Further Consideration Stage

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 1:30 pm on 26th January 2009.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon DUP 1:30 pm, 26th January 2009

I was going to say that I am glad to accept the Member’s interventions, but that is not entirely true. In the Assembly, the DUP and the First Minister and deputy First Minister have tried to ensure that all Committees have representation. During the previous Assembly mandate, when roles were reversed, contact from the Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP left a lot to be desired.

Amendment No 10 proposes that the Department of Finance and Personnel is required to approve any regulations that are made under clause 2. That amendment is unnecessary, because the Minister of Finance and Personnel will make his views well known to the Executive when they ask him to approve a proposed scheme.

Like amendment No 3, amendment No 11 proposes that:

“The relevant department shall, within 1 year of the commencement of the scheme, provide a report on the operation of the scheme to the appropriate statutory committee.”

If there were to be a statutory duty to report on a scheme, it should be to the Assembly as a whole and not directly to the Assembly Committee concerned. In any event, the Committee could seek information on the operation of any scheme at any time as part of its scrutiny role, especially if that scheme were to run for longer than the period that the amendment envisages. It has been made abundantly clear today that OFMDFM is not attempting to pull the wool over people’s eyes. We are ensuring that the Bill really meets people’s needs and circumstances.

The amendments that have been proposed do not give adequate protection. Indeed, they do the opposite — they merely add red tape and, in some cases, take away from the purpose of the Bill, which is to help people at times when they most need it.

I reject the proposed amendments and ask that all Members in the Chamber do the same to ensure that the Bill has the power to do what it is designed to do — that is, to step into the breach and make a real difference to the lives of those in need.