This week the Assembly debated the devolution of policing and justice powers to Northern Ireland, the Farm Modernisation Scheme and the possible introduction of a boiler scrappage scheme.
Monday’s Assembly proceedings began with a statement by the Minister of Finance and Personnel about a meeting at which EU funded PEACE and Interreg Programmes were discussed. The Minister for the Environment quickly followed with a statement on a Draft Clean Neighbourhood and Environment Bill. A Motion asking the Minister for Social Housing to ensure that social housing stock be maintained and that funding for improvements to social housing was agreed by MLAs.
Question Time saw questions to the Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety and the Minister for Regional Development. The Health Minister answered questions on maternity services, health centres, a proposed review of swine flu, podiatry services, registering pharmacists and the Family Restoration Fund. This fund will provide monies to those who were sent to Australia and other countries as children. The Minister for Regional Development then spoke about investment in Northern Ireland Water, the cost of repairing roads, road gritting costs, the 20 mile per hour speed limit which has been piloted around rural schools, the consultation on a rapid transit system for Belfast, pot-hole related compensation claims and residential parking schemes.
MLAs then debated a Bill on whether they should be prevented from standing for local councils as well as for the Assembly. After a lengthy debate, it was agreed that the Bill should continue its passage through the Assembly. Next up was a Motion requesting the Agriculture Minister to bring forward the next stage of the Farm Modernisation Scheme. Finally, MLAs debated a Motion on the introduction of a boiler scrappage scheme to Northern Ireland. Both of these passed with support from all parties.
Debt Relief Bill and the final stage of the Housing Amendment Bill before moving to the main issue of the day: the devolution of policing and justice powers. This Motion provoked vigorous debate from all parties and led to a recorded cross community vote. The Motion requesting devolution passed by 88 in favour to 17 against. The next piece of business dealt with amending Standing Orders to set out the way that the new Justice Minister will be nominated.
In Question Time, the Minister for Social Development spoke about the review of social housing, anti-social behaviour, an update on promoting a shared future, the number of people on incapacity benefit and an update on the community development fund in North Antrim.
The final debate of the day was on school building in Holywood, an issue that was of concern to MLAs from the North Down constituency.