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Summary

  1. The first item of business is a statement from Education Minister John O'Dowd, on the latest meeting of the North South Ministerial Council's education body.
  2. A DUP motion is calling on the justice minister to address a "miscarriage of justice" against Colin Worton, one of four former UDR soldiers convicted of murder, but later released on appeal.
  3. Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and Environment Minister Mark H Durkan are at the despatch boxes for Question Time.
  4. Sinn Fein are bringing a motion on the block grant, calling for unity in lobbying the British government over what they estimate to be a £1.5bn reduction in the subvention.
  5. John Dallat of the SDLP is bringing the adjournment debate on the future of the Causeway Hospital, Coleraine.

Live Reporting

By Robin Sheeran and Robert Ainley

All times stated are UK

That's all for today.

Thanks for joining us.

Tomorrow, Democracy Live at Stormont will be covering proceedings in the Education Committee, which will be in open session from around 10.45am, followed by the Health Committee.

Motion passes

The motion passes on an oral vote.

'As devastating as austerity'

Mr Hamilton says the impact of the penalties for welfare reform non-compliance and the cost of balancing the books "will be every bit as devastating, if not more devastating than austerity emanating from any government in London".

'Too hard, too fast'

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton says he agrees with some sentiments within the motion.

Simon Hamilton
BBC

He says it is "perfectly reasonable to accept that we have to live within our means but oppose the particular type of policy being followed by the Westminster government".

Mr Hamilton says his own party, the DUP, "warned that going too hard and too fast, particularly in respect of capital, was going to have negative consequences, and so it came to pass".

'Take some of the hit'

Independent MLA John McCallister says that when you are part of a union, "you have to take some of the hit".

He says the Executive "boasts of having the lowest levels of household taxation" while having the "highest level of public spending".

"This can't be backed up by calls for more, and more money," he says.

Balancing the books

Jim Allister
BBC

TUV leader Jim Allister says "anyone who thinks you can be part of a nation which needs to of necessity balance its books and yet be immune to the steps necessary to balance the books is utterly deluded".

'A cold dish'

Fearghal McKinney of the SDLP says it is ironic that Sinn Fein are proposing this motion when they supported the budget, which he says introduces these cuts.

He says that while the link with Westminster may be "a cold dish, it's a cold dish worth £10bn" and to break the link would "bankrupt us completely and sent any north/south ambition down the tubes".

Spending cuts

Judith Cochrane of Alliance says her party has cautioned against cutting public spending too quickly which she says has been "borne out in events".

Judith Cochrane
BBC

She says that "rather than special pleading, we should be arguing for a slow-down at a UK level" which could in itself act as a "relative economic stimulus".

'Block grant worth around £10bn'

Leslie Cree
BBC

Ulster Unionist Leslie Cree says being part of the UK is worth around £10bn a year to Northern Ireland in the form of the block grant.

He says the latest figures show public spending per head of capita was £8,678 per year in England, while in Northern Ireland the figure was £10,961

'Austerity a dead hand'

SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley says "report after report has indicated how hard we have been hit by recession - it has been deeper here, and recovery has been slower".

He speaks in support of the motion, saying that it is important that the "anti-austerity message gets across to the government in Westminster" as austerity is "a dead hand" on the economy.

'Reluctant support'

Paul Girvan
BBC

Paul Girvan of the DUP says he will support the motion, but "with some reluctance".

He says it is important to use the block grant as efficiently as possible, but "it is not Tory cuts, but Sinn Fein cuts that we're having to deal with in our block grant in Northern Ireland as a result of not implementing certain things which are now having a major cost - that being primarily welfare reform".

What is the block grant?

Sterling notes and coins
BBC

The block grant is the money Westminster allocates to the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales for public spending.

The level of the block grant is calculated using the

Barnett Formula.

Block grant

Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey introduces his party's motion on the block grant.

