Youth Employment Scheme and NEETS
Stephen Farry (Alliance)
This statement is on the launch of a new programme to help unemployed young people into the world of work, and some other measures to address those people who fall into the not in education, employment or training (NEET) category.
Members will recall that, in March of this year, the Executive approved my policy proposals targeted at 18- to 24-year-old unemployed young people, and, at the end of May, also endorsed the NEETs strategy — Pathways to Success. I have been in discussions with the Finance Minister over the resourcing of those new measures, and I am pleased that a business plan covering this and the next two financial years has been agreed. I warmly welcome the decision of the Executive to agree to the Finance Minister’s recommendation of £5·8 million of funding in the June monitoring round to fully cover those costs during this financial year. The Executive are making the investment in the future of our young people, and, therefore, our economy, a key priority.
We should be clear on the scale of the task ahead and the reasons why we must act. Youth unemployment is a major and growing issue across these islands, elsewhere in Europe and further afield. At present, in Northern Ireland, there are around 20,000 unemployed 18- to 24-year-olds. Those young people who are unemployed but actively seeking work are only one aspect of those falling within the NEET category. There are also those who are economically inactive and are not engaged in education or training. Overall, the number of young people aged 16 to 24 who fall within the NEET category is around 46,000. Whatever way you look at it, in absolute terms, it presents a major challenge.
The raw numbers do not, of course, capture the personal impact of the ongoing difficult economic conditions on young people. Many young people find themselves unemployed, despite their education and training. Those are people who would have otherwise expected to be in work today if it was not for the economic downturn and reduced opportunities. Some simply need the chance to gain experience. It is a catch-22 position for those young people: they cannot secure a job without experience, but they cannot get experience without a job. If we do not intervene, there is a real risk that the current generation of young unemployed people may become the long-term unemployed of the future. The costs of that in terms of impact on public finances and lost economic opportunities will be considerable. That is a risk that we are not prepared to take.
There is also a wider economic case for additional measures that link new interventions to the future skills needs of the economy. That is a vital step in preparing for the upturn in the economy.
One of the few assets that we have is the skills of our workforce. We need to develop those skills, as they can help to create the employment opportunities required to rebuild and rebalance the economy in line with the Northern Ireland economic strategy. If we miss that opportunity, we risk losing some of the added value already provided by our existing investment in education and training, as some skills that our workforce already has will go stale. Those are long-term effects that will be difficult to reverse. Measures are therefore needed to help young people to compete on a more equal basis with older, more experienced workers in a difficult labour market.
That having been said, it is important to recognise the difference between that type of youth unemployment and the issue of those young people who are NEET and facing obstacles to re-engagement. They require much more intensive support and more tailored interventions to overcome their barriers. The overall aspiration of the NEET strategy document, ‘Pathways to Success’, is:
“by 2020, every young person will not only have an opportunity to access education, training or other preparation for employment but, to the extent that they are able, also avail of that opportunity.”
The strategy aims to deliver a three-tier package of measures to prevent young people falling into the NEET category in the first place; to help young people in the 16 to 18 age group, especially those facing barriers; and to assist unemployed young people aged 18 to 24 more generally.
I will start with new initiatives specifically for 16- to 18-year-olds. Although it is clear that the current DEL and DE provision is comprehensive and that the overall level of activity is demand-led, current provision may not fully meet the needs of some of our most vulnerable young people. Although much of what follows is intended to be additional to the existing provision, many programmes and strategies, such as essential skills provision, the Training for Success programme and courses at further education colleges, are also highly relevant, in addition to the role played by the Careers Service.
The additional measures include a community-based access programme that will engage and mentor young people using community and voluntary sector organisations; a new training allowance for 16- and 17-year-olds participating in existing programmes funded by the European social fund; an innovation fund to test new approaches, based on sound evidence aimed at piloting a range of other approaches to re-engaging those young people in the NEET category; and a new community family support programme that will focus on the needs of the most disadvantaged families to enable young people to re-engage with education, training or employment. We will invest £1·8 million in those initiatives in 2012-13, and £3·6 million and £4·6 million respectively in the following two financial years.
