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Live Reporting

Robin Sheeran and Tori Watson

All times stated are UK

  1. That's all for today

    Parliament Buildings, Stormont

    Deputy Speaker Roy Beggs draws proceedings to an end.

    Join us tomorrow morning at 10:00 for live coverage of a meeting of the assembly's Economy Committee, including a briefing from Economy Minister Diane Dodds.

    In the meantime, stay safe and have a great evening.

  2. 'Support of all my executive colleagues'

    Robin Swann

    The health minister winds on the debate.

    Robin Swann says he has noticed a number of members have expanded the debate to Brexit and not just the LCM.

    He thanks those who say they cannot support the LCM but won’t oppose it.

    The minister says the “house has control of what comes out of this LCM” and not just Westminster.

    The Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots makes a intervention and says the LCM is the “only way forward and for those who are suggesting otherwise, there is not another way forward”.

    Back to the health minister, and he again emphasises that this is “an enabling bill”.

    Mr Swann says “in the executive I had support of all my executive colleagues in bringing forward this LCM”.

    The deputy speaker puts the motion to the house and it passes on oral vote.

  3. 'Utterly absurd of the parties opposite'

    Matthew O'Toole of the SDLP says that until recently the headquarters of pharmaceuticals regulation across the EU was based in London but it has now moved.

    He says it is "utterly absurd" on the part of the members opposite to claim that the LCM is in some way part of "taking back control".

    Mr O'Toole says that whilst the SDLP will not actively oppose the LCM, "to be perfectly honest there is absolutely no way I could lend my support to this legislative consent motion".

    Matthew O'Toole

    Gerry Carroll of People Before Profit says he is "cautious when I hear talk of red tape and bureaucracy".

    He says this sounds like stripping back protection to the public.

  4. 'We’re agreeing to what’s already in place'

    Alan Chambers of the UUP confirms that the committee was “split four-four” on the LCM.

    He says of Brexit: “we keep hearing this mantra that NI voted against Brexit. I voted to remain, I voted in a UK-wide referendum.

    “I can’t understand how others, who call themselves democrats, are still in some form of denial.”

    Alex Easton

    The DUP’s Alex Easton rises to speak in favour of the bill.

    "Basically we’re agreeing to what’s already in place,” he says.

    “I am disappointed in some of the parties opposite who could not bring themselves to support this at the committee stage, which I find strange as the DAERA Committee were able to agree for this to come forward.”

  5. 'The unnecessary bureaucracy of Brexit'

    Paul Bradshaw

    Alliance’s Paul Bradshaw says “this is an enabling bill”.

    She says the “supply of human medicines is one of the most important issues we have to deal with in our roles”.

    Ms Bradshaw says the LCM provides more “clarity” but raises concerns about the lack of “proper scrutiny” and not having “enough time” to engage with stakeholders.

    “This is the unnecessary bureaucracy of Brexit,” adds the South Belfast MLA, but confirms she will support the LCM.

  6. 'A roughshod Brexit process'

    Colin McGrath

    The SDLP's Colin McGrath says he appreciates that there is a necessity for the LCM.

    But he says he's concerned that the bill has raised "more questions than answers" but he "won't actively block this either".

    "Yet again, another industry is subjected to the highs and lows of uncertainty emanating from this badly managed and roughshod Brexit process," he adds.

  7. LCM's an aspect of 'taking back control'

    Pam Cameron

    Deputy chairperson of the Health Committee, Pam Cameron, says she and her party support the LCM.

    She says she expects to see more LCMs - something she says is an important “aspect of the legislative process of taking back control”.

    Mrs Cameron says there are benefits to being independent in order to work “swiftly and more decisively in response to new situations”.

    The DUP MLA says “at the core of this debate must be patient safety”.

  8. 'A complex and technical bill'

    Declan McAleer

    Sinn Féin's Declan McAleer chairs the Agriculture Committee.

    It was asked to consider the LCM where it touched on veterinary matters.

    Mr McAleer describes the bill as "complex and technical" and says the committee did not have time to make the usual consideration.

    He says the committee agreed that any change to the regulations must be subject to the scrutiny of the assembly.

    The committee is content with the veterinary medicines aspect of the bill.

  9. 'No certainty on anything at this point'

    Chairperson of the Health Committee, Colm Gildernew, summarises its consideration of the bill.

