Assembly Standing Orders

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

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Photo of William McCrea William McCrea DUP 2:15 pm, 9th March 1999

I will not attribute that to the hon Member at all. The SDLP Members and certainly the Ulster Unionist Members have not spoken with conviction. They have spoken like sheep, totally devoid of conviction. They have not presented their case well, and it appears that they really do not believe what they say. They have to save the faces of the First and the Deputy First Ministers who are unwilling to grace the Assembly with their presence. They feel strongly about this issue, yet they cannot come and present their views to the Assembly.

The Member from East Antrim, who has now disappeared, said "Tony Blair is not subject to scrutiny, so why should Mr Trimble and Mr Mallon be?"

What Department does Tony Blair run? Is he the Minister of Education? He is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and we are not, therefore, comparing like with like. Do not bring false arguments into this. Let us face the issues as they really are.

Mr Farren talked about a gap in the position — there is gaping hole here. He knows what the legislation and the Standing Orders are devoid of. He is suggesting that we ask the First and the Deputy First Ministers to go away and then come back and tell us how they would like to be scrutinised, but he does not want us to put too much pressure on them or ask difficult questions that they might not have an answer to. I have never heard of anything so ludicrous in a debating chamber.

Then the Members on the Front Benches are attempting to justify — [Interruption]