Public Affairs

Northern Ireland Assembly committees

With the Assembly back up and running after a two-year hiatus, agendaNi profiles the roles, remit, and membership of the reformed statutory and standing committees.

The Northern Ireland Assembly has four main types of committees: statutory, standing, joint, and ad hoc. The most prominent committees are statutory, responsible for advising, assisting and scrutinising ministers and their departments, and standing, which undertake specific roles concerning the running of the Assembly.

Joint committees can consider matters of interest to more than one committee and ad hoc committees are established for a limited time to deal with a particular issue.

Statutory committees

Composed of 11 MLAs, committees tend to meet weekly within Parliament Buildings, although they can be held at external venues. They assist the Assembly in its work as a legislature by scrutinising bills at committee stage and possess the power to call persons and papers. While committees do possess the power to introduce legislation to the Assembly, it is a rare occurrence in Northern Ireland.

There are currently nine statutory committees, each shadowing a department, and proportionally reflecting party strength in the Assembly. Chairs and vice-chairs were nominated by parties under the D’Hondt process. Either the chair, or a vice-chair must be from a different political party to that of the minister. Membership must be made up from at least five political parties.












Standing committees

Standing committees are permanent committees set up under the Assembly’s Standing Orders with each performing perform a specific role. The Business Committee, chaired by the Speaker and attended by party whips, arranges the business of plenary meetings.

The Public Accounts Committee, the most powerful of the Assembly’s committees, scrutinises the use of resources by departments and government agencies and the Standards and Privileges Committee deals with privileges and the conduct of members, and under new rules for this mandate is now chaired by the Official Opposition party.

Finally, the newly-established Windsor Framework Democratic Scrutiny Committee assists with the observation and implementation of the Windsor Framework.

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