    He says there were discussions about north-south, east-west alignment, adding that officials advised that NI “will be required to comply with EU standards in relation to falsified medications whereas Britain would be free to diverge”.

    The committee were advised by officials that “all areas of the bill address matters that have been within the EU’s remit to date,” Mr Gildernew says.

    He adds that the “committee sought to be as cooperative as possible” but wasn't able to engage with stakeholders due to the pace at which the motion was moving and other factors such as Covid.

    Colm Gildernew

    The committee was not able to come to a united conclusion on the motion.

    In his role as Sinn Féin’s health spokesperson, Mr Gildernew says the majority of people in NI did not vote in favour of Brexit.

    “There’s no certainty on anything at this point,” he says. “We do not even know at this stage if the protocol will be implemented.”

  10. Medicines and Medical Devices Bill

    Robin Swann

    On to the final item of the day, an LCM (legislative consent motion) on the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill.

    An LCM allows Westminster to legislate for matters that would normally be devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

    Health Minister Robin Swann introduces the debate.

    He explains that the LCM is being moved today to ensure that it keeps pace with the progress of the legislation at Westminster.

    Mr Swann explains that the bill has two aims:

    • Strengthening and maintaining the regulatory system for medicines both human and veterinarian after the UK has left the EU
    • Enforcing the regulation framework relating to medical devices and to introduce a new sanctions regime
  11. Amendment passes

    Deputy Speaker Roy Beggs puts the question to the assembly.

    He reads the long title of the regulations - The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Amendment No. 4) Regulations (NI) 2020 - adding "that's a mouthful".

    The amendment passes on unanimous oral vote.

  12. 'I don't want to make face masks mandatory'

    Junior Minister Gordon Lyons winds on the motion.

    He says the ministers have been able to come back to the assembly for a fourth time with further easements because the public's observation of the regulations "has been exceptional".

    Turning to the members' speeches this afternoon, Mr Lyons says he is approached daily by people asking when hairdressers will be reopening.

    "We will do that as soon as that is possible," he says.

    Gordon Lyons

    Sinn Féin's Pat Sheehan intervenes to ask for some clarity around face masks.

    "I don't think we can get ourselves into a position where it is mandatory for us to require people to wear face coverings, that's not a route I want to go down," Mr Lyons says says.

  13. Amendments were 'rushed through'

    Gerry Carroll

    Gerry Carroll of People Before Profit raises the Black Lives Matter protests that have taken place in recent weeks and police enforcement powers.

    He says the events are directly related to the regulations as they refer to outdoor gatherings.

    Mr Carroll says the amendments were “rushed through” on the “eve of anti-racist events”.

    He says there are two possible explanations, the first being it was “just a coincidence” and the second that they were “explicitly introduced” in advance of the Black Lives Matter protests.

    Mr Carroll says he will vote against amendment five when it comes before the chamber and calls on other MLAs to do the same.

  14. 'The public are not fools'

    Chris Lyttle of Alliance chairs the Education Committee and he's keen to address some of the aspects of the regulations dealing with schools.

    He outlines some concerns with respect to the special needs provision, the Educational Psychology Service, and "statementing".

    He requests that the education minister should give a statement to the assembly on the support that is in place during the period that the restrictions are in place.

    Mr Lyttle also wants to know how the regulations will be eased regarding to childcare.

    Chris Lyttle

    Jim Allister of the TUV notes that they're debating the fourth set of easing regulations when in fact there have probably been eight by now.

    He questions whether the executive is keeping the public on a string.

    "I think there is politics in it," he says.

    He notes that the executive decided to bring forward the opening of tourism facilities when a similar announcement was made in the Republic of Ireland.

    "The public are not fools they can see the politics at play in much of this," he says.

  15. 'Need to be looking at the childcare element'

    Paul Frew

    The DUP’s Paul Frew says he’s always been nervous around the regulations “which mark out every twist and turn” of people’s lives and “tries to legislate for it”, but he does accept that they have been important to save lives.

    Turning to retail, he says when the announcement of the decision to reopen was made, there was “massive confusion” as to whether some retailers could open or not.

    Mr Frew talks about the lack of family connection during the lockdown, and asks why family members have to go outside of their home to now meet up, rather than meet in their homes.

    The North Antrim MLA also talks about childcare and says "surely we need to be looking at the childcare element" to support those going back to work.

