25 June 2010

Assembly Round Up: 25 June

The Budget, welfare reform and protecting Northern Ireland’s environment and wildlife topped the Assembly’s agenda this week.
Monday
The Assembly began the day with Matters of the Day on the Saville Report and the Aughnacloy bomb alert. With a packed programme ahead, MLAs moved swiftly on to hear a Ministerial Statement from Justice Minister David Ford about his proposed review of prisons.

MLAs then moved on to debate the Second Stage of the Employment Bill which is designed to change the way workplace disputes are resolved. The Bill, which was agreed by MLAs, will now begin its scrutiny in the Committee for Employment and Learning.
Up next was the Final Stage of the Budget (No. 3) Bill which will set the limits on expenditure in 2010-11. After lengthy debate, the Bill was agreed with cross-community support.
A motion on the Allowances to Members of the Allowances to Members of the Assembly (Repeal) Bill, scheduled to be debated was not moved.
The last item of business was a debate on the Finance and Personnel Committee’s preliminary inquiry into public sector efficiencies. The motion called on the Finance and Personnel Minister to implement the recommendations that urge the Executive to ensure strategic spending priorities are identified so that public funds are used efficiently and effectively.
Monday’s Question Time
The First Minister, The Rt Hon Peter Robinson, took questions on the development of the Maze/Long Kesh site, the possible devolution of further powers to Northern Ireland such as corporation tax and steps he is taking to protect public services in the face of budget cuts.
Conor Murphy, Regional Development Minister, then took questions on the amounts spent on contractors and consultants for the A5 and A8 road schemes, improving the Department’s oversight of Northern Ireland Water’s procurement policies and his Department’s influence over proposals for airport development.
Tuesday
MLAs debated the Second Stage of the Safeguarding Board Bill. This Bill is intended to co-ordinate organisations involved with children. The Bill passed its Second Stage and now will begin its scrutiny in the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

Next up was the Consideration Stage of the Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill. The Consideration Stage gives MLAs an opportunity to vote on the details of the Bill including any proposed amendments. After a lengthy debate it was agreed that the Bill would go forward to the Further Consideration Stage (FCS) which gives MLAs the opportunity to vote on further amendments.
MLAs then moved to a ‘take note’ debate on the Executive’s priority measures to deal with the economic downturn. Take note debates give MLAs a chance to debate important issues.
Finally, the Adjournment Debate considered the out-of-hours GP service in Limavady.
Tuesday’s Question Time
The Social Development Minister, Alex Attwood, took questions on the future of housing in Northern Ireland, urban regeneration in the Lower Falls and whether he has plans to introduce a mortgage relief package for home owners affected by the collapse of the housing market.
Assembly Committee Business
There were 15 Committee meetings this week. The Committee for Finance and Personnel took evidence on the Department’s role in the review of economic policy, the Social Development Committee received a briefing from the Department on the Caravans Bill and the Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee were given a presentation from the Department and SportsNI about funding for Special Olympics Ulster.
Next Week at the Assembly
Roads, welfare of animals, transport, housing and welfare reform will all be on the agenda next week. There will also be an additional sitting on Wednesday 30 June. For more information about the Northern Ireland Assembly, you can go to www.niasssembly.gov.uk, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.