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Summary

  1. MLAs had their first opportunity to debate the Budget Bill.
  2. The communities and economy ministers appeared at Question Time.
  3. Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir made a statement on the June monitoring round.
  4. There was an adjournment debate on the condition of rural roads in West Tyrone.

Live Reporting

By Brooke Allen and Robin Sheeran

All times stated are UK

Goodbye

That's it from us today. 

Join us tomorrow from 10:00 BST when we will have live coverage of the Education Committee. 

Until then, have a great night, goodbye. 

The assembly is ajourned

The speaker adjourns the assembly. 

The minister responds

Chris Hazzard
BBC

Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard responds to the debate. 

He welcomes the additional funding allocated to road maintenance, announced today by the finance minister. 

Regarding resource funding, he says, "I have now asked officials to immediately enhance grass cutting, gully emptying and the repair of potholes right across the north". 

"I recognise the concerns that members have raised here today and I hope that the outcome of June monitoring will go along way to address these concerns," the minister says. 

Roads causing 'distress' to wheelchair users

Jenny Palmer
BBC

Ulster Unionist Jenny Palmer reads a speech on behalf of her party colleague, Ross Husse,y who is not present. 

She thanks Berry McElduff for bringing up the issue in the assembly. 

The Alliance party's Kellie Armstrong says that "as a rural dweller, I couldn't live without a car". 

However, she says that some wheelchair users are avoiding travel as being jolted in the back of buses on rural roads is causing them distress.

Health and safety

Sinn Féin's Declan McAleer says he lives in a rural area over 40 miles from the nearest hospital.

He says that well-maintained roads are essential "for our health and safety as well".

His party colleague, Michaela Boyle, pays tribute to the Roads Service in Strabane for reacting to requests she has brought on behalf of constituents.

'The Cinderella of roads funding'

Tom Buchanan
BBC
Tom Buchanan

The DUP's Tom Buchanan says it is interesting to note that there is an adjournment debate on rural broadband next week.

He says the small rural roads "are the Cinderella of roads funding".

Daniel McCrossan of the SDLP says he welcomes the announcement of an extra £25m for the Department of Infrastructure.

However, he says that £1bn is required simply to bring Northern ireland's roads up to the required standards.

Adjournment debate

Pothole on road
BBC

Sinn Féin's Barry McElduff introduces his adjournment debate on the condition of rural roads in West Tyrone.

He says that when he was canvassing in the recent election campaign "people were saying to me the big issues are rural roads and rural broadband".

Mr McElduff says that country people are reduced to "a feeling of helplessness" due to "large, crater-style holes".

The motion passes

The motion is carried by cross-community consent. 

The Budget Bill completes its second stage.

The house divides

The question is put to the chamber. 

As the second stage of the budget bill is not agreed on an oral vote, the house divides. 

'Strangford's a long way' from the A5 and A6

In his response to Kellie Armstrong's criticisms of the budget "investing in headlines, rather than front line services" , the minister says he would be keen to take the Alliance MLA's moneysaving suggestions on board but "we could temper some of them". 

"Strangford's a long way, perhaps, from the A5 and A6," he says, with reference to her constituency. 

The minister's party colleague, Barry McElduff, asks, "is it any wonder the Alliance Party aren't doing particularly well west of the Bann in Tyrone and Fermanagh?". 

The chamber laughs. 

Closing remarks

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir is making his closing remarks on the debate. 

In his response to a statement issued by the SDLP's Claire Hanna, which criticises the allocation of £26m to the executive office, he says "this isn't funding for the executive office, this is to get money into the communities". 

Read Claire Hanna's statement here. 

Asking the minister to 'be honest'

Gerry Carroll
BBC

People before Profit's Gerry Carroll says that if there is one thing he has learned in his short time in the assembly, "it is that there are lies, there are damned lies and then there are executive figures".

"I say this because behind every one of these figures are the lives of people and the lifeblood of our community," he says. 

He asks the minister and executive to be honest with people, "that these figures mean that more cuts will be bestowed upon them and this assembly is failing". 

'Socialist credentials'

Jim Allister of the TUV says Eamonn McCann's speech served as a reminder to Sinn Féin of "the socialist credentials they once espoused before they joined the establishment".

He says the minister is "carrying the water of austerity through this house".

Mr Allister says it is "patently obvious" that the budget is doing precisely what Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said he would not do.

He also criticises the DUP for its co-operation with Sinn Féin.

