Further Consideration Stage

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:30 pm on 26th January 2009.

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Photo of John McCallister John McCallister UUP 12:30 pm, 26th January 2009

I am grateful for that intervention, and I will return to discussing the Bill immediately. I am not sure whether the First Minister’s colleague Mr Moutray stayed in the Chamber until the next Member to speak had finished.

The SDLP, along with the Ulster Unionist Party and the Alliance Party, has attempted to table amendments that will improve the Bill’s democratic accountability. The amendments would bring the legislation more into line with the power-sharing character of the unique Government institutions that we have in Northern Ireland. The amendments that were proposed last week were an attempt to ensure that decisions made in any emergency situation be made by the entire Executive, with the consent of the relevant Departments.

The amendments that the SDLP tabled for today are aimed at ensuring that the Assembly appropriately scrutinises designations of financial assistance. Despite the ill-tempered reception that the amendments received last week, the SDLP has proposed others that will improve the Bill. Amendment No 1 seeks to ensure that the relevant Statutory Committee be notified by the related Department of any designation of financial assistance under clause 1. Designations under clause 1 are subject to negative resolution, and that will result in limited, or no, opportunity for Members to scrutinise proposals. Amendment No 1 would ensure that the relevant Department would be able to examine, and have input into, proposals if appropriate.

I see no reason for rejecting that amendment, over and above the fact that, to date, the DUP and Sinn Féin have yet to accept any amendment to a Bill that received accelerated passage. Not only would amendment No 1 enable Committees to scrutinise proposals on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland, but they would be able to add their diverse, and often expert, experience, which, in many instances, would help to improve pieces of legislation that all Committees in this place consider.