23 May 2006

Hain to set up devolution committee


23/05/2006 - 10:18:00

The British government is planning to establish a cross-party committee in the North's Assembly to discuss how to restore devolution, it was confirmed today.

The announcement came after a debate on the appointment of such a committee - proposed by the Ulster Unionist Party – was pulled from the Order Paper for today’s session of the restored Assembly.

Northern Secretary Peter Hain said he agreed with UUP leader Reg Empey that the key function of the recalled assembly was the restoration of devolution.

“That is why later this week I will be announcing a Preparation for the Restoration of Devolution Committee,” he said.

He said it was supported by all the parties despite questions about how it should operate and who will chair it.

“Once I have satisfied myself on those matters, we will be announcing it,” said Mr Hain.

He said he was confident such a committee could make a difference and help to end the political stalemate.

“I think we can find a way around the various concerns that have been put to me by all the parties. All their leadership figures ought to be sitting on this committee and ought to be putting on the table the way forward."

The Rev Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party has expressed reservations about such a committee and concerns that it will be used as the main vehicle for negotiating a future deal.

The DUP has also refused to talk directly to Sinn Féin at leadership level.

In the old Assembly, DUP members did take their place on committees with Sinn Féin members and the British government believes they will again.

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