Alex Maskey
BBC

He says the subvention from Westminster has been cut by around £1.5bn over recent years.

With some of the highest levels of deprivation, economic inactivity and the fact Northern Ireland is "a post-conflict society", he says it is particularly important for the Stormont parties and "civic society" to unite against "the austerity agenda".

Planning inefficiencies?

Ulster Unionist Jo Ann Dobson asks about the transfer of planning powers to the new super-councils.

She wants a guarantee that the new system will operate "more efficiently than what we saw in the past".

The minister says he is unaware of any inefficiencies in recent years.

Hightown incinerator

Pam Cameron
BBC

Pam Cameron of the DUP asks about a proposed waste incinerator at Hightown, Newtownabbey, north of Belfast.

The minister says he is aware of "the very high level of objection", amounting to 3,258 adverse comments.

He says he cannot comment further as the matter is still under consideration.

Environment questions

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan is answering questions.

Mark H Durkan
BBC

Minister criticises Alliance

Mrs Foster criticises Alliance Westminster candidate Naomi Long for

comments she made about aerospace company Bombardier.

You can see a list of candidates for the

Belfast East constituency here.

Enterprise zone

Ulster Unionist Robin Swann asks the minister whether she would back an enterprise zone for Ballymena, County Antrim, in light of the impending closure of the JTI Gallaher cigarette factory.

JTI Gallaher, Ballymena
BBC
JTI Gallaher, Ballymena

Mrs Foster says the department is still involved in arrangements for the pilot enterprise zone at Coleraine.

She says the new concept of an enterprise zone is "a different creature" to what was available in the 1980s.

High-speed broadband

Laptop in a field
Thinkstock

The SDLP's Joe Byrne asks about the provision of high-speed broadband services in rural areas.

The minister says her department is trying to ensure basic broadband service in areas which are poorly served.

"It'll be a very long time until we have fibre broadband into every home in Northern Ireland," she says.

Economic inactivity

Sinn Fein's Pat Sheehan asks about action regarding people who are economically inactive.

Pat Sheehan
BBC

He says his constituency, West Belfast, has "one of the highest rates of economic inactivity across these islands".

The minister says economic inactivity is to be discussed by the Executive.

She says the latest figures show there has been a sustained fall in the figures for economic inactivity in West Belfast.

Credit unions

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster is answering questions, starting with a query from Sinn Fein's Barry McElduff on credit unions.

Arlene Foster
BBC

She says she hopes to bring a draft bill to the Assembly in early May with the aim of extending the financial services offered by credit unions.

We're back!

Every Tuesday at 12.30, the Assembly is suspended to allow the Business Committee to meet and decide what MLAs will be debating in the weeks ahead.

Business now resumes with Question Time.

Assembly suspended

Well, that's lunchtime.

Join us again at 2pm for coverage of Question Time, when Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and Environment Minister Mark H Durkan will be answering questions from the floor of the Assembly.

Motion passes

The motion is passed, by a margin of 54 to 27.

The Alliance amendment is defeated.

Ministerial discretion

Arlene Foster
BBC

DUP MLA Arlene Foster asks the minister to further explore the option of an ex-gratia (a sum of money paid where there is no legal obligation to do so) payment and to use his discretion in this case.

'No legal option'

Having reviewed the case Mr Ford says he has "no legal option but to refuse his claim for compensation" as the statutory compensation scheme only applies to those who have been convicted and had the conviction overturned.

"Otherwise every failed prosecution could result in an award," he says, adding if this was the case, his department would have been eligible for over 2000 such payment last year alone.

Compensation test

David Ford
BBC
David Ford

Justice Minister David Ford says Mr Worton is "innocent in the eyes of the law" but "being innocent in the eyes of the law is not the test that applies for compensation in this jurisdiction, or the rest of the UK".

'Absurd and wrong'

Jim Allister of the TUV says it is "so absurd" and "so wrong" that despite spending the same two and a half years in custody as his co-accused, Mr Worton would not be eligible for compensation as he had not been convicted.