    Alan Chambers

    Alan Chambers of the UUP is up next. He says he welcomes the easement of the restrictions.

    “We should be dealing with this on a local basis,” says the MLA and welcomes the reference the junior minister made to this strategy in his opening remarks.

    He says he “can’t wait for the barber to reopen” but acknowledges these are services which “involve close contact”, which he adds makes it more difficult.

  16. Debating the Programme for Government

    Mike Nesbitt of the UUP says he'd like to look at the wider issues.

    "If it was normal and we didn't have this crisis I'm sure we would have debated the Programme for Government by now, and hopefully agreed it," he says.

    The Strangford MLA says it has be sitting in draft form for years.

    Mike Nesbitt

    Paula Bradshaw of Alliance says she backs the regulations as amended.

    She says she has no trouble with drive-in cinemas.

    Ms Bradshaw says on Friday it will be 12 weeks since people who are shielding received letters from their GPs.

    She says it is important that new letters are sent out.

  17. 'The battle against Covid-19 hasn’t been won'

    Pam Cameron is the deputy chair of the Health Committee.

    She says there is a sense of “relief” in the easing of the restrictions.

    “I believe the executive has acted well in protecting public health,” says the South Antrim MLA.

    She says it’s important for a “twin track approach, to continue to protect the most vulnerable” while also building confidence for people to support the local economy.

    “It disgusts me” says Mrs Cameron, that ambulance service workers “has suffered 35 attacks in the space of a week” - something she condemns.

    Pam Cameron

    Sinn Féin’s Pat Sheehan says “under normal circumstances there’s no way I would be supporting these regulations” but adds that due to the emergency they are needed.

    Mr Sheehan says “the battle against Covid-19 hasn’t been won - not by a long shot”.

    “We need to get our heads around the island of Ireland as one single entity in terms of the fight against this virus.”

    Pat Sheehan
  18. 'Every decision does tend to raise more questions'

    Colin McGrath is the chairperson of the Committee for the Executive Office.

    He begins by outlining the impact some of the Covid-19 restrictions have had on mental health.

    “Social distancing is no less important at this moment in time as it was a few months ago,” he says.

    In his capacity as a SDLP MLA he says he welcomes the announcements in relation to lockdown easement, but says there has been a “lack of clarity”.

    “Every decision does tend to raise more questions,” he adds, but welcomes the timings that the executive has announced.

    “I have called for timings in every single statement I have made on this issue in this house,” says the MLA.

    Colin McGrath

    Chairperson of the Health Committee, Colm Gildernew outlines the committee’s response to the easement in restrictions.

    He says with regard to live, drive-in events, that it was up to the organiser to ensure people stay in their cars during the event.

    He says those organising such events are “legally obliged to ensure compliance with the regulations”.

    As Sinn Féin’s health spokesperson, Mr Gildernew says he welcomes the “incremental easing” of the restrictions but says they must be done based on the science.

    “We as a society have done well to observe the rules,” says Mr Gildernew, adding he recognises the “toll” it has had on “normal life”.

    Colm Gildernew
  19. Coronavirus regulations debate

    Question time completed and we're on to the next item of business - a debate on the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) Regulations.

    The motion is brought by Junior Minister Declan Kearney.

    He says it's the fourth time that junior ministers have brought the regulations to the chamber for debate, the original regulations having been made in March using emergency provisions in the primary legislation.

    Declan Kearney

    The junior minister says there have been several reviews conducted by the executive.

    "We have shown that we will not hesitate to move decisively when the medical and the scientific advice indicates that it is the right time to do so," he adds.

    The regulations being considered today refer to a specific set of changes to allow for arts and entertainment venues to allow outdoor drive-in and live entertainment events.

    He says that since these changes were agreed the executive has agreed to extensive range of additional relaxations including:

    • Outdoor weddings
    • Caring for animals
    • Outdoor sports
    • The reopening of retail shops and other outlets.
  20. Implementing the NI Protocol

    Steve Aiken

    The UUP’s Steve Aiken asks what discussions has the minister “had with relevant bodies regarding the building of additional sanitary and phyto-sanitary facilities, as required by the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland”.

    Mr Poots says his department has been “scoping and implementing a cross cutting programme” and has “commenced engagement with range of key stakeholders” including the Larne, Belfast and Warrenpoint ports and will do so with NI’s airports.