I will now outline the proposals for 18- to 24-year-olds. Overall, the proposal for the 18 to 24 unemployed age group aims to deliver up to 6,000 work experience, training and job opportunities annually by March 2015. The proposal comprises several elements. The first is enhanced support through improved diagnosis of skills needs and additional adviser time from both the Employment Service and the Careers Service. That is complemented by immediate additional referral and support for young people who have barriers to participation. Initially, 1,000 short two- to eight-week work experience placements, designed to ensure early engagement with the labour market, will be available. That will rise to 3,000 placements annually by March 2013. The cost of that element will be £200,000 in 2012-13, rising to £400,000 and £600,000 respectively in 2013-14 and 2014-15.
Four hundred training places will be offered, coupled with additional sector-based work experience of between six and nine months in sectors that have the potential to help rebuild and rebalance the economy. The number of such training places will rise to 1,800 by 2014-15. While in training, young people will receive a training allowance of £100 a week. That will cost £1·1 million in 2012-13, rising to £5·3 million in 2013-14 and £6·4 million in 2014-15.
A total of 800 employer subsidies of £5,750 a year will be provided in sectors that have the potential to help to rebuild and rebalance the economy, provided employers agree to facilitate and enable further skills development. The number of employer subsidies will rise to 1,200 in 2014-15. The costs will be £2·3 million in 2012-13, rising to £5·75 million in 2013-14 and £6·9 million in 2014-15. My Department will also invest £400,000 in direct employer engagement this year, rising to £1·1 million in 2014-15. That will provide for marketing and developing a cadre of staff to manage employer engagement and participation in the various strands of the initiative.
That brings the total cost of the package of proposals for both age groups to £5·8 million in 2012-13, rising to £15·6 million in 2013-14 and £19·6 million in 2014-15. That is a major investment at an enhanced level relative to our neighbouring jurisdictions. Under devolution, the Northern Ireland Executive and my Department are doing more than any other region of the UK to assist our young people.
Members will note the strong employer emphasis in the initiative. There is a very sound evidence base for such an approach, locally and internationally. However, the success of the 18-24 initiative in particular will depend on the commitment of a large number of employers.
My Department is putting in place a strategic approach to engage employers in the private and the social economy sectors to secure the necessary work placements, training placements and, potentially, job opportunities and apprenticeships. Initially, we will target major indigenous employers and seek to recruit high-profile champions from key sectors to help to secure commitment to the initiative. The approach will be to ensure that a range of businesses and sectors are seen as equal partners with government in securing workforce development and economic growth.
I have had informal discussions with employer representative bodies to gauge the level of commitment, including but not limited to, the Confederation of British Industry, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, Manufacturing Northern Ireland, the Construction Employers Federation, the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA) and the Bryson Charitable Group. Those discussions indicated that there is genuine interest in supporting the initiative, and a number of companies have signed up to offer different elements of the package. The public sector must also play a role; therefore, a variety of work placements will be sought in key parts of the public sector, such as health, education and local government. In discussions about the package, Executive colleagues have signalled their commitment to ensuring that their Departments and arm’s-length bodies contribute to the initiative. Continuous communication and liaison between participating young people, participating employers and the employment service will be necessary to ensure that the right levels of quality and commitment are being maintained by all the parties involved.
Now that the resources are available, my Department will commence the initiative and will build its capacity to deliver over the coming months. The formal engagement of employers and clients will now begin. There will be a challenge to continuously improve the quality and range of opportunities that are available.
The focus of the whole initiative is on ensuring that young people who are currently unemployed are provided, at the earliest possible stage, with the skills to gain jobs, to compete for jobs that are created in the future and to retain employment and progress in jobs. The focus is also on reducing the short-term employment development cycle that many face. This is not only beneficial for the individual economically and socially but benefits society as a whole.
Basil McCrea (UUP)
It would, perhaps, be churlish not to welcome the proposals. However, I would like the Minister to address some issues, because, in light of the challenges faced by our young people, there is a danger of me being somewhat underwhelmed by what he has proposed. He highlighted the fact that there are 20,000 unemployed 18- to 24-year-olds and 46,000 NEETs overall. However, we appear to be looking for places for only 6,000 of them, which seems to be a drop in the ocean. The Minister stated that his Department and the Executive have done more for youth than any other part of the United Kingdom. Is the £1 billion that was allocated by the coalition Government the unhypothecated money that will come to us, or is it additional money?
Towards the end of the Minister’s statement, he mentioned the public sector. Given that people routinely talk to us about the public sector accounting for 65% of our economy, should it not be incumbent on our public sector to do more to give jobs to those with learning or other disabilities and NEETs? It is not enough simply to tag that on at the end of his statement.
