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Live Reporting

Amy Stewart and Robin Sheeran

All times stated are UK

  1. Second stage of budget bill passes


    After a very long day for our politicians its all over - 45 members voted and 42 of them voted aye.

    The motion is carried by cross-community support and the bill passes its second stage.

    And that's a wrap from us - thank you for joining us.

    We'll be back tomorrow to cover the Infrastructure Committee so join us again then.


  2. Division

    the assembly

    Deputy Speaker Patsy McGlone calls the vote.

    There's a loud chorus of "Ayes" and a smattering of "Noes" so Mr McGlone calls a division.

    The members file out to vote in person.

  3. EU warns UK over goods checks between NI and GB

    John Campbell

    BBC News NI Economics and Business Editor

    Belfast Port

    EU ministers have warned the UK that the chance of reaching a trade deal will be damaged unless preparations begin for checks on goods coming into Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

    The EU has approved a blueprint for post-Brexit trade talks but Ireland's foreign minister said a successful outcome would depend on the UK honouring its existing commitments.

    "If that doesn't happen... it will damage significantly the prospects of being able to get even a bare bones trade agreement," Simon Coveney said.

    Germany's Europe Minister Michale Roth echoed Mr Coveney, saying: "My message is crystal clear to our friends in London - keep your promises based on the {Ireland} Protocol."

    You can read more about this story here.

  4. 'Many points not in Finance Department remit'

    After a very long day in the chamber, the minister rises to responds to the mammoth day of questions.

    He says that it’s been interesting to hear the points but says that many of the points raised were not in his department's remit.

    conor muprhy

    He reminds Rachel Woods and Gerry Carroll that they are not voting on the 20/21 budget, which will be brought in late March.

    In a normal year the assembly will be fully “involved” in the budget - it has not been possible this year as the assembly has not been sitting, he adds.

  5. 'Call for completion of Casement Park redevelopment'

    Sdlp MLAs Daniel McCrossan and Justin McNulty make their contributions.

    Mr McNulty has a few ideas for public investment.

    He wants to see an hourly Belfast to Dublin rail connection, an improved waste water system, the completion of the Newry southern relief road and the Narrow Water bridge and a hotel in the old jail in Armagh.

    The new Casement Park

    "As a Gael I want to see the much-promised and discussed redevelopment of Casement Park materialised," Mr McNulty says.

  6. 'Clowns to the left of me jokers to the right. Here I am stuck in the middle with Jim'

    It’s getting late but the DUP’s Jim Wells perks everyone up by paraphrasing a Stealers Wheel’s hit.

    He says that he has never expected to be sitting in the assembly in the part of the chamber that he’s in – (that’s the so-called “naughty corner” where smaller parties and independents sit).

    He says he's reminded of the lyrics: “Clowns to the left of me jokers to the right. Here I am stuck in the middle with Jim.”

    jim wells

    However he soon gets serious saying that the assembly has not "taken a difficult decision in 21 years and now is the time to start making them."

    Mr Wells says that the members must make the right decisions and they might not be popular with constituents.

    As for the health minister - he asks: "Will we support him when he starts to make the really difficult decisions?"

  7. 'How was this even agreed?'

    The Green Party’s Rachel Woods says that after a three-year hiatus this is a "wholly inadequate process with no time for scrutiny".

    She says what they are doing is discussing “a process which has already been decided”.

    “We are in a new decade but this does not seem to mean a new approach,” Ms Woods says.

    “There is no clarity for funding on the commitments in the NDNA document and it needs to be asked how was this even agreed – it wasn’t costed?”

    Rachel Woods and jim allister

    The TUV's Jim Allister says he wants to discuss the "openness and transparency" of the budget system with particular reference to the spring supplementary estimates booklet.

    He reads directly from the weighty document drawing attention to a number of "black-boxed" items suggesting that they are in excess of the limits set byManaging Public Money- the UK government publication offering guidance on the handling of public funds.

  8. 'The case for university expansion'

    The SDLP's Mark Durkan makes a plea to address the economic imbalance across Northern Ireland.

    He makes the case for for the expansion of Ulster University's campus at Magee (below) in Londonderry.

    Magee campus

    Mr Durkan says there is a need to go beyond the commitment to the new medical school given in the New Decade, New Approach document and push for 10,000 students in Derry.

    He says the vast majority of young people who leave Northern Ireland to go to university elsewhere do not return.

  9. 'Boris Bridge is a distraction'

    UUP MLA Roy Beggs makes a lengthy contribution on the A5, Northern Ireland's biggest road project.

    He says that in 2007 the government of the Republic of Ireland committed £400m to the project, leaving the Northern Ireland Executive to pay £250m.

    Mr Beggs says he understands that the Republic is now only putting up £75m, with increased overall costs leaving the executive to pay £1,059m.

    Roy Beggs

    Mr Beggs also has a crack at the Prime Minister Boris Johnson's proposal for a bridge to Scotland.

    He says he fears it is "a distraction to Boris's border down the Irish sea that he has created in the Brexit process".

    Speaker Alex Maskey draws Mr Beggs' attention to the fact that the "Boris Bridge" as not featured in anything the finance minister has said today and suggests that he might like to return to the budget.

  10. 'Not enough time to scrutinise'

    Sinead Bradley,SDLP spokesperson for health, (below left) says that she is concerned that the committee did not have the time to scrutinise the budget at the level that should be expected.

    With that in mind she seeks an assurance from the minister that "sufficient flexibility and contingency funding" exists within the budget.

    She says consideration should be given to ensuring swift access to funding to manage the ongoing threat posed by the coronavirus.

    sinead bradley

    Sinn Féin MLA Seán Lynch says he'll be brief.

