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 Nichola Mallon Nichola Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party 11:45 am, 1st December 2020

Again, I thank the Committee for its support on this matter. I recognise and share the concerns expressed by Members about the use of accelerated passage. That is why my speaking notes were very specific on the matter and why, when I appeared before the Committee, I clearly said that this was not the way to do business.

Given that a number of Members asked why it took so long, it may be helpful to outline the timeline. The loan and grant threshold was last raised in 1989 — 31 years ago. I cannot speak for other Ministers, but I wrote to the Executive on 6 July to raise the issue of the Bill. On 5 November, the Executive agreed to its introduction.

The Department for Infrastructure writes to the ports twice yearly to ask them to identify their loan requirements for the next five-year period. No one could have predicted the impact of COVID or the financial and resilience challenges that it would present to our ports. There are clear indications that my Department will receive a new request for assistance before the end of the year. Those are the circumstances under which the Bill is being brought forward in this way to the House.

Does the Member wish to comment?