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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 to my honourable friend for that intervention — he is absolutely right. As the debate progresses, it will be interesting to see whether Members of the two main parties in Government — bar the First Minister and the deputy First Minister — take interventions.

All Ministers are aware of the positive input that Committees can make to proposals. It will be a lost opportunity if amendment No 1 is not accepted. I hope that the deputy First Minister will be more receptive than the co-holder of his office to the recommendations that will be made by Members today.

The deputy First Minister will probably make reference to over-legislating and over-complicating the Bill. However, amendment No 1 is an important and worthwhile addition, which the deputy First Minister would accept if he were more in tune with the implications of accelerated passage.

Amendment No 2 seeks to ensure that the Bill does not impinge on the ability of Departments to manage their budgets and to meet their settled targets and public service agreements. The recent strategic stocktake highlighted the tight fiscal position in which all Departments find themselves. The amendment will provide Ministers with the peace of mind that they will be able to continue to manage their own budgets.

Amendment No 3 is another sensible proposal that will ensure that the success or failure of any scheme can be examined by the Assembly. For policy to be implemented successfully, it must be monitored and evaluated throughout its life and afterwards. The amendment provides an opportunity for Departments to learn from their mistakes and to share successes with other Departments, Committees and non-governmental organisations.

To not accept the amendments will make little sense. They are reasonable and constructive, and they will benefit this piece of legislation. I thank the SDLP Members who tabled the amendments, and I look forward to the deputy First Minister’s response.