Public Affairs

Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

Following the re-election of Conservative MP Simon Hoare as Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs select Committee, membership for the 2019 Parliament has now been agreed and two inquiries have been launched.

Following the dissolution of Parliament, select committees at Westminster ceased to exist, removing all chairs and members. For former Chair Simon Hoare MP this meant another contest to be elected, despite only taking up the most mid-way through 2018.

Hoare, the Conservative MP for North Dorset, again won the secret ballot of MPs required in electing chairs to Westminster’s select committee, with took place on 29 January.

Membership if the select committee was agreed on 2 March following a process where parties selected their members through an internal ballot, for agreement by the House. The allocation of membership broadly reflects the balance of political parties in the House of Commons.

Once individual parties have determined which members to nominate, under their own internal arrangements, the names are presented to the Committee of Selection. The Chair of the Committee of Selection then tables motions listing the names of Members nominated by parties and the motions are considered by the House.

In the 2019 Parliament nominations, 19 of the 20 departmental select committees were agreed by the House on 2 March 2020.

2019/20 timetable

  • 17 December
    Election of Speaker
  • 19 December
    Queen’s Speech
  • 16 January 2020
    Allocation of Chairs
  • 27 January
    Nominations closed
  • 29 January
    Election and results announced
  • 2 March
    Nomination of members

Only four of the previous committee membership have retained their position in the new mandate including the DUP MPs Gregory Campbell and Ian Paisley. The other two returning members are Northern Ireland-born Labour MP Conor McGinn and The Conservative MP Bob Stewart, who previously served in Northern Ireland as an intelligence officer and major in the British Army.

Of the remaining membership, four are newly elected MPs including Northern Ireland’s other two sitting parties the SDLP and the Alliance Party, in Claire Hanna and Stephen Farry respectively. Caroline Ansell and Scott Benton, both MPs for the Conservative Party, are also newly elected to the House of Commons since 12 December 2019.

The committee’s remit is to examines the expenditure, administration and policy of the Northern Ireland Office and its associated public bodies. It has a fluid rather than a strict work programme and chooses its own subjects of inquiry, mostly producing reports and making recommendations to Government.

To date, the newly formed committee has two current inquiries. On 5 March it announced that it would examine the potential effects of new customs arrangements on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, also looking at the nature of the customs checks and processes that businesses could face and the potential effect of those new customs arrangements on the volume and profitability of trade. The inquiry follows repeated promises from the UK Government that businesses in Northern Ireland will continue to have “unfettered access” to the UK internal market after 31 December 2020.

A second inquiry was established on 9 March to examine the UK Government’s commitments in the New Decade, New Approach agreement, focussing on the £2 billion funding package to sustain the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland. The terms of the inquiry state that it will examine whether the funding is sufficient to create the desired policy outcomes, and at the desirability of multi-party negotiations as a means of deciding on the allocation of extra funding in Northern Ireland.

NIAC membership

  • Simon Hoare MP (Chair) (Conservative)
  • Caroline Ansell MP (Conservative)
  • Scott Benton MP (Conservative)
  • Robert Goodwill MP (Conservative)
  • Stephen Farry MP (Alliance)
  • Claire Hanna MP (Social Democratic and Labour Party)
  • Conor McGinn MP (Labour) returning
  • Karin Smyth MP (Labour)
  • Bob Stewart MP (Conservative) returning
  • Gregory Campbell MP (Democratic Unionist Party) returning
  • Ian Paisley MP (Democratic Unionist Party) returning
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