MondayThe Speaker began business by advising MLAs that Margaret Richie MP MLA had resigned as Minister for Social Development, effective immediately, and that Alex Attwood had replaced Ms Richie.
The Dogs (Amendment) Bill and the Commissioner for Older People Bill both passed their First Stage and will now be debated in the Assembly at a later date.
Next up was the Second Stage of the Caravans Bill which seeks to improve the legal arrangements between caravan owners and site owners. After a lively debate, led by John McCallister MLA who introduced the Bill, the Bill passed its Second Stage and will now go to the Social Development Committee for examination.
A motion expressing concern over the Education Minister’s decision to cut her Department’s community relations budget was debated and passed.
The last piece of business was a motion calling on the Secretary of State to mark the 40 year anniversaries of the ending of the Ulster Special Constabulary and the setting up of the Ulster Defence Regiment. A Petition of Concern was lodged which delayed the vote until Tuesday. This Petition, signed by 30 MLAs, means that to pass the motion, a majority from both communities must agree it. Under Standing Order 28, at least one day must pass before the vote can be taken.
Monday’s Question TimeThe First Minister answered questions, including those on bonuses for senior civil servants, local government reform and discussions with the new Westminster government. The new Social Development Minister, Alex Atwood MLA, answered questions on community development projects, town centre regeneration, Housing Executive rents and shortages in social housing.
TuesdayFirst up was a cross community vote on Monday’s motion on the ending of the Ulster Special Constabulary and the setting up of the Ulster Defence Regiment. The motion did not receive cross community support and therefore, did not pass.
The Sunbeds Bill, which will regulate the operation of the tanning industry, passed its Second Stage. The Second Stage gives MLAs the opportunity to debate the general principles of a Bill. The Employment Bill. dealing with employment agencies and the minimum wage, went through the Consideration Stage. This stage gives MLAs a chance to debate the details of a Bill. MLAs then voted on a motion asking that the Forestry Bill should become law; and this was agreed.
MLAs debated a motion on pre-school places, calling on the Minister to bring forward proposals to ensure that children receive a pre-school place. After a lengthy debate, the motion passed.
Finally, MLAs debated the urban renewal status of Upper Long Streets, Parkside and the Glen in North Belfast.
Tuesday’s Question TimeThe Justice Minister was asked questions about cultural diversity training, reporting of crimes by the public, the current security situation, electronic tagging, and reducing delays in the criminal justice system.
Assembly Committee BusinessThere were 13 Committee meetings this week. The Social Development Committee continued its scrutiny of the Welfare Reform Bill, the Health, Social Services and Public Safety Committee discussed the new budget reductions announced by the Health Minister,
Next Week at the AssemblyNext week the Assembly will not sit on Monday as it is a Bank Holiday. Tuesday’s business will include debating the Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Bill and questions to the Agriculture, Culture and Education Ministers.
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