Extension of Sitting

Part of Assembly Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 4:00 pm on 16th January 2017.

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Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy Deputy Speaker 4:00 pm, 16th January 2017

I would prefer to deal with this point of order, Dr Farry.

I will deal with Mr Allister's point of order first. I have great sympathy with the view expressed, because this is a legislative Assembly. The scrutiny and passage of legislation — primary and secondary — is one of the most important aspects of our role.

You asked about Standing Order 43. Standing Order 43 provides, among other thing:

"(1) Every statutory rule or draft statutory rule which - (a) is laid before the Assembly; and (b) is subject to Assembly proceedings, shall stand referred to the appropriate committee for scrutiny."

The Committees may delegate technical scrutiny to the Examiner of Statutory Rules, who is, of course, an officer of the Assembly. The Standing Order also provides that the appropriate Committee and/or the Examiner of Statutory Rules:

"shall where practicable report on an instrument before any resolution or motion relating to that instrument is moved in the Assembly."

The key phrase here, Mr Allister and Members, is "where practicable". In this instance, such scrutiny and reporting by the Committees and the Examiner has not been practicable, and I agree with the Member that that is far from ideal.

As debates on legislation, including subordinate legislation, are not timed, any Member wishing to speak will have an opportunity to do so without a time limit. Members may, of course, reflect their opinion on the time allowed by the Minister for the Assembly and its Committees to scrutinise this legislation in deciding whether or not to affirm it. I encourage Members to take the opportunity that this debate presents to put all their concerns on the record and to seek explanations and, where appropriate, assurances from the Minister in relation to these regulations. However unsatisfactory the circumstances may be, today is the only opportunity for scrutiny, and I encourage Members to make the most of it.