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Live Reporting

Robin Sheeran and Amy Stewart

All times stated are UK

  1. Good evening.


    That's all from Stormont for today.

    We'll be back at 10:30 tomorrow, as will Nichola Mallon when she appears before the assembly's Infrastructure Committee.

    And in the afternoon the Finance Committee will be hearing from representatives of the haulage industry on their experiences of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

    Do join us then and in the meantime enjoy your evening.

  2. 'Deep cuts' made to the previous department

    Nichola Mallon

    Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon replies to the debate.

    She says "this is the damage that was caused from the deep cuts that were imposed on the predecessor to this department in 2015".

    Ms Mallon says she has made bids since she became minister to try to restore funding levels "but that is still proving to be hugely challenging".

    The minister offers some examples of how her department is attempting to address the problem of poor roads across Northern Ireland.

  3. 'There needs to be a marked change in the conditions'

    pam and dlores

    The DUP's Pam Cameron says "there needs to be sufficient investment, and there needs to be a marked change in the conditions in South Antrim, for all road users and for the residents".

    She lists some of the problems, including potholes, uneven surfaces and a lack of adequate road markings.

    The SDLP's Dolores Kelly isn't a representative for South Antrim, although she says she lives in south Antrim but not in the actual constituency.

    Ms Kelly is a party colleague of the minister, who will speak later in the debate.

    "The absolute truth is in 2015 deep cuts were imposed on the then Department of Regional Development. Those cuts have never been repaired by the executive," she says.

  4. Steve Aiken on the third worst road in NI

    Steve Aiken is up next and he’s passionate about the topic as he says “any members from South Antrim can give a litany of some of the roads in our constituency”.

    "Regrettably in the great town of Ballyclare we have the Ballycorr Road – deemed as the third-worst road in NI".

    He says there is lots of good work going on in the town with developments and new houses.

    However, he says while there is outward investment there is no maintenance.

    His party will support making sure the Department for Infrastructure has the money in its budget to make the necessary changes.

    Steve Aiken and John BlAir

    Alliance MLA John Blair says departmental and council efforts on new cycling infrastructure from Glengormley to the north foreshore will be of assistance to many of his constituents.

    He says these welcome improvements in turn highlight the need for similar schemes like park and ride facilities in rural parts of his constituency and others.

  5. 'Frustration' over poor state of roads in South Antrim

    Trevor Clark

    The DUP's Trevor Clarke is bringing the final item on today's agenda.

    It's an adjournment debate on South Antrim Roads.

    Mr Clarke says the subject of roads in disrepair could apply to anywhere across Northern Ireland.

    He says the lack of investment in roads is "causing much frustration to many people".

    Mr Clarke says he has been told by a Roads Service employee that contractors "are not interested in the much smaller-scale schemes".

    "It's we got to the position where people can see delivery on the ground," he says.

  6. United voice despite 'wee jibes'

    o dowd

    John O’Dowd stands up to wind on the debate.

    Despite some “wee jibes” – he says there has been a united voice that the increase in National Insurance is wrong.

    “That’s a very clear message,” he says.

    He says there may be a divergence of views on taxing big businesses

    However he says the wording of the motion is clear as regards huge companies who made profits paying more – and there is agreement in the chamber.

    "The Tories made a conscious decision to cut public spending.... and the challenge for us is to ask - what can we do differently?"

    The debate ends and the ayes have it.

  7. Stephen Dunne's maiden speech


    Stephen Dunne, the son of the late DUP MLA Gordon Dunne, makes his maiden speech.

    He thanks those in the house and across NI who expressed condolences after the "sad and untimely passing" of his father in June.

    He says that as with all constituencies "there are many challenges and needs locally and I know from being a councillor over the past eight years there is work to be done".

    He says the motion being debated today highlights the need for a focus on economic recovery post pandemic.

    "The decision to remove the triple lock guarantee sets a dangerous precedent," he adds.

    He says both older and younger people will be hit.

  8. Pádraig Delargy's maiden speech


    Pádraig Delargy of Sinn Féin is making his maiden speech.

    He says he is determined to provide a voice for the people of Foyle.

    "What future is there for our young people when any part of it remains under the influence of the British government?" he asks.

    "They ignored our wishes on Brexit forcing it upon us against our will," Mr Delargy adds.

    "I want to see anew Ireland based on equality and fairness," he says.

  9. Support from Alliance

    Kellie Armstrong

    The Alliance Party's Kellie Armstrong says her party supports the motion.

    She says those most impacted by the national insurance and pension changes cannot afford it.

    She says that employees earning more than £184 per week and under state pension age will be impacted, and self-employed people earning profits of more than £9,569 per year will be impacted.

    "Across the UK from next April for every £1,000 in a wage slip a further £12.50 will be removed before they get their pay," she adds.

    "The HMRC report confirms actual losses for individuals may have an impact on family formation, stability or breakdown as individuals," she says

    She says the pension triple lock stall was supposed to be protected and maintained - but it has not been.

    However she says this must not descend into a "wealthy older people v poor younger people issue".

  10. Support from the rest of the UK

    Aiken - steve

    Ulster Unionist Steve Aiken says it's notable that the support received in NI "from the rest of our nation far exceeds what we could have expected if we were not part of our United Kingdom".

    He notes that the waiting lists in the NHS and the challenges facing the social care services will need to be addressed at an estimated cost of £36bn.

    The question is where the money comes from.

    He says the UUP will add its opposition to the plans "around raises in National Insurance contributions".