Finally, I hope that the Minister will look at a more overarching approach to the issue. Surely we need to find a way to encourage our young people to make choices earlier in their careers so that employment prospects are available to them rather than putting on a sticking plaster when things go wrong.
Stephen Farry (Alliance)
I think that I detected a welcome from the Committee Chair, so I thank him for that. I am somewhat disappointed that he is “underwhelmed” and regards the initiative as a “drop in the ocean”. This is a substantial investment in the future of our young people. It is worth stressing that, in direct comparison, this region is doing more than any other UK jurisdiction. The scale of what we are doing in Northern Ireland, relative to our population, dwarfs what is happening elsewhere. Furthermore, we are taking the opportunity to build in a skills premium, so there is clear evidence of wider strategic thinking.
The Chair referred to the Barnett consequentials that arose from the youth contract in Great Britain last November. As he knows, it is important that we stress that those resources come to us unhypothecated, and the Executive determine how they will be distributed. It is worth stressing again that the investment — I quoted the figures that we agreed with DFP in our business case — is of a greater scale than the Barnett consequentials that accrue to Northern Ireland from the youth contract. That is further evidence that we are doing more in Northern Ireland on the issue than are any of our neighbours.
The public sector is a key element. We obviously want to rebalance our economy and to have a more even split between the public and private sectors. However, I am impressed by the willingness of public sector bodies to engage. Of course, we have wider programmes that are based on trying to ensure that we unlock everyone’s potential and that those who face the barriers of a mental, physical or learning disability are able to access employment. A lot of good work is happening.
The statement is, of course, on youth unemployment and the resourcing of initiatives that we are taking forward. We recently published the NEETs strategy for Northern Ireland, which is a key objective of my Department. We also have a full suite of programmes that addresses the needs of young people. The Chair highlighted careers, and I appreciate the fact that the Committee wants to look at that area, for which policy has been in place for a number of years and responsibility is held jointly with the Department of Education. We need to consider that as we look to the future to ensure, in particular, that it provides enough accurate labour market information and engages people at an early stage.
Thomas Buchanan (DUP)
I thank the Minister for his statement. I welcome the strong employer emphasis for 18- to 24-year-olds in the initiative. Will the Minister tell the House what targets are in place to measure and monitor the success of 18- to 24-year-olds finding full-time employment? We do not want a short-term fix. We want something in place that will really deliver in getting our 18- to 24-year-olds into full-time employment.
Stephen Farry (Alliance)
I thank the Deputy Chairperson for his comments and his general welcome. He is quite right to stress the critical importance of employers in the programme: it will not happen without the co-operation of employers. I have been impressed by the attitude of employers who recognise the opportunities that may come to their business from taking on a young person. At present, a lot of them are caught in a trap where they are unwilling to take the risk because of the costs associated with doing so. Hopefully, the employer subsidy, which we are offering at a very attractive level, will make the difference when it comes to employers taking people on.
The Member is also right about the importance of measuring outcomes in that regard. We have existing programmes, such as Steps to Work, and we need to see a step change in the number of sustainable jobs from them. Intensive working with young people, particularly on their employability skills, will make that crucial difference and deliver improved outcomes.
Phil Flanagan (Sinn Féin)
Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. I thank the Minister for bringing this long and quite detailed statement to the House, and I welcome it. It has been very good to see the Minister trying to create a legacy in the short time he has been in the Department. Who knows how much longer he will be in it?
The creation of any kind of facility whereby young people have access to meaningful training and employment is very welcome, but we have to question whether there is any point unless there are proper jobs for them at the end of it. Does the Minister agree that the next step has to be the publication by the Executive of an overarching job-creation strategy that puts tackling youth unemployment and long-term unemployment at its core?
Stephen Farry (Alliance)
I thank Mr Flanagan for his general welcome. It is worth stressing that the Executive have a comprehensive strategy in the form of the Northern Ireland economic strategy. There are two themes in that strategy: the rebalancing and the rebuilding of the economy. There is a recognition that, particularly in the short to medium term, there has to be a very strong emphasis on job creation. Jobs targets are set out in the Programme for Government. The Member, among others, will be acutely aware of the potential job opportunities that will come from a lower level of corporation tax, and it is important that we plan ahead for that.
