Operations of the Assembly

Part of Assembly Standing Orders – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 4:00 pm on 8th March 1999.

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Photo of Eileen Bell Eileen Bell Alliance 4:00 pm, 8th March 1999

There are a few people who would like to comment on the First Minister’s proposals.

First, I take on board what has been said about the pressure of business and, as time goes on, about the extension of that. However, we should establish the principle of having hours that will help us both in our professional life and in our family life.

With all due respect, I do not feel that Westminster is necessarily an example which we should follow. Many of the Members at Westminster have flats or town houses. We do not, and most Members here travel to and from their homes. I understand that at one of the earliest meetings of the Committee on Standing Orders there was very little dissent — apart from Ulster Unionist Members — when it was proposed that we should operate according to the current timetable, with, perhaps, a slightly different starting time. The plan was to see how these hours suited the House and to review them in due course, if necessary.

I can be as friendly with people during the day as I can during the evening, so I do not think that that represents an argument in favour of a change. Also, if the House sits from 10.30 am, I have time to do a considerable amount of work, including housework, before I come in, so I do not think that that is a serious argument either.

I appreciate what the First Minister (Designate) is saying about the workload that we will have, but I feel that we should try to operate a system that is both family-friendly and profession-friendly. I will not support this change.