HC Deb 04 April 1974 vol 871 cc1434-5
14. Rev. Ian Paisley

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will announce the intention of the Government about the date of the impending by-election for a seat in North Antrim for the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Mr. Orme

The order enabling the by-election to be held was laid before Parliament on 2nd April. Polling day will be fixed by the Chief Electoral Officer in accordance with the timetable laid down in the order, but I understand that it is likely to be at the end of May or the beginning of June.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I thank the Minister for his reply. Will he assure the House that in future, if by-elections are needed for the Assembly, the seats will not be kept vacant for almost a year? The last election was in May, and the Member appointed for North Antrim met with a tragic accident and died, having never taken his seat. We have been waiting for the election for a long time. Is the order subject to the negative or affirmative procedure?

Mr. Orme

I shall have to check on the last point and let the hon. Gentleman know. With regard to the delay, other events have occurred, as the hon. Gentleman knows—he has participated in them himself—which have been responsible for some of it. When vacancies occur in future we should like to see them filled more quickly. We give that assurance. We should also like elected representatives, from whatever section of the community they come, to attend the Assembly when elected.