2 July 2010

Assembly Round Up: 02 July

Roads, welfare of animals, transport, housing and welfare reform were all on the agenda this week.
Monday
The day began with two public petitions presented to the Speaker. The first dealt with the out of hours GP service in Limavady and the second, summer scheme funding for children with learning disabilities.
The Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister updated MLAs on her recent North/South Ministerial meeting about tourism.

The Assembly debated a motion calling on the Health Minister to review the work of the Regional Autistic Spectrum Disorders Network Group to ensure that families and children get the appropriate support. This motion was supported by MLAs from across the Assembly.
MLAs then discussed a motion noting the achievements delivered by Departments against the Programme for Government objectives for the period up to 31 March 2009 and 30 September 2009.
Finally MLAs debated a motion calling on the Education Minister to take action on poor school attendance. After a lively debate, the motion was agreed.
Monday’s Question Time
The Justice Minister, David Ford, answered questions on budget scrutiny, legal aid, assessment of the findings of the Saville Report, health care for prisoners, support for victims of human trafficking and youth justice policy.
Michelle Gildernew, the Agriculture Minister, answered questions on the fines imposed by the EU after the audit of farm subsidy payments, retail food prices and the appointment of a supermarket ombudsman.

The Education Minister, Catriona Ruane, answered urgent oral questions on summer scheme funding for children with learning difficulties and funding for a unit in Ballynahinch working with children with learning difficulties. (These questions can be tabled on the morning of the sitting.)
Tuesday
The day began with the Education Minister, Catriona Ruane, making a statement about proposed schools capital projects.

MLAs then moved on to debate the Second Stage of the Welfare of Animals Bill which will improve protection for all animals. The Second Stages of the Transport Bill which will provide new arrangements for delivering transportation and the Tourism (Amendment) Bill which will help develop tourism in Northern Ireland were also debated. All three passed and will now pass to their respective Assembly Committees for scrutiny.

A debate then followed on amendments to Standing Orders which will provide another method to extend Monday sittings (which normally end by 7pm) and implement a further Question Time period on Tuesday. These amendments were agreed with cross community support.
Finally, the Assembly discussed a motion, asking MLAs to take note of reports by the Public Accounts Committee on investigations carried out over the 2009-2010 year.
Tuesday Question Time
Culture Minister Nelson McCausland, took questions on sports provision, his assessment of the importance of the Feile an Phobail West Belfast festival, the re-development of Windsor Park and community festival funding.
Wednesday
The Assembly held an extra sitting on Wednesday before the Assembly Recess which starts today.
First up was a Ministerial Statement from the First Minister about the recent British Irish Council meeting in Guernsey. He announced that a permanent base for the Council will be set up in Edinburgh.

MLAs moved on to debate the Second Stage of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill, which will enable Councils to better maintain their environment, and the Second Stage of the Housing (Amendment) Bill, which will improve housing services in Northern Ireland, before passing both to the relevant Assembly Committees for scrutiny.
The Assembly then turned to the Final Stage of the Welfare Reform Bill. The Bill, which was passed by the Assembly, will bring benefits provision into line with the rest of the United Kingdom. It will now go for Royal Assent before becoming law.

The last business of the day was an Adjournment Debate on the murder of the Reavey family in County Armagh in 1976.
Assembly Committee Business
There were 15 Committee meetings this week. The Justice Committee received a briefing from the Organised Crime Task Force, the Finance and Personnel Committee was given a budget briefing from the Department and the Environment Committee received a Ministerial briefing on the Local Government Reform Programme.
Next Week at the Assembly
The Assembly is now in recess until 2 September 2010, though some Committees may meet during the recess. 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.