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14 May 2010

Assembly Round Up - 14 May 2010

The High Hedges Bill, credit unions, community access to school facilities, sunbeds and support for a special education facility facing closure all topped the Assembly agenda.
Monday
Business began with the High Hedges Bill, which would allow Councils to respond to a complaint about the height of a hedge by enforcing a reduction. The Second Stage of the Bill was agreed by the Assembly and it will now be examined by the Environment Committee.
The next item was a motion calling on the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister to explore new legislation to allow credit unions to expand their range of services. This would bring local credit unions into line with those in the rest of the UK and was strongly supported by MLAs.
Monday’s Question Time
Questions were put to the deputy First Minister on a number of issues: services for children and young people, the costs of the recent visit to the United States, updates on the Commissioner for Older People and the parades working group. Mr McGuinness was asked a number of questions on any proposed meetings with the Prime Minister.
The Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister answered questions on potential job losses at the First Trust Bank, increasing foreign investment, university-led innovation, transparency for oil pricing and the agri-food industry.
Tuesday
The First Stage of the Sunbeds Bill was moved by the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and passed by the Assembly. The Bill, which is intended to regulate the supply of tanning devices, will now be put on a list of future business.
Next was a ‘take note’ debate, on the report from the Northern Ireland Economic Reform Group on a case for a reduced rate of corporation tax in Northern Ireland. A take note debate allows MLAs to debate important issues.
MLAs moved on to a motion calling on the Minister of Education to make school facilities more available for use by local communities in the evening, weekends and during school holidays. This was agreed by MLAs.
The Assembly then debated a motion calling on the on the Ministers of Education and Health, Social Services and Public Safety to work to secure funding to ensure the long-term viability of the I CAN special education centre. This motion received support from across the Assembly and was passed.
The Assembly finished the day with an Adjournment debate on the need to upgrade the Downpatrick to Newry route.
Tuesday’s Question Time
The Environment Minister answered questions on Planning Service staff redeployment, planning applications, the review of public administration and local government reorganisation, the legislative programme for the Department, improving road safety awareness in older drivers and the draft road safety strategy. The Assembly Commission answered questions on issues including the Speaker’s visit to the United States, the North/South parliamentary forum and the ability of the Assembly to manage an increased number of Bills before the 2010 summer recess.
Assembly Committee Business
There were 15 Committee meetings this week, with a number of Committees attending the Balmoral Show. The Social Development Committee received briefings on the Welfare Reform Bill and the Health Committee took evidence from the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority on their report into maternity services.
Next Week at the Assembly
Rebuilding of Whitehouse Primary School, the Forestry Bill and cost of car insurance will all be discussed next week. More information about the Assembly can be found on: www.niassembly.gov.uk