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Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

  1. That's all for today

    Stormont's Parliament Buildings

    Deputy Speaker Roy Beggs draws proceedings to a close and the members file out into Stormont's Great Hall - that's your lot for the day.

    We'll be back at 10:30 for an all-day session on the second stage of the Budget Bill, with the small matter of question times for the finance and health ministers thrown in among it all.

    Do join us if you can - in the meantime enjoy your evening.

  2. Budget Bill 2020 introduced

    Just before the assembly shuts down for the day, there's one last bit of business - Finance Minister Conor Murphy introduces the Budget Bill 2020.

    The first stage of the bill simply involves reading its title into the assembly record.

    Roy Beggs

    Deputy Speaker Roy Beggs (above) informs the house that the assembly's Finance Committee says that in order for the bill to proceed it has "reluctantly agreed" that the consultation it requires in relation to the bill has been appropriate.

    That means the bill will make another appearance in the chamber tomorrow, when MLAs will have a chance to debate its contents.

  3. MLAs approve Stormont spending until budget

    Both motions up for debate are approved on an oral vote by MLAs, with no-one voicing opposition.

    In relation to motion one, it means MLAs have given their retrospective approval of the movement of funds between departments in the January monitoring round.

    And in relation to the second motion, it means MLAs have given permission for Stormont departments to draw down 45% of funding to keep services ticking over from the start of the new financial year in April until a budget for Northern Ireland is agreed, probably in June.

  4. 'Historical abuse compensation cost estimated at £600m'

    Christoper Stalford of the DUP intervenes to ask the finance minister about the costs of redress for victims of historical institutional abuse.

    He says that at a recent meeting the Executive Office Committee was informed by civil servants that it's likely the total cost could run to more than £600m.

    Mr Stalford says there were five institutions identified as being involved in the scandal and he asks the minister what percentage of the £600m he envisages coming from those institutions.

    Victims' protest

    Conor Murphy says the costs will be considerable as the process will be "demand-led".

    Regarding the institutions, the minister says the Executive Office is the department with responsibility.

    "I understand there has been some contact with the institutions that are involved in the Historical Abuse Inquiry outcome," he adds.

    Mr Murphy says he agrees that it is not merely a responsibility for the the public purse.

  5. 'Tory-DUP deal money cut off by government'

    It's time for Finance Minister Conor Murphy to wrap up the debate - and Deputy Speaker Roy Beggs tells him he has 56 minutes to do so, should he choose to use all of that time.

    Members of the DUP and the Conservative party sign the confidence and suppy deal in 2017

    He tells the assembly that the remaining money from the DUP's confidence and supply deal with the Conservatives - which contained a promise of £1bn extra for Northern Ireland over two years - has been "cut off" by the government.

    The last instalments of the money were earmarked for rural broadband, a mental health strategy and tackling deprivation and Mr Murphy says he's lobbying for that to be reinstated.

  6. 'There's a perception Stormont is a gravy train'

    Gerry Carroll

    Gerry Carroll of People Before Profit says there is a "general perception that Stormont is a gravy train where politicians, turn up and take their wage only to rubber-stamp legislation".

    He says it'll be a test for the assembly as to whether it can overcome this perception.

    Mr Carroll says MLAs are being asked to scrutinise the spring supplementary estimates with nowhere near enough time and it's "incredibly frustrating" that he's not been able get details of the estimates from officials.

  7. 'Where would £28bn to run NI be found in united Ireland?'

    TUV leader Jim Allister says debates about Stormont's finances can "sometimes be a bit dull and even boring" but this one was enlivened, he adds, by Sinn Féin's Martina Anderson raising the prospect of a united Ireland, which he describes it as a "fantasy land".

    He wonders where Ms Anderson believes the all-in money to run Northern Ireland - an annual spend of about £28bn - will come from in the event of a united Ireland.

    A map of Ireland

    Sinn Féin's John O'Dowd tells Mr Allister the Treasury gets that money from taxes and the same would apply in a united Ireland.

    Deputy Speaker Roy Beggs bring the members back to the topic that's actually being debated - the Stormont finances.

    Ignoring that request, Mr Allister tells Mr O'Dowd: "Yes, we all pay taxes, yes, our corporations pay taxes but they do not pay £28bn a year in taxes."

  8. 'Chronic poverty and deprivation in parts of NI'

    Alliance Party MLA Kellie Armstrong thanks the DUP and Sinn Féin for getting the assembly back to work.

    "If the civil service had not been enabled to continue delivering services I expect Prime Minister Johnson's secretary of state would now be in control - goodness knows what delights they could have imposed on all of us," she says.

