Assembly Standing Orders

Part of the debate – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 11:45 am on 9th March 1999.

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Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Social Democratic and Labour Party 11:45 am, 9th March 1999

Thank you, Jim. This is the first occasion on which I have actually sat on the Front Bench, and not on the basis of being a "Yes" man — that is not a precondition for my getting here. I prefer to sit on the Back Benches. As everyone knows, that is where I always sit in the Chamber.

Let me address the issues raised. Is there a need for scrutiny? Yes. There is no doubt or argument about that. All Members supported amendment 27 which provides that any Member of the Executive Committee — not a departmental Minister — responsible for a matter which is the subject of an Adjournment debate shall respond to it. That will include the First and Deputy First Ministers. If we were minded to say that everything that was done by the First and Deputy First Ministers was entirely up to them and not subject to any reference to this House, we would be opposing that amendment.

Standing Orders also provide for weekly question times. The balance of those question times is obviously something which we are going to have to look at and determine. One would think that very regular and significant scrutiny, and questioning, of the First and Deputy First Ministers will form part of that.