He is right to ask what that means in the context of the demand not being there. A lot is happening to try to create that demand, and it is important that we are able to match our supply of skills with demand, and that is built into this initiative. Also, the Department’s skills strategy highlights the need for a much more general upskilling of the population. All the projections show that people will need higher-level skills in the future and that there will be fewer opportunities for those with low or no qualifications. Already, even if you drill down into the unemployment figures for young people, there is a very clear differential between those who have a higher level of qualifications and those who do not. There is almost a 2:1 advantage, which is strong confirmation that it is worthwhile for a young person to engage in training. If they do so, whether it is training through an apprenticeship or through further or higher education, their job prospects, even in these difficult times, are enhanced.
I generally welcome the statement from the Minister. At least it is something positive on tackling youth unemployment. Given that there are 46,000 unemployed people in the 16- to 24-year-old category, in the 18- to 24-year-old category, what about those who are graduating this week in civil engineering, quantity surveying and building cost estimation? What chances do they have of getting a work placement in the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development or bodies such as the water service, Roads Service or the Rivers Agency, where there is a very big shortage in design staff?
Stephen Farry (Alliance)
I thank Mr Byrne for his comments. It is important to clarify that 20,000 of 18- to 24-year-olds claim jobseeker’s allowance. When we talk about the wider NEETs category, 16- to 24-year-olds, we are talking about 46,000, but not all of those are claiming jobseeker’s and, therefore, classified as actively seeking work.
I hope that there are job prospects for people who are graduating. The detail of that lies in the hands of my ministerial colleagues. However, it is worth reiterating that there is a general commitment across all Departments and public agencies to look at work placements. I have no doubt that those Ministers will take note of what Mr Byrne said.
Chris Lyttle (Alliance)
I welcome this multimillion-pound investment in employment and training for young people, which we must make a priority for the Assembly. I welcome in particular the additional training allowance for young people on pre-vocational schemes. The Committee for Employment and Learning has done a lot of work to lobby the Minister on that issue, and it is a welcome inclusion in the programme.
Why is it so important to take specific actions to address youth unemployment, rather than unemployment overall?
Stephen Farry (Alliance)
I thank Mr Lyttle for his question and his comments. He is right to say that we have been lobbied considerably on the training allowance by the Committee and a number of community and voluntary groups, and we have listened to those comments.
There was a desire, at one stage, that we would seek to extend education maintenance allowance (EMA) to capture that, and, at the time, I tried to caution that, perhaps, there were other ways to address the anomaly that exists in the system for those who are participating under the European social fund schemes. This training allowance is the response that allows us to take that forward.
We are, of course, addressing the issue of the wider unemployed population as a whole, and we will shortly move to a new employment programme for Northern Ireland, but there are very strong reasons why we want to concentrate a degree of our resources on addressing the needs of young people.
Some 28% of jobseeker’s allowance claimants come from the 18 to 24-year-old category. That six-year cohort of the overall adult population accounts for almost 30% of those who are seeking work. There is a real concentration of unemployment among young people. Our profile in Northern Ireland is at the extreme end of the spectrum in that regard, so there are some very strong public policy rationales behind investing in young people at the scale that we are. We want to avoid a situation where we have a lost generation of young people, not just for their sake but for the health of our economy.
David McIlveen (DUP)
I thank the Minister for his statement. How do youth unemployment figures in Northern Ireland compare with those in England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland? Perhaps he would offer some reflection on and analysis of those figures.
Stephen Farry (Alliance)
I thank Mr McIlveen for his question. The figures in Northern Ireland, by and large, reflect the trends that we are seeing elsewhere in these islands. It is worth stressing the point that, in common with our neighbouring jurisdictions and in contrast to some other European countries, we have a real concentration of unemployment among young people, which is why we need to act.
The formal unemployment figures are only one part of that equation. The First Minister reflected on that in his response to the BIC summit. We have issues with regard to those people who are in the NEET category, in that our figures are some of the highest in the UK, if not the highest. We also have the much wider issue of economic inactivity in Northern Ireland, for which we also have the highest figures. My Department, in conjunction with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI), is commencing work on a new strategy for dealing with economic inactivity, which we hope to issue for consultation in the autumn of this year.
Sammy Douglas (DUP)
I welcome the Minister’s statement. During a recent visit to Harland and Wolff in East Belfast, it was clear to me that there was quite a number of opportunities for young people. However, there seems to be a disconnection between DEL and companies such as Harland and Wolff. Bearing in mind the current strategy, what difference will the new strategy make in ensuring that those young people will have opportunities to take advantage of the initiatives that the Minister has outlined?
