Assembly Standing Orders

Part of the debate – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:15 pm on 9th March 1999.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP 2:15 pm, 9th March 1999

I listened to the comments by Jim Wells before lunch. I am a Back-Bencher, and the only other person to speak from the Back Benches on this issue was also a member of the Ulster Unionist Party. I assure the Member and my electorate that I am able to assess issues for myself and wish to ensure that I can carry out the necessary, responsible scrutiny as a Back-Bencher.

I agree that there is a need for scrutiny of the centre. Originally, there were very limited statutory functions at the Centre, and according to the Act, there would have been no need for scrutiny of the Department of the Centre. However several additional functions have been transferred to the Centre, and there is a clear need for scrutiny of those functions.

On a wider issue, I wish to highlight the need for more frequent periods to be set aside for questioning of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister. Once every three or four weeks, as currently envisaged, is not sufficient.

Amendment No 59 does not propose particular scrutiny; it is much wider than that. There are no boundaries to its scrutiny. Tony Blair, my Prime Minister, does not have a committee scrutinising his every action. A scrutiny committee is needed, but it should have clear guidance on the areas of its operation. The issue of scrutiny of the Centre should go back to the Standing Orders Committee so that a new amendment may be prepared for our consideration.