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Northern Ireland and the role of the Westminster Parliament. NICVA event 30th November 2009. Overview. This event will cover: The composition of the UK Parliament How the work of the UK Parliament affects Northern Ireland Northern Ireland MPs and what MPs can do in Parliament.

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Presentation Transcript

This event will cover:

  • The composition of the UK Parliament
  • How the work of the UK Parliament affects Northern Ireland
  • Northern Ireland MPs and what MPs can do in Parliament
what is parliament
What is Parliament?

House of Commons

House of Commons

The Monarch

House of Lords

house of commons
House of Commons
  • Democratically elected chamber of Parliament
  • 646 Members
  • Directly elected at least every 5 years
  • The party with the largest number of seats forms the government
house of lords
House of Lords
  • “Upper House” of Parliament (or “the other place”)
  • About 740 Members
  • Labour and Conservative about evenly matched, also nearly 140 Crossbenchers
  • Members mainly appointed, but 92 still sit because of inherited title
  • Primarily a revising Chamber – scrutinises and amends laws
what does parliament do
What does Parliament do?

Makes and passes laws

Holds Government to account

Enables the Government to set taxes

how does the uk parliament affect people in northern ireland
How does the UK Parliament affect people in Northern Ireland?
  • Powers of government were devolved by the UK Parliament to the Northern Ireland Assembly in December 1999
  • There are now three categories of legislative powers in Northern Ireland: excepted, reserved and transferred
  • Any laws passed on an excepted or reserved area affect people in Northern Ireland.
excepted matters
Excepted matters
  • The Crown
  • Parliamentary elections, and Assembly elections
  • Nationality, immigration and asylum
  • International relations
  • Defence
  • National taxation
  • Appointment and removal of judges
  • Registration of political parties
  • National security
  • Nuclear energy

Set out in schedule 2 of Northern Ireland Act 1998

Some of the key areas:

reserved matters
Reserved matters
  • Criminal law
  • Policing
  • Prisons
  • Civil aviation
  • Navigation
  • The Post Office
  • Disqualification from membership of the Assembly
  • Emergency powers
  • Civil defence
  • Consumer protection
  • Telecommunications
  • Intellectual property

Set out in schedule 3 of Northern Ireland Act 1998

Some of the key areas:

reserved matters and direct rule
Reserved matters (and direct rule)
  • Policing, security, prisons and criminal justice remain the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
  • Like other reserved matters, the Belfast agreement envisages that these will be transferred to the Assembly
  • During the suspension between 2002 and 2007, the Northern Ireland Office ran Northern Ireland affairs directly from Westminster
  • All legislation passed was in the form of Orders-in-Council and treated in much the same way as secondary legislation – that is, without the opportunity to amend


  • All legislation proposed by the Government must be scrutinised by both Houses of Parliament
  • Each Bill goes through the same stages in each House - First Reading, Second Reading, Committee, Report, Third Reading – before it reaches Royal Assent
  • Members can suggest changes (“amendments”) at particular stages
  • Much of the most careful scrutiny goes on in Committee, particularly in the House of Lords
how a bill becomes law
How a Bill becomes law


Public Bill


Bill presented /

First Reading

Second Reading


Third Reading

Committee of the Whole House


Bill presented /

First Reading

Second Reading


(whole House)


Third Reading


Consideration of

Lords Amendments

Ping Pong

Royal Assent


  • Ways to influence draft legislation
  • Green Papers
  • Pre-legislative Committees
  • Public Bill Committees
  • MPs and Members of the House of Lords

“No one shall carry any dangerous weapon upon the public highway, except for the purposes of killing a noxious animal or a policeman in the execution of his duty”


Northern Ireland MPs

Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim)

David Simpson (Upper Bann)

Nigel Dodds (Belfast, North)

Michelle Gildernew (Fermanagh and S. Tyrone)

Pat Doherty (West Tyrone)

Gerry Adams (Belfast, West)

Sinn Fein Members (5)

Conor Murphy (Newry and Armagh)

Martin McGuinness (Mid-Ulster)

William McCrea (South Antrim)

Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry)

Jeffery Donaldson (Lagan Valley)

Iris Robinson (Strangford)

DUP Members (9)

Eddie McGrady (South Down)

Mark Durkan (Foyle)

Alasdair McDonnell (Belfast, South)

Lady Hermon (North Down)

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim)

SDLP Members (3)


early day motions
Early Day Motions

Allows MPs to show their opinion on a particular subject

Can be used to:

  • Draw attention to an issue
  • Call for action
  • Commemorate, congratulate, condemn
all party parliamentary groups
All Party Parliamentary Groups
  • Cross-party
  • Both MPs and Members of the House of Lords
  • Based around common interest (e.g. Voluntary and Community groups, football, Zimbabwe)
  • Not involved in formal decision making, but important in developing knowledge
parliamentary questions
Parliamentary Questions

Can be used to:

  • Obtain information – stats, policies, positions
  • Press for action
  • Raise constituency issues
  • Challenge Government policy

Must have factual basis and relate to the running of a Government Department

parliamentary debates
Parliamentary Debates
  • Opposition day debates
  • Adjournment debates (HoC)
  • Questions for Short Debate (HoL)

Allows MPs and Members of the HoL to:

  • Raise constituency issues or matters of regional, national or international significance
  • Get the issue to the attention of a relevant minister
  • Get a response from the Government
select committees
Select Committees
  • Set up to scrutinise specific areas of work and government departments
  • Work carried out through public enquiries
  • Groups and individuals submit evidence to enquiries
  • Enquiry report created and usually passed to relevant government department

“Fred the Shred” appears before the Treasury Committee

further information
Further information
  • 020 7219 4272 – Commons information
  • 020 7219 3107 – Lords information
further information1
Further information

Public Bills


Who is my MP?