I beg to move
I do not intend to address the content of the Bill to any great extent. This is a seven-clause Bill with a single aim, which is to ensure that citizens in Northern Ireland whose land has been subject to compulsory purchase are treated equally to their counterparts in England and Wales who enjoy enhanced compensation payments. The Bill will bring us into line with the more favourable position in England and Wales by reflecting the legislative changes introduced there with the abolition of farm loss payments and the introduction of two new payments: a basic loss payment and an occupier's loss payment.
The Bill was introduced to the House on 22 February, and the accelerated passage and Second Stage debates took place on 1 March. I am grateful to the Members of the Assembly for the contributions they made to those debates. I would like to place on record my thanks to the Chairman and the members of the Committee for Regional Development and to all my Assembly colleagues for their cooperation and agreement to the Bill proceeding by way of the accelerated passage process. Without that cooperation, it would not be possible for the Bill to have reached all its Assembly stages within this mandate. The fact that no amendments were tabled at either Consideration Stage on 7 March or, indeed, at Further Consideration Stage on 14 March further indicates, I believe, that Members of the Assembly are content with the purpose of the Bill.
With that, I am happy to respond to any comments Members may wish to make during the debate.
I do not really have much to add to what the Minister said. I know that a lot of people today have reflected on the contributions that have been made in the Assembly during this mandate, and I want to put on record my thanks to the Minister. I have spoken to many people who are going to lose land as a result of the A6, and whilst it is seen as progress for many, some see it disadvantaging their farm practice. However, the people along the A6 whom I have spoken to welcome the fact that the Minister has moved to bring us into line with the rest of the UK by giving them the advantage of that additional 10%. The Minister talked today about providing a more favourable position, and I think that an additional 10% for those losing land is a favourable position. It is an opportunity that has been missed in the past and, on reflection, it is disappointing that we were not here sooner. I can only say, however, that, if it were not for this Minister in her term in office, the people along the A6 and, indeed, the A5 would continue to be disadvantaged. So I put on record my thanks to the current Minister. I wish her well in the forthcoming Assembly elections. I wish her the best, and I hope the she comes back to continue the work that she has been doing.
Mr Speaker, if you will allow me, I also want to pay tribute to you for the fairness that you have shown to many of us in the Chamber in your time. I wish you well in your retirement; indeed, I wish all those who are retiring at this time well. I also wish those standing for election well. These last few weeks have shown that work can be done in this place. There has been a huge amount of delivery, albeit it was late in the term. We have put our shoulders to the wheel and pushed, and we have got there. Given that the A6 comes through part of my constituency, this land acquisition legislation typifies for me what we can do to change the lives of some people. As I said, whilst they are giving up land, they will get an additional payment, and that should remove part of the burden on them.
I think that, when the will is there, we can work together for the betterment of everyone. This is not an orange or green issue. It is not about community background, where someone goes on a Sunday or their place of worship. It is about everyday things that are valuable to people.
I want to close by again thanking the Minister for bringing this forward and thanking Members for their patience in allowing accelerated passage so that we could get this in before the end of the mandate.
I also welcome the Bill and, like the Chair, commend the Minister for bringing this forward in such a short period. It is to be welcomed, given the Minister's recent announcements that the A5 and the A6 are to go ahead. It is only fair that those landowners who will be giving up their land and property are compensated on the same basis as in other jurisdictions.
As this is the last business of the Regional Development Committee, I want to put on record my party's thanks to the Chair and to the previous Chair, Jimmy Spratt, with whom we got on very well and worked well. The work of the Committee over the past five years has been positive and constructive, producing excellent reports. I will only name two of them: 'A Report on the Inquiry into the Benefits of Cycling to the Economy'; and 'A Report on the Inquiry into the Better Use of Public and Community Sector Funds for the Delivery of Bus Transport'.
I am led to believe that three people are leaving the Committee: John Dallat, Stephen Moutray and, not least, David McNarry. He will certainly be missed. As Deputy Chair, I also want to put on record our thanks to the officials who have worked with and assisted us over that period.
To conclude, I want to acknowledge the role of —
I thank the Member for giving way. I just cannot sit down tonight. I have to ask something. You mentioned the cycling. Is the Member up for another cycle along the Wild Atlantic Way, as we had when I was on the Regional Development Committee? Remember, you and I went ahead; the rest fell behind. They could not keep up with us. Would you be up for another one?
Certainly. Thanks for that contribution. I actually thought the Minister had concluded a couple of minutes ago. I remember cycling on the Atlantic Way. I am sorry that I am not able, for injury reasons, to cycle any more.
As I said, I want to acknowledge the role of the Committee staff and all those who have supported us over this mandate.
Finally, a Cheann Comhairle, I want to wish you well. I have known you for many years, even before coming to the House, and I have always said that you are gentleman and the right person for this role. Go raibh míle maith agat, and all the best for the future.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am grateful to Members who have contributed to the debate. As others have said, I believe that the Bill will ensure that land and property owners in Northern Ireland will be compensated on a fairer basis and on the same basis as their counterparts in England and Wales. Land being taken is not easy under any circumstances, and it is particularly difficult for landowners. I want to recognise that. However, I hope that this goes, in some small way, towards helping those landowners as they move forward in the future.
I pay tribute to outgoing members of the Committee who have decided not to stand for election again, in particular my party colleague Stephen Moutray, my constituency colleague David McNarry, and John Dallat, for their contributions to the Committee. It would be remiss of me, given that he is here this evening, not to pay tribute — although he was not a member of the Regional Development Committee during my time — to my friend Kieran McCarthy. We served on Ards Borough Council together, and we have been friends throughout. He has been my colleague in the constituency for over 10 years. I will miss his contribution, but, of course, that is dependent upon whether I get back to this House myself. I will miss his friendship.
In conclusion, I commend the Land Acquisition and Compensation (Amendment) Bill to the House.