Mr Allister says that things that were once "unacceptable, anathema, beyond the pale" are now seen by the party as a price worth paying.

'Shedloads of money'

Eamonn McCann
BBC

Eamonn McCann of People Before Profit says he is "very worried about this scheme called outcome-based".

He describes the devolution of corporation tax as "nonsense".

"Shedloads of money is going to be shovelled into the coffers of multinational companies," he says.

BBC NI hosts live debate on EU membership

Flags
Reuters

Ahead of the referendum on EU membership, BBC Northern Ireland is hosting a live debate giving voters an opportunity to put their questions to a panel of speakers.  

The live television debate on the EU Referendum, hosted by Stephen Nolan, will be broadcast on Wednesday 15 June on BBC One Northern Ireland at 22:45. 

The programme will examine what local voters think about EU membership and provide the studio audience with the opportunity to take part in the debate. 

'Repeated points of warning'

Alex Attwood
BBC

On the devolution of corporation tax, the SDLP's Alex Attwood says Hansard will show that members have "put down repeated points of warning in the chamber". 

"This executive has to agree with London the date and the rate when the devolution of corporation tax will happen," he says. 

The DUP's Emma Pengelly says "the date and the rate are agreed".  

'A permanent cut'

Steven Agnew
BBC

Mr Agnew says Northern Ireland was the only region to ask the Chancellor, George Osborne, for more cuts. 

He asks the minister, "how will a permanent cut in our public services improve well-being?". 

"The only cut we should be looking for is a cut in the waste within our system," he says. 

'Frankly scandalous'

Pupil in school with pencils
BBC

Trevor Lunn of Alliance runs through a list of problems surrounding education policy.

They include "a frankly scandalous situation around special educational needs".

Green Party leader, Steven Agnew, says "we are unique in these islands in that we put all the weight of austerity on cuts to public services". 

"Whilst the parties in government may have changed somewhat, the parties in power remain the same -  this was always a DUP/Sinn Féin budget," he says. 

Social housing

Sinn Féin's Fra McCann raises the matter of social housing waiting lists.

Belfast housing
BBC

He says that in his constituency "things are that bad that there is a waiting list to get into hostels".

Ulster Unionist Harold McKee criticises the transfer of the agriculture department headquarters to Ballykelly, which he describes as "a pre-determined Sinn Féin-favoured outcome".

'Gold plated A5' should be reviewed

A5 junction
BBC

Ulster Unionist Jenny Palmer says that perhaps if the "gold plated A5" road project were reviewed, there could be some money to improve to the "bottlenecks coming into Belfast".  

Mrs Palmer describes the proposed Narrow Water Bridge, a cross-border bridge connecting counties Down and Louth, as "a vanity project"

She recommends that it be consigned to "where it should be, in the back of the filing cabinet".

'Basic needs are not being met'

In her maiden speech, Kellie Armstrong of the Alliance party, says this budget spends a lot of money on high-profile projects, while "basic needs are not being met". 

She says that, when in the role of finance minister, the DUP's Simon Hamilton said it was not affordable to build both the A5 and A6, yet they were both included in today's budget. 

"This budget actually places further pressures on our community by investing in headlines, instead of front line services", she says.  

Budget 'will not restore economic balance'

Lough Erne viewpoint
BBC
Lough Erne: Tourism is an economic driver in Fermanagh

In his maiden speech, the SDLP's Richie McPhillips makes specific reference to his own constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone. 

"The people of my constituency are concerned about the gradual erosion of services," he says. 

He describes the budget as a "one year budget which will not restore economic balance or fairness between the west and the rest of the North". 

Agriculture Committee chairperson raises concerns

Sinn Féin's Linda Dillon, chairperson of the Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee, raises a number of concerns. 

She says the committee "recognises the importance of its role in scrutinising the department's expenditure in the delivery of projects". 

Schools are 'past the crisis point'

Classroom scene
BBC

Rosemary Barton of the UUP says schools are "past the crisis point" and the continual cuts over the past five years are "taking their toll". 

Making reference to the extra £5m of funding which has been allocated to education, she asks "is that enough to plug the school budget gap?". 

"The budget for education remains a cause for real concern," she concludes. 

'The best bang for the buck'

Paul Girvan
BBC

Speaking as a member of the finance and infrastructure committees, the DUP's Paul Girvan says we need to look at more innovative forms of financing. 

He says there is a "necessity for the extra billion pounds in health" but more importantly is "the reform that needs to take place within our health budget delivery". 

