Operations of the Assembly

Part of Assembly Standing Orders – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 4:30 pm on 8th March 1999.

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Photo of Alban Maginness Alban Maginness Social Democratic and Labour Party 4:30 pm, 8th March 1999

For the record, the SDLP supports the draft Standing Orders that deal with the present hours. We believe that these hours are family-friendly. We also believe that in relation to travelling, for many of our Members, we are putting an extra burden on them if they have to leave the Assembly at a late hour. Members have many duties in their constituencies at night-time.

It is not appropriate to compare what happens here with what happens at Westminster. Many Members of the Westminster Parliament go to London and stay for three or four days. It is impossible for them to leave Westminster and go back to their constituencies on a daily basis unless they live in the greater London area. The circumstances that prevail at Westminster are quite different from those that prevail here. As a new institution we should strive to set standards that have not been set by Westminster or by other parliamentary institutions in Europe or throughout the world. We should try to set a new standard by which we can afford family-friendly hours to our Members.

Another important point is that, although the Chamber is predominantly male, one hopes that in the future we will have an increase in the number of female Members.

While I emphasise that the hours we have are family-friendly, favourable not only to female Members but also to fathers like myself, it makes it easier for people with young families to come into politics and to be Members of this institution. There is flexibility within our Standing Orders, certainly on Tuesdays, and also on Wednesdays if necessary, to extend the period for debates and plenary sessions. There is a safeguard within the draft Standing Orders to assist us.