Ms Anderson, and others, asked why amendment No 8 seeks to remove “6 months” from clause 2 and insert “3 months”. The purpose of the legislation is to respond quickly to emergency situations. One would have to ask whether it is really an emergency if six months is the length of time that it takes to act. Therefore, it is an attempt to improve the Bill, and to put it on the footing that the DUP and Sinn Féin have suggested that it already is. To a certain extent, we accept their rationale, but we want to improve upon it.
Proposed amendment No 10 concerns determining where the budget will come from, and relates to clause 1 in which an attempt is made to identify the money prior to any scheme being initiated. Proposed amendment No 11 is aimed at ensuring that all Members of the Assembly and the Committees have the opportunity to scrutinise the outworkings of any scheme under this initiative. Other parties will do well to remember that majorities can be created in all shapes and forms.
During his contribution to the debate on the Bill’s Consideration Stage, the First Minister suggested that it could determine who has responsibility for preschool-aged children, which could, clearly, fall upon the Minister of Education, Caitríona Ruane. That may well be an area in which the scheme might be used and action taken.
The SDLP takes its responsibilities of scrutiny and public accountability seriously. It does not sell itself out nor do deals behind closed doors for its own party-political advantage. It works for the greater good of the community.