'Questionable methods'

Sinn Fein's Sean Lynch speaks against the motion, emphasising "questionable" methods employed by police to obtain evidence from Mr Worton.

Alban Maginness
BBC
Alban Maginness

Alban Maginness of the SDLP says, "taken in the round, I think you have grounds for serious default, or exceptional circumstances".

"I think it's important we support this with vigour," he says, calling on the justice minister to act "in favour of Mr Horton".

'Innocent man'

Edwin Poots of the DUP condemns the murder of Adrian Carroll and says his family "deserve justice".

Mr Poots describes Mr Worton as "an innocent man, dragged into this" without the evidence to support a conviction.

He says the other men who had their murder convictions overturned had been able to move on with their lives and calls on the justice minister to take action to allow Mr Worton to do the same.

'Amendment flawed'

Danny Kennedy
BBC

Ulster Unionist Danny Kennedy says "no-one disputes the innocence of Colin Worton".

He says the Alliance Party amendment as "flawed" as it "effectively rules out the possibility of compensation".

'Dealing with the past'

Dolores Kelly of the SDLP speaks in support of the motion.

She suggests Mr Worton's case should be among the miscarriages of justice considered as part of the "dealing with the past" element of the

Stormont House Agreement.

Appeals overturned

Raymond McCartney
BBC

Sinn Fein's Raymond McCartney says it is important to remember the family of Adrian Carroll.

He says the proposers of the motion are "trying to paint the scenario that this somehow was the only miscarriage of justice that went through the Diplock Courts. Far from it."

Over the last number of years, he says there were "almost on a monthly basis, cases that were referred back to the court of appeal being overturned. The Court of Appeal pointing out abuses by the RUC, the British army and at times by the PPS".

'Not guilty'

Stewart Dickson
BBC

Stewart Dickson of Alliance says that as Mr Worton was not convicted, the Justice Minister David Ford could not provide him with compensation.

He says it is important to highlight the fact that Mr Worton was acquitted and found "not to be guilty by the proper authorities of the law".

'Heavy stigma'

Mr Irwin says Mr Worton has experienced "a heavy stigma" because of his "unwarranted and erroneous" connection to the murder of Adrian Carroll and this association has "prevented him from undertaking many of the normal and honourable pursuits of his life he would otherwise have pursued".

TUV leader Jim Allister describes Mr Worton's treatment as "perverse" and says he was being denied compensation due to his early acquittal and asks whether the "failure of the justice minister to address that inequity and bring justice to this case is the ongoing scandal in this case".

Colin Worton and the UDR Four

Colin Worton and four other ex-members of the Ulster Defence Regiment were all charged with murdering Adrian Carroll in Armagh in 1983.

The case against Mr Worton collapsed after his confession was ruled inadmissible.

His co-defendants, known as the 'UDR Four', were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Three of them later had their convictions quashed on appeal after judges found interview notes had been altered.

The fourth, Neil Latimer, was subsequently released under the Good Friday Agreement.

Those cleared received compensation under a discretionary scheme overseen by the Secretary of State, but Mr Worton has been denied any such payment

The UDR Four

The DUP's William Irwin introduces a motion on the UDR Four, in particular Colin Worton.

School inspections

Dominic Bradley
BBC

Dominic Bradley of the SDLP asks about co-operation on Irish language school inspections.

The minister says he is satisfied that the inspectorate has the skills to assess Irish-medium schools.

Religious certificate

On the subject of the religious education certificate required by all teachers in Catholic schools, the minister says he has worked "to ensure that that is open to all".

A level recognition

The DUP's Michelle McIlveen asks about recognition of GCE A levels by universities in the Republic of Ireland.

Michelle McIlveen
BBC
Michelle McIlveen

The minister says the southern authorities have agreed to reconsider their recognition of applied A levels to allow "greater equitable access" to southern institutions.