Assembly Insider 10th February 2020

10 Feb 2020 Kathy Maguire    Last updated: 19 Feb 2020

NICVA's Assembly Insider is a weekly email bulletin providing information on the work of the Northern Ireland Assembly, in particular those issues which are of interest to the voluntary and community sector.

Last week in the Assembly

The Assembly met last week at 12 pm on Monday 3rd February in Parliament Buildings.

Speaker's Business

Private Members' Bills

The Speaker made an announcement regarding Private Members Bills, citing the importance of equitable and adequate support being made available to Members to develop and take forward Private Members Bills. The Speaker announced a number of new support measures including Guidance being made available for Members on developing PMBs and changes to the support available to members via the Bill office, including increased staffing and dedicated Non- Executive and Executive Bills teams. In addition, the Speaker will call on the Committee on Procedures to reinstate a review of the PMB system that it was unable to complete before the Assembly dissolved in 2017.

 Full details can be found here


Assembly Business

 Nomination of Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman

That this Assembly, in accordance with paragraph 12(2) of schedule 1 to the Public Services Ombudsman Act (Northern Ireland) 2016, nominates Paul McFadden for appointment as the acting Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman.

This question was put to Assembly and agreed.


The following motions where debated:

Private Members' Business (rescheduled from w/b 27 January)

Autism Training in Schools

'That this Assembly recognises the specific needs of pupils with autism in our schools; values and supports the role of all educators in ensuring pupils with autism have the best educational outcomes; and calls on the Minister of Education to explore the introduction of mandatory autism training for all teachers and classroom assistants. - Pan Cameron MLA & David Hilditch MLA, DUP.

This amendment was put to and agreed to by the Assembly. You can read the full debate here

Climate Emergency

'That this Assembly recognises that we are facing climate breakdown and a biodiversity crisis which are impacting here and now, and will affect all aspects of our lives in coming years; declares a climate emergency; and calls upon the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the Minister for the Economy to implement urgently the commitments as agreed in the New Decade, New Approach agreement to include reviewing the Executive’s strategies to reduce carbon emissions in respect of the Paris Accord and the need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures by 2100; developing a new energy strategy which will set ambitious targets and actions for a fair and just transition to a zero carbon society; bringing forward a climate change act to give environmental targets a strong legal underpinning; establishing an Independent   Environmental Protection Agency to oversee this work and ensure targets are met; developing an economic strategy which will support clean and inclusive growth and create jobs as part of a green new deal; creating a plan to eliminate plastic pollution; and closing down the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme and replacing it with a scheme that cuts carbon emissions effectively.' - Caoimhe Archibald MLA, Philip McGuigan MLA, Declan McAleer MLA - Sinn Féin

MLAs voted in support of the amendment by 48 votes to 27 declaring a climate emergency and the need for urgent implementation of the climate change recommendations contained within the New Decade New Approach Deal including creation of an independent body to oversee. You can read the full debate here

Oral Questions

Highlights of answered questions in the Assembly last week included:

First Minister and deputy First Minister:

  • Implementation of the New Decade, New Approach commitments.
  • Compensation payments for victims of historical institutional abuse
  • The movement of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland following the UK withdrawal from the EU
  • Progress on development of a Regional Trauma Network for victims and survivors of the Troubles.
  • The working group on mental wellbeing and resilience.
  • Timeframe for publication of update on the Programme for Government.
  • Establishment of the Executive Sub-Committee on Brexit.

A full transcript of their responses can be found here

Minister for Communities:

  • Waiting times for initial Universal Credit payments.
  • Update on Welfare Reform mitigations.
  • Planned reforms to, and timescale for delivery of, the Housing Selection Scheme.
  • Projected costs for the redevelopment of Casement Park.
  • Rural proofing of any future anti-poverty strategy.
  • Protection of historical sights
  • Introduction of a sign language bill

A full transcript of the Ministers responses can be found here

Minister for the Economy

  • Proposed Ban on Zero Hours Contracts
  • Preparedness for impact of EU withdrawal
  • Broadband in rural areas.
  • Renewable Heating Incentive scheme

A full transcript of the Ministers responses can be found here

Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs

  • Review of the Environmental Farming Scheme.
  • Mental health in farming and rural communities.
  • Loss of the basic payment scheme for farmers following EU withdrawal
  • Introduction of an animal cruelty register.

