Thank you, Mr Speaker, but I was merely responding to some of the accusations that Ms Anderson made. It was Ms Anderson who let the cat out of the bag when she said that the Bill was going to be a “significant sea change”.
Clause 2 does have the potential to bring about a significant sea change. None of the parties are opposed to the Bill in its entirety, they do not want to see any delay, nor indeed, are they causing any such delay.
Unfortunately, Mr Shannon has left, but in answer to his question, the legislative process has not been delayed by one day. It is a matter of public record that the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister agreed to the accelerated passage of the Bill. It is entirely untrue and unfair to give the impression that a delay has been caused by any of the other parties in their attempts to make a bad piece of legislation better.
Ms Anderson suggested that clause 2 is aimed at addressing capability gaps. Surely, if there are capability gaps in the Programme for Government, or indeed, in the Budget, an annual Budget review would identify those gaps within each Department. Legislation enabling a power grab by the First Minister and deputy First Minister is, therefore, not required.
Proposed amendment Nos 4 to 11, which we support, attempt to try to ensure that the Executive remains at the heart of Government. Proposed amendment No 4 stipulates that power should not simply be confined to the First Minister and the deputy First Minister, but that the agreement of the Executive Committee is required. In an interview, Mr Molloy said that Sinn Féin and the DUP would have the majority vote in the Executive, and, as Ms Anderson pointed out, that is obviously the case as we move towards a new future which is Sinn Féin and DUP controlled.
It is entirely erroneous to suggest, as Mr Shannon did, that clause 2 is designed to help the people of the Province in their time of need. It is not about that at all; we all know that it is about directing money to areas where there is poverty, social exclusion and deprivation. Mr Kelly informed the House that the First Minister and the deputy First Minister would bring forward legislation by November 2008; surely their failure to do that constitutes a capability gap in the building of a better and more inclusive society.
I note that in the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister, Sinn Féin and the DUP now accept the findings of the Lifetime Opportunities strategy, something which they have bad-mouthed on a regular and routine basis over the past couple of years because it was created under direct rule. If clause 2 is to deal, in some way, with social exclusion, deprivation and poverty, one wonders why Sinn Féin and the DUP were not doing what they were supposed to do, and why, 18 months into a new Administration, none of those strategies have been produced. For example, many Members will accept that the victims and survivors of the conflict are often disadvantaged — through the loss of the main wage earner and so on — and yet there is further procrastination in bringing forward the strategy for victims and survivors. Although that strategy is now being put out to consultation, albeit on a limited basis, no precise dates have been given.