The Harbours (Grants and Loans Limit) Bill: Accelerated Passage

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 11:45 am on 1st December 2020.

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Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice 11:45 am, 1st December 2020

Accelerated passage should be utterly alien to the House. Sadly, it is becoming far too familiar to the House. It should be alien because it is the role of a legislative Assembly to sift, test and interrogate legislation. Accelerated passage strips out all that; it removes the critical Committee Stage, during which matters can be sifted, tested and interrogated, and it takes the shortcut of simply legislating on the back of Second Stage and further debates. That should be alien to a legislative Assembly. It should be particularly alien to a legislative Assembly in which you have an all-party Executive because, without an Opposition, there is no other opportunity to interrogate the issues.

Therefore, the drift, step by step, whereby the Assembly is always finding excuses to dispense with normal procedures when matters such as this are raised, is alarming. There is not much point in Members saying that they are uncomfortable with this and offering various platitudes such as, "We do not like doing it" or "It is not the way that we would do business but we are going to do it". It is either right or wrong. Further to this, the point has been made that we had 31 years to do it, but no one bothered. Since January, there has been an opportunity to do it, but it was not done.

Over two months ago, on 23 September, the Minister went to the Infrastructure Committee about this issue, and, over two months later, we are here. Two months, which could have been spent on scrutiny in the Committee had the Bill been brought to the House then, were wasted. Who was running down the clock to get to December and say, "Oh, poor us. We must have accelerated passage"?

We could have had the Bill much earlier in the year, and I protest, most vigorously, at the erosion of the powers of the House and at the easy option of accelerated passage being taken. It is not good enough. It should not be the easy passage that it is. I, for one, want to record my dissent from the slippage into repeated accelerated passage.