A full transcript of the Ministers responses can be found here

Written Questions

MLAs are continuing to submit written questions. Last week’s submissions included  questions on :

  • Universal Credit Payment Options
  • Healthy Eating and the School Curriculum
  • Green New Deal Economic Strategy
  • Sustainable Budgets for Schools and the Youth Work Sector
  •  Introduction of Universal Free Childcare for working parents
  • Provision of free sanitary products in all schools
  • Costal Erosion
  • Peace Plus Funding
  • Criminal Law on Child Sexual Exploitation
  • Service Responses to Gambling Addiction
  • Peri Natal Mental Health Services

All full list of daily questions submitted can be found here .

All Party Groups

The APG on Early Education and Childcare met on Monday 3rd February at 11am in the Long Gallery, Parliament Buildings. For more information,  on this APG email [email protected]

The APG on Sports and Physical Recreation met on Tuesday 04th  February at 1pm in Parliament Buildings.

Who are the All Party Groups?

All Party Groups provide a forum by which MLAs and outside organisations and individuals can meet to discuss shared interests in a particular cause or subject. For a full list of APGs, see here.


The Week Ahead

Assembly Business

Question Time

Four different Ministers will face oral questions from the Assembly this week:

  • Education

  • Finance

  • Health

  • Infrastructure

See the full Order Paper from Monday 10th  February

All Party Groups

The All Party Group on Autism will meet on Tuesday 11th February at 12pm in Parliament Buildings.

The All Party Group on Domestic and Sexual Violence will meet on Tuesday 11th  February at 1pm in the Long Gallery, Parliament Buildings.


The Minister for Communities will provide a briefing to the Committee for Communities  on Primary Legislation required for Continued Mitigation of the Social Sector Size Criteria.

The Committee for Education will receive oral briefings from : the Department of Education, Department of Health, Education Authority and Public Health Agency on the  Mental Health and Well-being Framework ;  from the Department of Education on  the  Nutritional Standards Consultation and the Assembly Research & Information Service on Educational Attainment/Underachievement Issues.

The Committee for Health will receive briefings from the Department of Health on departmental budgets and will consider SR 2019/42 The Provision of Health Services to Persons Not Ordinarily Resident (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2019.

The Committee for Infrastructure will receive departmental briefings on Brexit, Road Safety and Driver and Vehicle Regulation and Transport Policy & Public Transport.

The Committee for the Economy will receive oral briefings from both Invest NI and Tourism NI on EU Exit Plans.

The Committee for The Executive Office  will receive briefings  on Historical Institutional Abuse from the Executive Office and the Interim Advocate for Victims and Survivors , Mr Brendan McAllister . The Executive office will provide an overview briefing on TBUC and Good Relations, Victims and Finance Division.

The Committee for Justice  will receive a Briefing on the PSNI Budget and key policing priorities/challenges by the Chief Constable, PSNI  and an overview Briefing on the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

The Committee for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs  will hear Oral Evidence on  EU Issues from the EU Affairs Manager and from the  Brexit & Environment Group. Also, oral Evidence from DAERA on Central Services and Contingency Planning.

The Committee for Finance will receive a first day brief from the Department of Finance and discuss 2019/2020 Spring Supplementary Estimates and the Budget Bill for (Northern Ireland)

For full details of this weeks planned committee business, visit here.


You can  watch or listen to most Assembly  debates or Committee meetings, just visit's picture
by Kathy Maguire

Policy Development Officer

[email protected]

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