16 April 2010

Assembly Round Up - Friday 16 April 2010

The new Department of Justice and the appointment of a Justice Minister were the main issues at the Assembly this week.

Monday

Business began with the Speaker expressing his sympathy to the Polish people following the tragic death of the President of the Republic of Poland and 95 others . Next was a Matters of the Day on the bomb at Palace Barracks. Representatives from all parties condemned the bombing.
The Social Development Minister introduced the Welfare Reform Bill, which will now be scheduled for debate by MLAs.
MLAs then began a lively debate which resulted in them approving the creation of the new Justice Department and moved on to nominating a Minister. Ulster Unionist, Danny Kennedy and SDLP’s Alban Maginness, were both nominated but neither achieved a majority of votes from both unionist and nationalist MLAs. The Alliance Party then nominated David Ford for the post and his appointment was agreed by a majority of both unionists and nationalists. Mr Ford took the Pledge of Office and made a brief speech.
Nominations then took place for the Chair and Deputy Chair of each Committee overseeing the work of all Executive Departments. The order in which the parties selected Committees was in line with their electoral strength in the Assembly.

Monday’s Question Time

The deputy First Minister answered questions from MLAs on the investment conference to be held in the US and the prospects for US investment in Northern Ireland, departmental objectives for 2010-11 and funding for policing and justice capital projects. The Environment Minister answered questions on planning policy, planning applications for a GAA pitch and the Knock Golf Club site, preventing conflicts of interest in the Planning Service and North-South Ministerial Council meetings.

Tuesday

Two Ministerial Statements began the day, with the Employment and Learning Minister detailing plans for pilot schemes to enhance industry-relevant professional qualifications. The Environment Minister followed with a Statement on the marine environment which will be subject to a public consultation.
MLAs debated, and then agreed, the Second Stage of the Waste and Contaminated Land (Amendment) Bill which will provide a framework for dealing with waste and land contamination. The Second Stage of a Bill allows for general debate after which the MLAs vote on whether the Bill should continue its passage to the next consultative stage.
The Agriculture and Rural Development Minister introduced a motion to increase the monies, (for a five year period) that off-course bookmakers pay into a fund which supports Northern Ireland’s two racecourses. After much discussion about the importance of horse racing to the rural community and to the economy the Motion was agreed and the increased levy approved.
MLAs then turned their attention to completing the Committee membership lists.
The Assembly finished its business with a debate on the Saville Inquiry Report and concerns over the delay in its publication.

Tuesday’s Question Time

The Minister for Finance and Personnel answered questions on holding an all party economic conference, the performance of his Department’s business consultancy service, dormant bank accounts, information provided to Assembly Committees about departmental spending plans and funding projects through publicly backed bonds.

Assembly Committee Business

There were 13 Committee meetings this week. The Committee for Education received a Departmental update briefing on the proposal to withdraw funding from the preparatory departments of grammar schools while the Social Development Committee was briefed by the Welcome Organisation on its delivery of homelessness services in Belfast.

Next Week at the Assembly

On Tuesday the Second Stage of the Welfare Reform Bill will be debated and the Social Development Committee is keen to hear your views by 30 April. More information about the Assembly can be found on: www.niassembly.gov.uk
Previous week's round up