    Sinead McLaughlin

    The SDLP's Sinead McLaughlin (above) says it's easy to walk around Belfast looking at the cranes on building sites and thinking there are no problems but, she says, there are problems for the communities of east and west Belfast with chronic poverty and deprivation.

    She says it's the same in her constituency of Foyle, adding: "We have problems with unemployment, economic inactivity, low productivity and low wages.

    "That means that for many thousands of families we do not have an economy that is competitive, sustainable or inclusive."

  9. 'Political populism and parochialism can't be allowed to delay health reform'

    Commitments about changing the way the Stormont institutions operates, which have been made in the New Decade, New Approach document, must be "realised quickly", says Paula Bradshaw of the Alliance Party.

    Paula Bradshaw

    Making sure the funding Stormont departments receive is "not only used effectively but also efficiently" will be challenging, adds the South Belfast MLA.

    She says the next two years of the assembly term will "fly in" so reform of the health service can't be delayed any longer and she warns against "political populism and parochialism".

  10. 'Austerity has led to years of deepening inequality'

    The DUP's William Irwin wants to talk about agriculture - he's a farmer himself - and he praises the Department for Agriculture recent changes, including greater use of new technology, that have allowed most farm payments to be made on time.

    "This is good stewardship of government resources and shows how efficiencies can be delivered and can deliver gains for the agricultural industry," says the Newry and Armagh MLA.

    A farmer on a quadbike

    Martina Anderson of Sinn Féin refers to austerity and Brexit, telling the assembly: "We need to end the British government-imposed austerity."

    The Foyle MLA says austerity has resulted in "nine years of deepening inequality, nine years of deepening poverty, nine years of poor health and schools struggling and nine years of families and workers struggling".

    Her speech is followed by another reminder from Deputy Speaker Roy Beggs for MLAs to stay on topic.

  11. NI Executive facing shortfall of £600m

    Gareth Gordon

    BBC News NI political correspondent

    Speaking outside the assembly chamber, Finance Minister Conor Murphy has said the Northern Ireland Executive faces a shortfall of £600m trying to meet the demands of Stormont departments.

    That is even without the added strain of commitments made in the New Decade New Approach document.

    Conor Murphy

    Mr Murphy confirmed the Stormont budget had been postponed until the end of March, after the Westminster budget has been delivered.

    That, he said, would give time for a greater understanding of what extra funding may be available.

    Read more here:NI Executive facing shortfall of £600m

  12. 'Agriculture department spends 71% of budget on staff'

    Ulster Unionist MLA Rosemary Barton speaks about agricultural matters, saying the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs spends 71% of its budget on staff.

    She calls for a "detailed review" about the number of civil servants in the department.

    A man using a computer

    She also touches on broadband provision in rural areas - there are some areas that no broadband coverage at all and some with no mobile phone signal, says the Fermanagh and South Tyrone representative.

    It is unfair to expect the rural community and particularly farm businesses to manage their business by digital methods if the core infrastructure is not available."

  13. 'Stormont departments will struggle until Treasury injects cash'

    There's another attack by Sinn Féin on "Tory austerity", this time from Jemma Dolan, one of the party's Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLAs.

    Jemma Dolan

    "Until austerity is lifted and departments receive a cash injection from the British Treasury executive departments will continue to struggle financially," she says.

    Deputy Speaker Roy Beggs reminds MLAs to keep their speeches on the topic of the matters being debated today - the 2019-20 spring supplementary estimates and the 2020-21 vote on account.

  14. 'I'm happy to call out irregular spending'

    The DUP's Mervyn Storey recalls bringing a budget through the house in 2016 when he was finance minister.

    He too is critical of former Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir and Sinn Féin's general record in government.

    But when he turns to criticise the SDLP, Daniel McCrossan (below) of that party accuses the North Antrim MLA of being on his "high horse".

    Daniel McCrossan

    He makes reference to the Red Sky and Renewable Heat Incentive scandals which, he says, occurred under DUP ministers.

    "Wherever irregular spend happens I'm happy to call it out," says Mr Storey.

  15. 'We can't accept unspent money being sent back to Treasury'

    The main reason why Stormont collapsed in 2017 was because public money as spent so badly and ministers and civil servants failed to react quickly to a budgetary crisis, says the SDLP's Matthew O'Toole.

    Burning wood pellets

    "The remarkable reaction of our political class to that catastrophic failure in spending control was to stop doing any sort of scrutiny for the past three years so it's good now that we're here scrutinising spending," adds the South Belfast MLA.

    He says that given the "urgent need" for capital investment in Northern Ireland, the assembly can't accept a situation in which unspent money is handed back to the Treasury.