Stephen Farry (Alliance)
I thank Mr Douglas for his comments. If there are any particular issues with employers, my officials will take note of that. In every challenge there is an opportunity, and we will ensure that that is followed up.
The strategy aims to make a real difference by giving people the work experience and the employability skills that are so important in the ever increasingly competitive labour market. We have young people who have availed themselves of education and training and those who are extremely willing to engage in work. It is not a situation in which we are trying to force into work young people who would otherwise be sitting at home actively being lazy. There are people who really want to get into work but do not have the opportunities. Owing to the lack of experience, they are caught in a catch-22 situation in which they are not able to compete on equal terms with some older, more experienced workers, because they lack experience and employability skills. The intervention is designed to break that vicious circle.
It is also worth stressing that employers may be reluctant to take a chance by taking on a young person. They may be fearful of the cost implications and wonder whether they can afford it. Hopefully, the employer subsidy will create an incentive for employers to take on that young person. More often than not, we will find that employers realise that that young person adds to the bottom line of the business and gives a real added value. Moreover, after the subsidy is withdrawn, I hope that the company will come to the conclusion that it wants to keep on that young person and support him or her fully.
Jim Allister (Traditional Unionist Voice)
On the delivery of these aspirations, which are all very good, what part, if any, does the application of sanction play for young people who perhaps start on a project, a placement or a training exercise and then drop out? Do they simply revert to benefits, or is there any inducement to ensure that they continue to attain the essential skills that they will need?
Stephen Farry (Alliance)
I thank Mr Allister for his question, which creates a good opportunity to address the controversial issue of sanctions. We have exemptions through work experience regulations that allow young people to remain in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance while engaging in the work experience initiatives. Sanctions are a massive distraction to that. We had the debate in England and Wales earlier this year, and employers clearly said that sanctions were becoming a distraction. Where sanctions are available under Steps to Work, they are applied in an extremely small minority: in less than 2%, and those are the most extreme cases. We do not propose do deploy sanctions to the initiatives that I announced today, except for a situation in which a young person engages in gross misconduct in the workplace. That clearly is unacceptable.
That goes back to the point that I made to Mr Douglas a few moments ago. We do not perceive the need to force people into work experience or to stay in work experience. We have a very good deal in resource terms, and we will be able to deal with a lot of young people. I fully expect that there will be great hunger and demand from young people who are out of work, realise the importance of getting into work and want to engage in work experience. We are talking about meaningful work experience for people, not about slave labour and exploitation by companies. It is about something that is good for the young person’s opportunities and good for businesses. Through partnership, it will be a great success for Northern Ireland and the economy.
Fra McCann (Sinn Féin)
Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. I welcome the Minister’s statement. I have a number of concerns about the roll-out of the scheme, not least over ensuring that there is no exploitation of young people.
Thousands of people have been sanctioned through DEL or DHSSPS, so I ask you to check the figures that you have been given, Minister. The important thing is to ensure that companies that take in young people provide meaningful employment and that the young people obtain the level of skills required to ensure that they can go into employment or an apprenticeship. Some of the stuff in the past has not given kids essential skills.
Stephen Farry (Alliance)
I detected several questions there; it was a very creative effort. I answered the question about sanctions in response to Mr Allister. To be clear: sanctions are a distraction and a non-issue in relation to this initiative.
As regards Steps to Work, those are the figures. It would be only in the smallest subsection of cases that sanctions would ever be considered. We are not trying to force people into these opportunities. There is hunger out there for the opportunities to be taken forward. Progression is a key element. We are trying to get people onto the ladder. We want people to move onwards and upwards into different types of employment and further training.
The staff of the employment service will monitor exploitation very closely. It is a partnership with business. In the very rare circumstance of a company exploiting young people, we will intervene, remove those young people, look for other experiences for them and not use that company again. It is worth stressing that I do not see that being the situation. Both the companies that I have spoken to and young people want this to work.
I thank the Minister and welcome the statement. I commend him for being able to draw down £6 million in June monitoring. Well done. I welcome, in particular, the Include Youth training allowance, which will hopefully satisfy those on the family support programmes.
