SoS Karen Bradley pledges action on vital public appointments
The Secretary of State for NI has said she is prepared to bring forward legislation to ensure vital public appointments can be made in the absence of an Executive.
Karen Bradley has instructed officials to work on legislation over the summer that would allow UK Government ministers to make pressing appointments to leading public bodies.
The move would address crucial appointments needed for the Northern Ireland Policing Board, the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission (NIJAC) and the Probation Board for Northern Ireland to function.
The Province has been without a functioning devolved government since the power sharing institutions collapsed in January 2017.
In a statement today, the NI Office said if there is still no Executive in place by the autumn, the Secretary of State will introduce the legislation at Westminster.
The Policing Board has not been properly constituted since the 2017 Assembly election, as it has not had the political members it requires.
NIJAC has fallen to a very low membership, particularly in its legal and judicial representation, affecting its capacity to operate.
And the Probation Board’s entire membership will expire in November unless new appointments are made.
Mrs Bradley said: “The UK Government’s priority is to restore the devolved institutions at Stormont. In the meantime, I have been clear that I will continue to take any urgent and necessary action to protect good governance and the delivery of public services in Northern Ireland.
“I hope that an accommodation can be reached and an Executive formed so that Northern Ireland Ministers can make these important appointments in the autumn. If not, I am prepared to bring forward legislation to enable these appointments to be made to ensure that these bodies can continue their vital work.”
Existing legislation confers responsibility for the most significant public appointments in Northern Ireland on NI ministers.
In the absence of ministers, new legislation will be needed in Parliament to enable certain key Northern Ireland appointments and a small number of appointments to UK-wide bodies to be made.
While work on this legislation continues over the summer, the NIO said: “The UK Government will continue to engage closely with the political parties, and the Irish Government as appropriate, to encourage and support work towards an accommodation to restore the Executive.”
Welcoming the move, Policing Board Chair Anne Connolly said: “Whilst I along with independent members colleagues have been working to keep the structures of police accountability in place, without a legally constituted membership the Board’s range of statutory duties, including senior officer appointments, could not be discharged.
“The prevailing situation has been deeply concerning and frustrating for me as board chair as there are many issues that need addressed and progressed.
“It is positive the Secretary of State has now indicated that legislation will be introduced in the autumn to progress appointments to the board which will hopefully allow the board to become fully operational again.”