  16. 'Three pages of detail about billions of pounds of spending is unacceptable'

    DUP MLA Paul Frew says the assembly's Finance Committee has had its integrity "stretched" because it hasn't had time to scrutinise the detail of the finances being debated this afternoon.

    He criticises the former Sinn Féin Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir for delay in bringing a budget to the assembly before it fell in early 2017.

    Mr Frew says the assembly is in "this weird situation where we are debating financial transactions that have already taken place".

    Holding up a thick briefing document, he says MLAs have been given 318 pages of detail about "decisions that have already been taken" and just three pages of detail relating to 45% of spending on next year's budget, which is up for approval today, and he declares: "That is unacceptable."

    Paul Frew

    The North Antrim politicians says Stormont needs "reform" and only then should it consider asking for more revenue-raising powers.

    He tells MLAs they "cannot raise more cash from our hard-earning population to put into faltering systems that are antiquated and no good to us".

    "We haven't functioned properly in this place and even when we were functioning we haven't been making the hard decisions that we really need to be taking."

    Andrew Muir, the Alliance Party's finance spokesperson, says in his nine weeks as an MLA he's had a "crash course in public finances".

    He's happy about the decision to publish the departmental bids for funding in the recent monitoring round and says he hopes "this new approach" from the finance minister will "now be the norm".

  17. 'Climate change act must be matter of urgency'

    With question time over, it's back to the debate on Stormont's finances.

    MLAs are discussing the reallocation of funds to departments in the January monitoring round as well as the draw-down of cash to keep public services ticking over for the first few months of the new financial year.

    The Mourne mountains

    Next up to speak is Sinn Féin's environment spokesman Philip McGuigan, who tells the assembly that a "decade of Tory-imposed under-investment and austerity" has had a big impact on nature.

    The Agriculture Committee member calls on the Environment Minister Edwin Poots to use his budget for next year to set up an environmental protection agency and bring forward a "comprehensive climate change act as a matter of urgency".

  18. 'No consensus on academic selection'

    Maolíosa McHugh of Sinn Féin asks the education minister if he will reconsider his position on the use of academic election in schools.

    "As Yogi Bear said: 'It's déjà vu all over again, Boo Boo'," says Peter Weir, mixing up the cuddly cartoon character with the baseball player Yogi Berra, who's usually credited the the phrase.

    Children in an exam room

    Mr Weir says there isn't a consensus on the subject and that he has indicated his support for schools that wish to use academic selection and for academic selection itself.

    He says that in neighbouring countries a situation has developed where selection is determined by ability to pay.

    The minister adds that the replacement of academic election with such a system would be a "retrograde step in terms of academic achievement and also in terms of social mobility".

  19. 'School still waits for 3G pitch six years after promise'

    Sinn Féin's Martina Anderson, newly-returned from Brussels and her job as an MEP, asks the education minister about funding for minor works in the schools estate.

    That basically refers to building work on schools short of a complete rebuild.

    Peter Weir says a balance has to be struck between minor works and more strategic investment in major works.

    Ms Anderson uses her supplementary question to lobby for St Joseph's School in her Foyle constituency, which she says was promised a 3G pitch six years ago.

    A football on a pitch

    Wiliam Humphrey of the DUP also speaks up for one of his local schools - Glenwood Primary in the Shankill area of Belfast.

    It's a school whose difficulties he regularly brings up on the Education Committee - this time he asks how much the department spends annually on maintenance across the schools estate.

    Mr Weir says £19.4m was invested in 2016-17, £16m in 2017-18 and £20.5m in 2018-19, while the budget this year is £18.5m

  20. 'Education on climate change is balanced and evidential'

    Climate change has been a hot topic among MLAs in the weeks since Stormont has returned - you might remember the assembly declared a climate emergency at the start of this month.

    Sinn Féin's Caoimhe Archibald asks Education Minister Peter Weir about whether he intends to introduce education about climate change into the schools' curriculum.

    Mr Weir says education plays a "critical role" in helping young people to understand the subject and "sustainable development" - including environmental change and environmental stewardship - is already part of the curriculum.

    Young people in Belfast protesting about climate change

    Off the back of that, TUV leader Jim Allister wants assurance that the "hysteria" about climate change is "debunked" in schools and the "anarchy" of environmental activism is shown as an "example not to be followed".

    Mr Weir says education on environmental issues must be done on a "rational basis" and that the teaching about it is done in a "balanced and evidential manner".

    "It's important that when people are passionate that they don't embrace a route which is disruptive to others and that we have respect for each other in how we express our views."

    Mr Weir says he doesn't want to see "young people taken out of school" to protest about climate change, as happened in September last year, and that the debate about the issue is done in a "calm, non-sensationalist way".