follow-up or supplementary question
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what is topical question time?
gives MLAs an extra 15 mins to question ministers on current issues. Significantly, ministers won't have advance notice of these questions
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what is the benefit of written questions?
is a good way for MLAs to raise key specific issues which relate to a very specific constituency concern and it is also hard to deny a response if it is written down
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what is the limit of questions per day with each MLA?
5
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when are adjournment debates held?
held at the end of plenary sessions, usually on Tuesdays, between 3 and 6 pm
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can ministers still ignore their coms?
yes- although this has been reduced by the St.Andrews Agreement where many of the infamous solo runs took place
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what are Ad Hoc coms?
temporary coms that are set up to deal with particular issues, eg the Ad Hoc com on Local Postal Services (2008)
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what are joint coms?
they consider matters that affect more than one com eg Joint meeting of the Com for Justice and Com for Health, Social Services and Public Safety (2010)
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which are the most significant coms?
statuary coms
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how is the membership of all the coms determined?
by party strength- that is the largest parties have more numbers on the coms
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how many members do all coms have?
11
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what are some of the significant powers that statuary coms have?
the ability to scrutinise legislation line by line and to suggest relevant amendments, the ability to scrutinise the actions of their minister, the ability to conduct inquiries, the ability to suggest change and the ability to hold reviews
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what is the majority of the minister's and their respective com's time?
shaped by Forward Work Plans which outline the com's work for each session which are largely constructed in line with the relevant minister's policy proposals and are designed to help these proposals go through as quickly and efficiently as possible
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what is the main criticism of this?
that there is little time left for inquiries and this may be a potential criticism when it comes to the scrutiny role
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which bill addressed the potential problem of a lack of formal opposition?
John McCallister's Assembly and Executive Reform (Assembly Opposition)
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when was the first opposition day held and what topics were discussed?
26 Sep 2016, when questions were asked about NAMA, pensions for women and rural banking
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what is one of the main reasons why (especially before an opposition was formed) the Executive often goes unchallenged?
due to the consociational nature of the NI system which requires a power-sharing Executive there may be as many as 5 of the main parties on the Executive, making them unlikely to vote against Executive legislation
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what are MLAs elected primarily on the base on?
their party legislation
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what are some of the ways in which MLAs can carry out their representative role?
raising a constituency issue through debates written questions etc, ensuring that constituency concerns are taken into consideration for new legislation by taking part in line-by-line scrutiny and introduce a PMB to address a constituency issue
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what are some of the additional ways in which MLAs can carry out their representative role?
MLAs can join All Party Groups (APGs) to look at issues relevant to constituents (there are currently 35 APGs) and in their constituents MLAs hold surgeries and can act as a local dignitary by opening new facilities or attending school events
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what helps provide ample representation?
the fact that they have 5 MLAs for each constituency provides ample representation for relatively small constituencies compared to the UK
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why do bigger parties have an advantage when dealing with constituency concerns?
bigger parties tend to have bigger constituency offices, more staff and therefore more people to actually get things done (this means that constituency workers are more likely to hold on to their seats)
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what arguments would supporters of MLAs use to say that they work hard for their money?
that MLAs are constantly busy and spend a lot of time working behind the scenes to get good quality legislationpassed
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what arguments would critics of MLAs use to say that they don't work hard enough for their money?
that they don't justify their lucrative salary of on average around £50,000 (nearly double the average living wage in NI)- especially now that the Assembly isn't running
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in short what are the 3 key functions of the Assembly?
representation, legislation and scrutiny
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what are some of the recent Assembly reforms?
the number of MLAs being reduced from 108 to 90 and the reduction in the number of departments from 12 to 9
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how is power sharing protected in the NI Assembly?
mandatory legislation, FM and DFM one must be unionist and other nationalist, D'Hondt ensures all parties are represented, PoC helps prevent discriminatory legislation, justice ministers chosen by cross-community vote and consent principle
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what is the threshlod of Executive seats a party must have if they want to become part of the opposition?
8%
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do parties in the opposition receive financial assistance to help criticise the Executive effectively curtesy of the Opposition Bill?
