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The Body

Its background and ethos

At the request of Members of the Oireachtas in Dublin and the Parliament at Westminster, the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body was established in February 1990 with the consent and cooperation of both Governments, at first under the auspices of the British and Irish Groups of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. At the plenary session in Killarney in February 2001 it was enlarged to include representatives of the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, the Northern Ireland Assembly, the High Court of Tynwald and the States of Guernsey and Jersey (as the Northern Ireland Assembly is currently suspended no Members from it attend meetings at present). The Nordic Council was given Observer status at the plenary session held in Chepstow in October 2004.

The Body consists of twenty-five Members from each sovereign Parliament, five each from the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales, and Northern Ireland Assembly, and one each from the High Court of Tynwald and States of Guernsey and Jersey. There are also with twenty Associate Members from the two sovereign parliaments, four each from the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales and Northern Ireland Assembly, and one each from the Tynwald and each of the Channel Island States. These may replace Full Members either at Plenary Sessions or at Committee meetings. The day-to-day work of the Body is carried out through four Committees: Committee A, the Political Committee; Committee B, the European Affairs Committee; Committee C, the Economic Committee; and Committee D, the Environmental and Social Committee. Committee A is restricted to Members of the sovereign parliaments, the membership of the others is drawn from all the participating organisations.

From its inception the ethos of the Body has been to act as an organic whole, under procedures enshrined in Rules which are based on parliamentary practice in Dublin and Westminster. In the Plenary, Members sit in alphabetical order rather than as delegations of their respective legislatures, and national representation is only relevant for the purposes of the quorum and the tabling of certain motions and amendments. The bodies represented share a common tradition and style of debate, and these common roots are reflected in the way the Body operates.

Its aims and activities

The purpose of the Body is to bring together Members of the participating institutions to engage jointly in a wide range of non-legislative parliamentary activities, as follows:

  • The four Committees conduct inquiries on matters of common concern. They meet regularly throughout the year and take oral and written evidence from interested parties on which to base their Reports. And important part of their work is to travel around both countries (including Northern Ireland) to conduct hearings relevant to their work. Committees also pay regular visits to Brussels, and maintains contact with both the European Parliament and the wider international community.
  • There are two Plenary Sessions each year, alternating between the two countries and usually held at venues other than Dublin and London. The Body normally debates matters of political and general concern, reports from its Committees and Government responses, and has a question period with a Minister from the host country.

The principal aim of the Body has been to contribute to mutual understanding. Through their work for the Body and through informal contacts. Members of the participating organisations have gained a greater insight into each others' problems and inot mutual concerns. Several past and present Ministers have been Members of the Body when backbenchers at one time or another since its inception, and this has also helped to increase understanding between our countries.

For a more comprehensive history of the body click here