The Minister will be aware that, when the Committee carried out the NEETs inquiry, there was clear evidence that Scotland and Wales were doing it much better. Can you assure the House that there is full buy-in from Departments? Would it not be better to have a NEETs-dedicated unit that reflects all Departments to meet the targets that the Minister hopes to meet?
Stephen Farry (Alliance)
I thank Mr Ramsey for his questions and comments. He focused on NEETs, and it is worth stressing a number of points in that regard. First, when I took over as Minister for Employment and Learning, there was not a dedicated budget for NEETs. We had a commitment to produce a strategy, which, at that stage, was viewed as a better presentation of the existing work that Departments were doing. Over the past year, we have taken that forward and created a number of new initiatives, whether through my Department or those of my ministerial colleagues. We have now created a budget based on the June monitoring round and agreed the wider business case with the Department of Finance and Personnel.
Delivery will be key in taking forward the NEETs strategy. My Department is happy to provide the lead in that regard, as we did in the drawing up of the strategy. However, the implementation will be placed within a wider Executive framework. The Member will be aware of the Delivering Social Change framework that is emerging through OFMDFM and through which a number of strategies are being run to ensure that we have proper co-ordination and buy-in from Ministers. That is an appropriate vehicle to take forward the NEETs strategy and should preserve the already good buy-in to the strategy from Ministers.
Barry McElduff (Sinn Féin)
Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. Cuirim fáilte roimh ráiteas an Aire, agus is maith an rud go bhfuil sé inár measc inniu. I thank the Minister for his statement. However, I will point out that, in government, there appears to be a kind of myopia about youth emigration. The problem of youth emigration, which is having a detrimental impact, particularly on the vitality of rural communities, is not referred to anywhere in the statement. Does the Minister’s Department have any idea of the scale of or the figures around youth emigration, particularly from rural communities? What is the Executive’s and DEL’s overall strategy to stem the tide of youth emigration?
Stephen Farry (Alliance)
I thank Mr McElduff for his questions. It is difficult to achieve an accurate figure for inward and outward migration. Those figures are not necessarily maintained under devolution, and, of course, within the framework on these islands, we have freedom of movement for young people. That said, I recognise it as an issue, and, ultimately, what we are doing on youth unemployment, NEETs, extra provision in further education, freezing tuition fees and investing in our local universities is about trying to maximise the number of our young people who will stay in Northern Ireland and build their careers here. While we may not have mentioned the words directly, everything that we are doing is about investing in the future of our young people, investing in this region and asking them to make their careers here.
Anna Lo (Alliance)
Like others, I very much welcome the Minister’s statement and commend him on his great commitment to helping young people to gain employment and work experience. In Great Britain, there is the youth contract, which has various programmes. How different are his proposed measures from those in the rest of the UK?
Stephen Farry (Alliance)
I thank my colleague for her comments. It is worth stressing that we have learned lessons from others’ experiences, whether in Great Britain or in the South of Ireland, and what they have done to assist young people. Of course, this issue is fully devolved to Northern Ireland, and we take our own decisions locally. It is worth reiterating that we propose to spend more on youth unemployment relative to all other jurisdictions on these islands. This is a bigger-scale intervention, and, as an Executive, we are making it a bigger priority than our colleagues are. That is a clear sign and benefit of devolution.
The second core element on which we are different from our neighbours is that we are building in a heavy skills premium, and we have a clear economic strategy in which we have identified the need to grow our economy. We have also, through my Department, identified the priority skill areas for the future of the economy, and we are trying to concentrate work experience opportunities in those key strategic areas so that we give young people the opportunity and so that we build, in a proper fashion, for the future economy of Northern Ireland.
Basil McCrea (UUP)
On a point of order, Mr speaker is in charge of proceedings of the House of Commons in..." class="glossary">Deputy Speaker. Will you explain to me, perhaps through the Speaker’s Office, whether the decision to call Members who have not been in the Chamber is a Speaker’s ruling or a Business Committee ruling? We are already considerably ahead of our schedule — some 30 minutes ahead — and it is difficult for people to be here on time for the next bit of business. I understand that, if the statement is made on time, it is only right and proper that you do not call people if they are not here for it. However, we need to look at that situation again if we are going to be so far away from our indicative timings.
William Hay (DUP)
As the Member quite rightly points out, they are indicative timings, and all Members of this Assembly should realise that. It is the Speaker’s ruling, and it is custom and practice to call first Members who are in for the full statement. After that, those Members who were in for part of the statement were called.