    He returns to a familiar theme from his party - the "major impact" of years of Tory austerity on public services.

    "I believe we should initiate an informed debate on the economic benefits of an all-Ireland," Mr Lynch says.

  11. 'We will soon need torches and candles to get around'

    The DUP'S George Robinson highlights some of the problems he sees in his own area which require investment.

    He says in all his years as an elected representative he has never known street lighting in Northern Ireland to be in such a “dire state”.

    street light

    Somewhere in the region of 12,000 to 14,000 street lights are out, he says.

    He says that in his home town of Limavady "we will soon need torches ad candles to get around".

    He also adds that Magilligan prison in his constituency is long overdue a rebuild and he also flags up some schools that need repairs to aging buildings.

  12. 'A poacher turned gamekeeper'

    Before Alliance MLA John Blair (below) gets up to make his contribution Speaker Alex Maskey reminds the MLAs that there are still 16 members yet to speak - it could be a long evening.

    Mr Blair says he worked as a civil servant in inland fisheries when Carál Ní Chuilín was his minister, but he's now a poacher turned gamekeeper.

    He calls for the fulfillment of the commitments made for an environmental protection agency "working to safeguard quality of life and our natural habitat".

    John Blair

    The DUP’s Mervyn Storey says that he wants to talk about an issue close to his heart – housing.

    "I want to see the people of Northern Ireland, whether they are in Ballymena or Ballymurphy, Coleraine or Coalisland, Ballymoney or..." and at this point someone shouts out, “Bangor,” to much laughter in the chamber.

    "I want to see the people of Northern Ireland have good quality homes not just houses", he continues.

    Mr Storey says we are not building enough new homes and unlocking the potential of construction industry.

    He says it is over 20 years since the Housing Executive built new homes because it cannot build houses.

  13. 'Clock is ticking loudly'

    The DUPs Pam Cameron (below left) says the minister needs to be “brave” and explore what changes can be made to assist in meeting the demands of a growing population.

    She discusses The New Decade New Approach pledge to fund up to three IVF cycles, adding that the money must be provided in this budget and moves must be made by the minister – given that the “clock is ticking loudly”.

    Ms Cameron also touches on an education programme to raise awareness. She says this is needed to “protect future fertility,” which should result in less reliance on IVF.

    Pam Cameron and caral ni

    Carál Ní Chuilín (above right) of Sinn Féin addresses the issue of the divided society brought up by Alliance's Andrew Muir earlier in the day.

    She says she lives in north Belfast and would like to see and end to interface barriers but it requires consultation with local residents first.

    "The first time I met somebody from the opposite side of Belfast never mind another religion was the first time I set foot in university," Ms Ní Chuilín adds.

  14. 'Spending requires accountability and responsibility'

    "There is a considerable amount of disquiet within Northern Ireland as to the extent of our funding crisis," says UUP leader Steve Aiken (below).

    He says MLAs should be considering the Budget Bill "on the basis of a programme for government that has been properly assessed and tested for affordability".

    steve aiken

    Mr Aiken says the UUP has consistently called for a fiscal council to oversee public spending.

    "We must demonstrate that there is accountability and responsibility for all of our expenditure," he says.

  15. 'It's not actually a budget'

    Matthew O'Toole of the SDLP emphasises the unconventional nature of the Budget Bill.

    "Contrary to what it says on the bill it's not actually a budget. It is not a list of financial priorities or commitments," he says.

    Matthew O'Toole

    Mr O'Toole refers to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scandal.

    "We chose to spend tens if not hundreds of millions on heating poultry sheds. We need to be honest about the scepticism that this place must overcome in agreeing on setting a budget," he says.

  16. 'Stretched too thin'

    Education Committee deputy chair Karen Mullan of Sinn Féin (below) says there's a need to “properly resource our education system now".

    She explains that it's expected there will still be a £20m overspend by the Education Authority (EA).

    “We’ve all heard how teachers have had to buy essential items because their budgets are stretched too thin,” she says.

    Karen Mullan

    Special education needs is an area which has been "starved of resources and investment," she says.

    She says the fact that the EA has “consistently exceeded its budget in this regard” means the budget should reflect and resource this going forward

    She also says that commitments from New Decade,New Approach will add further pressure on the system unless they’re accompanied by the associated resources.

  17. 'A thousand days of silence'

    Question Time completed we're back to the Budget Bill debate.

    Jonathan Buckley of the DUP is making his maiden speech so the members are obliged to cut him some slack to pay tribute to his predecessor and make some comments praising his constituency of Upper Bann and its people.

    "From the banks of the Bann in County Down to the apple trees of the Orchard County, Upper Bann is the place I very proudly call home," he says.

    Stormont padlocked

    Turning to the budget, Mr Buckley refers to the three years when the assembly was in suspension - "over a thousand days of silence".

    "As young, unashamed unionist I believe it is totally unacceptable that Stormont lay barren for three years and the devastating effects of its inactivity are glaringly obvious," he says.

  18. 'Praise for the minister's mental maths'

    The TUV's Jim Allister says the minister will be aware “that the first and deputy first minister wish to spend £11m of resources each year on Irish language and related provision”.

    Mr Swann’s mental maths is put to the test.

    “How many new nurses would £11m per annum employ?” asks Mr Allister.


    “I think a band five nurse, salary in the region of £25,000, moving up to £40,000 – 275 per year?" he answer, remarkably quickly.

    He adds that his maths needs to be verified.

    Mr Allister congratulates the minister on his maths - with the presumption that he’s right – to laughter throughout the chamber.