"We need to be ensuring we are getting the best bang for the buck", he says. 

Welcome for 'commitment to major projects'

Declan McAleer
BBC

Declan McAleer, Sinn Féin's spokesperson for infrastructure, welcomes the budget and the minister's earlier statement as "over £20bn has been set aside to improve road infrastructure". 

He also says the west of Northern Ireland has been "living with an infrastructure deficit" and welcomes the "commitment to major projects, such as the A5 and A6". 

In conclusion, he commends the bill as it "sets the trajectory for the time ahead". 

'Left in the dark'

The DUP's Jim Wells agrees with the opposition and says they were "absolutely right" to raise concerns. 

He criticises the finance minister for the bill and says members were "left in the dark" with "absolutely no idea of the pressures different government departments were facing". 

Concerned about 'pressures on departments'

In his closing remarks, Mr Beattie says he is "not being overly critical" but he is "concerned about all of the pressures on all of the departments". 

"In its current form, some of those pressures are not sustainable," he says. 

'Making sure departments work together'

Doug Beattie
BBC

Ulster Unionist Doug Beattie says "any budget has a financial action which creates a financial reaction".

"If you give money to one department, it's going to have an effect on other departments," he says. 

He talks about the DUP and Sinn Féin manifestos which, he says,  state they will give an extra £1bn to health over the next five years. 

"That's going to have an effect on other departments," he says.

"The important thing is, to make it have a positive effect on those other departments, by making sure departments work together". 

Return to the budget bill

MLAs now return to debating the second stage of the Budget Bill. 

77 cruise ships in Belfast this year

Cruise ship in Belfast
BBC

The DUP's Philip Logan asks about the number of cruise ships coming into Belfast this year. 

The minister says it is expected that "77 cruise ships will dock in Belfast this year" and as this number has grown substantially in the last few years, this is a "vote of confidence in NI generally". 

He says the cruise ships will bring "around 143,000 visitors" (guests and crew) to Northern Ireland and they will spend over £6m. 

Magee campus

Magee Campus
BBC

Sinn Féin's Declan Kearney asks about the minister's "plans to ensure that universities are funded to deliver the skills demanded by the economy".

The minister says universities form "a core part of national and regional infrastructure".

Mr Kearney asks about the development proposal for Ulster University's Magee campus in Londonderry.

The minister says the outline business case "will be considered on its merits".

He says he is aware of the university's aim of expanding student numbers and that it would have a positive effect on the local economy.

Household income

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt asks how the minister "plans to increase Northern Ireland's gross disposable household income".

Mr Hamilton says he accepts that the levels are disappointing at 81.5% of the UK average.

He says the answer is "not just bringing in more jobs, but bringing in better jobs".

Economy questions

Simon Hamilton
BBC

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton is answering questions from MLAs.

'Irresponsible' drinks promotions

Drinks
BBC

The DUP's Sammy Douglas asks if the minister intends to put the drinks industry's voluntary code on a statutory basis.

Mr Givan says the code "was brought in by the industry to deal with irresponsible drinks promotions".

He says this will be dealt with in the bill.

"For those that engage in these promotions, when it comes to re-applying for a licence then that's an issue that the magistrate will be able to take into account," he says.

Licensing laws

Wine glasses
Getty Images

The SDLP's Patsy McGlone asks the minister when he plans to bring forward legislation to reform the licensing laws.

Mr Givan says he intends to bring forward a bill covering a number of measures.

Mr McGlone asks about restrictions on opening hours at Easter.

The minister says that "Easter is a period of special significance in Northern Ireland".

He adds that there are restrictions on drinking at Easter in many countries, including an all-day ban in the Republic of Ireland. 

'Beware open mics!'

BBC NI political correspondent Gareth Gordon tweets

The benefits cap

Jobs and benefits office
BBC

The SDLP's Mark H Durkan asks about the local impact of the Welfare Reform and Work Act.

Mr Givan says the latest benefit cap regulations reduce the cap from £26,000 to £20,000, and will increase the number of households affected in Northern Ireland from 500 to 2,440.

The executive has vowed to mitigate the effects of the cap and "the legislation and operational arrangements to make payments to protect households are now in place".

No funding for hospital waiting lists

BBC NI's Health Correspondent Marie Louise Connolly tweets...

Question Time

Paul Givan
BBC

Communities Minister Paul Givan is answering questions for the first time since his appointment.