yes
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how many days are set aside for Opposition days where the opposition can choose any topic they want to debate?
10
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is there a formal title for the leader of the Opposition?
no
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what were some of the features of the St.Andrews agreement?
ministerial code introduced, FM/DFM could determine if matter should be decided by whole Executive com rather than 1 minister, FM nominated by largest party, DFM by largest party of other community
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what are some of the features of the Hillsborough Castle Agreement?
policing and justice devolved to NI, com set up to review parading issues and working com established to recommend improvements in operation of the Executive
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what are some of the features of the Stormont House Agreement?
number of MLAs reduced from 108 to 90, Executive departments reduced from 12 to 7, political parties could refuse seats on the Executive and set up an official opposition and corporation tax powers were devolved to Stormont
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what are some of the features of the Fresh Start Agreement?
additional £500 million in financial support from London, corporation tax devolved by 2018, measures to combat cross-border crime and measures to address flags and parades to go ahead
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how is power sharing protected?
Executive ministers chosen (mostly) by D'Hondt, cross community support, PoC and com scrutiny
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what are some of the strengths of statuary coms?
their composition through D'Hondt forces parties of different backgrounds to share views and work together, coms are locally based and are therefore closest to their constituents, calling for persons and papers, highlights vital issues eg suicide
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what are the roles of Assembly coms?
scrutinise the Executive ministers and their departments, review the administration/govenance of NI, call persons and papers, initiate inquiries and produce reports on key areas of concern, introduce com bill, advise on departmental budgets and plans
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what is an example of an Assembly advisory com at work?
in 2013 the Justice Com led an abortion review to ensure that the Belfast clinic was complying fully with the criminal law in relation to abortion in NI
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what is an example of criticism of com work in the Assembly?
the MLA Trevor Lunn (Education Spokesman) criticised the com for spending more time arguing with the minister Caitriona Ruane and other MLAs on the com rather than moving education in NI forward (2007-11)
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what is an example of a report produced by a com?
Culture, Arts and Leisure (CAL) Com Report in Creative Industries in NI
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what is an example of a com taking a vote of no confidence against their minister?
in 2009 the Environment Com had a vote of no confidence (6-4) against the then Environmental minister Sammy Wilson after he denied man-made climate change
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what are some of the arguments that support the idea that Assembly coms are ineffective?
cheap political points scoring, coms have limited powers, coms can be ignored by their minister, Executive ministers can be slow to respond to coms questions, inefficient time/funidng and poor attendance (81% average attendance rate)
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which MLA had the lowest com attendance rate?
Patsy McGlone (SDLP)- turned up for just 12% of com meetings for Standards and Privileges
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what are some examples of some Statuary coms?
Education, Environement, Justice and Social Development
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what are some of the arguments that support the idea that the NI Assembly has a high level of legislative effectiveness?
local laws for local issues, legislation based on cross community support, effective legislalation (eg plastic bag levy), PMBs, sources of legislation and key Executve bills and programmes for gov
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what are some of the arguments that support the idea that the NI Assembly has a low level of legislative effectiveness?
limited nature of legislative powers, gridlock on controversial legislation (eg ILA), lack of legislation, power sharing discourages the legislative process, PoC provides a veto for SF and DUP and lack of PMBS
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what are some of the arguments for direct rule?
limits scope for secterianism to influence decisions, direct rule ministers accountable through question time and the NI affairs select com, more stable than devolved gov, guarentees same set of standards across UK and ensures NI is always governed
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what are some of the arguements against direct rule?
democratic deficit, devolution allows for more open and accountable process in law making, local politicians aren't involved in decision making and some nationalists believe that direct rule takes them further away from a united Ireland
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in 2017/18, why was there an upsurge in calls for direct rule?
discontent in the ability of the Executive and politicians to set aside differences and come to a political agreement, RHI scandal, frustration at frequent suspensions and disruptions at Stormont and failure to deal with the past (legacy issues)
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how are questions for oral answer chosen?

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questions are submitted in advance, 20 of these will be randomly selected and MLAs will have an opportunity for a follow-up or supplementary question

Card 3

Front

what is topical question time?

Back

Preview of the front of card 3

Card 4

Front

what is the benefit of written questions?

Back

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Card 5

Front

what is the limit of questions per day with each MLA?

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