Changes to rural planning policy, licensing and registration of clubs and enforcing the Code of Conduct for MLAs all were on the agenda this week at the Assembly.
First up were two ‘Matters of the Day’ - the attack on the aid ship bound for Gaza and the murder of Shankill man, Bobby Moffett.
A Statement followed from the Environment Minister on sustainable development in the countryside, with particular reference to more flexibility over granting planning permission for rural housing.
MLAs then debated the Second Stage of the Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Bill, which deals with the regulation of licensed premises. (The Second Stage gives MLAs the opportunity to have a debate and vote on the principles of the Bill.) MLAs agreed that this Bill should now pass to the Environment Committee for detailed examination.
The Draft Census Order, which forms part of the legislation needed to carry out the census in 2011, was debated and approved by MLAs.
MLAs then turned their attention to a motion asking the Assembly to approve a report from the Assembly’s Standards and Privileges Committee on enforcing the Code of Conduct for MLAs. The report, which recommends the appointment of an Assembly Commissioner for Standards, was approved by MLAs.
Finally, MLAs debated the difficulties with eel fishing in Lough Erne.
Tuesday’s Question Time
The Agriculture and Rural Development Minister’s questions included EU fines, the Farm Modernisation Programme, the number of veterinary surgeons employed by the Department and the effect of EU fisheries regulations. The Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister answered questions on local creative industries, the cost of restocking rivers and lakes and the benefits of funding the Ulster Scots language. The Education Minister finished off Question Time by answering a question on her plans to establish the Education and Skills Authority.
Assembly Committee Business
There were 15 Committee meetings this week. The Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee received a briefing from Pobal on a language strategy. The Health, Social Services and Public Safety Committee also took evidence from the Minister, the Health & Social Care Board and Public Health Agency on spending plans for 2010/2011.
Next Week at the Assembly
The High Hedges Bill, fuel prices in Northern Ireland, older peoples Commissioner and student loans will all be on the agenda for the Assembly next week.
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