On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Is it in order, on behalf of my party and, I hope, many others, to thank you for the contribution that you have made in difficult circumstances since May of last year? It is our hope that you remain in position until we can re-examine the issue. I wish to put on record our thanks to you and to the Assembly staff for your contribution to maintaining this institution in recent months.
Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. I should like to follow the contribution from the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party in paying tribute, on behalf of the SDLP group in the Assembly, to your work as Speaker. It has been a short time, but not without significance. That is important to remember. Furthermore, your contribution as a Member of the Assembly over many years has been outstanding. You have worked conscientiously and brought many issues to our attention, particularly social issues. That reflects your personal commitment to politics and to ordinary people. On behalf of the SDLP group I thank you for your good humour, firmness and courtesy as Speaker. We wish you well in the near future and in your retirement.
Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. In a desperate attempt to ensure that Jim Wells does not get the last word, I want to associate myself with those expressions of gratitude. As we represent the same constituency, I am aware not just of your contribution in the Chamber over the years but also of your hard work in North Down; you will be greatly missed in that capacity.
Many of us will depart the Chamber without leaving any great personal legacy, but that cannot be said of you. Even the fact that we now have a permanent Christmas tree is something to be proud of. Given the difficult circumstances of recent months, we all want to commend your work and to wish you and your family all the best in your departure from this place — perhaps “retirement” is the wrong word. On behalf of the Democratic Unionist Party I thank you for your courtesy.
Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. Will I be the last to speak? Sorry about that, Jim. On behalf of my party I offer my sincere thanks for your work not only in this Assembly but throughout the years that I have known you. You, Derek and your family have added a great deal to politics in Northern Ireland. I have to say that only the best comes from the Alliance Party.
As Deputy Speaker, it has been a pleasure and a privilege to serve under you. You have guided the Assembly through extremely difficult times. I understand, mind you, that this is not your swansong: you will be back on the first day of the next Assembly. However, it has been a privilege — and I am sure that I can speak for the other Deputy Speaker — to serve under you.
Yes. On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wish to refer to Standing Order 2(a). [Laughter.]
Of course, I wish to be associated with the remarks that have been made, but I do have a couple of items of business to leave with you as we depart this place, some hoping to return, and others moving on to do other things.
Can you confirm whether Members will receive Bound Volumes of the Hansard reports of proceedings, as happened in the old Assembly? Secondly, and you will appreciate my asking this, when an Assembly is reconvened, will it operate under the original Standing Orders?
Thank you for those points of order. The answer to your first question is a short and sweet yes. The answer to the second is that the Standing Orders that we are operating under now are Standing Orders for the Transitional Assembly, and they will apply until restoration occurs. At that point, the restored Assembly will be subject to the new Standing Orders on which the Standing Orders Committee has been working.
Before I adjourn formally, may I say thank you, Members, for your totally unexpected remarks. I am touched by them. I would not have been here, and I could not have been the Speaker that you say I have been, without the wonderful help and support of the staff here. On my first day as Speaker, I remember well coming in here terrified — and you all know why I was terrified — at the thought of facing the 107 of you for the first time. I was only able to come in with confidence because of the help that I received from the staff. I hope that that help will continue to be offered.
As my Deputy Speaker said, this is not my last sitting. I will be here when Members come to sign the Roll of Membership, and I hope to be able to hand over to a new Speaker when, hopefully, devolution is restored at the end of March.
I thank you all. It has been a pleasure working with you, and I feel extremely privileged to have done so. I am aware of the hard work that you all do, in spite of what the media says. Strictly speaking, I should not say this, but I will anyway: I wish all the very best to anyone who is going to stand for election. To those Members who want to go out and fight to be returned, I hope that that is what they get.
Adjourned at 5.58 pm.