I hope the people of NI will not pay for the folly of this legislation

I am deeply concerned following the assembly’s decision to rush ahead with the NI Executive (Functions) Bill.

By Doug Beattie
Tuesday, 28th July 2020, 12:00 pm
Doug Beattie MC is Ulster Unionist MLA for Upper Bann
Doug Beattie MC is Ulster Unionist MLA for Upper Bann

It is disappointing that my amendments did not pass in the assembly, but more importantly I am concerned that it looks like this legislation is proceeding with the backing of MLAs who are neither convinced by the reason for doing so, or clear on its long term implications.

Given that advocates for the bill failed to answer many of the fundamental questions raised by the rush to pass this legislation through accelerated passage and some of the best excuses that could be mustered were that you will get different opinions from different legal professionals.

I fail to understand how so many MLAs from other parties allowed this to proceed without further amendments or scrutiny.

An eleven minute discussion at the Committee for The Executive Office is not a substitute for proper scrutiny.

It would have been much better to pause at this point and reflect on whether this is the right way to proceed rather than dig their heels in and proceed with what could be a really bad decision just for the sake of not holding our hands up that this is perhaps not the best idea.

With more time to scrutinise this bill, it would have been possible to produce legislation better shaped to address the concerns raised by the Buick judgement rather than potentially throwing the baby out with the bath water and undermining collective decision making.

There are also major doubts about whether the proposed Ministerial Code reflects what is the intent of the bill and will probably require much more work in the future.

This is a retreat from that principle.

It is important that the executive is able to operate without fear of being undermined or rocked by a solo run from an individual minister on a controversial policy.

To make the change as proposed is to forget political reality and the experience of the last twenty years.

It is important for trust and confidence for safeguards to have remained.

I hope that the people of Northern Ireland won’t be paying the price for this folly in years to come.

• Doug Beattie MC is Ulster Unionist MLA for Upper Bann

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