  11. A ‘prime example of an unfair tax’

    Sinead McLaughlin

    The SDLP's Sinead McLaughlin rises in support of the motion and asks "Who in their right mind wouldn’t?"

    “Loading extra national insurance on to our low-paid workers is unfair and unjust,” she says.

    “A low-paid worker earning about £200 per week pays National Insurance of about 12% yet a Chief Executive earning £1,000 or £2,000 a week will pay NI on their salary at about 2% - it comes down the more you earn.

    She describes the increase as “a prime example of an unfair tax”.

    She says the UK government should charge National Insurance to the highest paid at the same rate as the lowest paid or increase tax on unearned investment income - however she says that "would not suit" Tory party donors.

  12. 'This Tory Party has certainly lost the run of itself'

    Paul Frew

    Paul Frew of the DUP says these issues are "very important to our people".

    "This Tory Party has certainly lost the run of itself," he adds.

    The North Antrim MLA says there are many aspects of the motion he can agree with.

    He says there will be pain when it comes to the recovery from Covid.

    "And when pain costs try moving and shifting the onus and the burden away from working families," Mr Frew adds.

    He criticises Sinn Féin for not going to Westminster to fight against the measures.

  13. 'Decade of British government austerity'


    Caoimhe Archibald opens the debate.

    "Everybody recognises the need to adequately fund our health and social care services and their transformation to ensure people receive the care they need when they need it and that the most vulnerable are looked after," she states.

    She says a “decade of British government austerity” has damaged public services.

    “Delivering on the necessary transformation of our health services will require investment not cuts,” she adds.

    She said the UK response to the pandemic supporting jobs and public services betrays that austerity was a "policy not a necessity."

    Now is not the time for punitive taxes on low-paid workers, she says.

    She criticises the increase in National Insurance and says that those who led us through the pandemic such as nurses – will suffer most.

  14. Sinn Féin motion on financial burden

    The next item on the order paper is a motion on Increased Financial Burden on Workers, Families, and Pensioners brought by Sinn Féin MLAs.

    The motion is:

    • That this assembly is firmly committed to a fair economic recovery from the covid pandemic.
    • Recognises the damage to health and social care as a result of British government austerity.
    • Further recognises the need to rebuild our health and social services as we emerge from this pandemic.
    • Expresses its deep concern that the British government intends to tax the least well off through increases in NI contributions and reduced increases in pension and calls on the British government to remove the burden funding health and social care from ordinary workers families and pensioners and place this on the many companies and individuals who have made huge profits during the pandemic.
  15. Bill is like 'a tall building built of Lego'

    Mike Nesbitt

    Mike Nesbitt replies to the debate on his private member's bill.

    He says "just about every member agrees that in principle our laws are fit for reform, for upgrading and for modernisation".

    The Ulster Unionist MLA says he makes an exception for Jim Allister "who is questioning whether it's broken".

    He likens the bill to "a tall building built of Lego".

    "I would expect the committee members to take it apart brick by brick, examine every brick, and then put it back together but when you put it back together it might be missing a storey or two, so there is no clause in which I want to die in a ditch," he adds.

    Deputy Speaker Roy Beggs calls an oral vote.

    There are no objectors and the bill passes to the committee stage.

  16. 'Rich and powerful protected' - Conor Murphy

    Conor murohy

    Finance Minister, Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy, is next on his feet.

    He says one thing that’s been consistent about this debate is that everyone agrees reform is necessary.

    But the question is – "is this the right vehicle for this reform?" he asks.

    He says he shares a lot of the concerns that have been raised.

    The minister says it is a replica of the 2013 Westminister Act – which in this digital age, he says, is a “lifetime ago”.

    Mr Murphy says nowadays defamatory statements can be rapidly circulated online and ruin peoples lives in hours.

    He says primarily women bear the brunt of this.

    He said that while the original purpose of the "serious harm" term had been to "exclude frivolous claims" - but "in reality, it makes it easier for public demonstrate serious harm" - in short - the "rich and the powerful" are better protected.

  17. Defamation Bill debate resumes

    Jim Alliste

    The members now return to the debate on the Defamation Bill.

    Jim Allister of the TUV resumes his speech that was suspended before lunch.

    He queries claims of "defamation tourism", where cases have been taken in Northern Ireland from outside the jurisdiction.

    Mr Allister notes that there has actually been a slight decrease in the number of defamation writs issued in Northern Ireland since the 2013 Act was introduced in England and Wales.

    "Libel tourism was a straw man in respect of all of this," adds.

    On the question of individuals taking on large media companies, Mr Allister says there is no legal aid for defamation cases and large companies have insurance to cover such cases.

    "It's an uneven playing field before you even start," he says.

    Mr Allister, a former barrister, says the plaintiff would now have the additional hurdle of proving "serious harm".

  18. A 'moral obligation'

    Pam Cameron

    The DUP's Pam Cameron asks if there is not "a moral obligation on the department to look at the cases of many people in nursing homes across NI who were not even made aware of their eligibility for continuing healthcare before the policy was scrapped".

    Robin Swann says "we only see one of the five trusts utilising the current policy in regards to continuing healthcare".

    He says he thinks it's vital to distinguish between continuing healthcare and the reform of adult social care.

  19. Policy on care in Northern Ireland

    Robin Swann

    The DUP's Pam Cameron has given notice of an urgent oral question to the Health Minister, Robin Swann.

    She asks that he respond to concern in relation to his department's new policy on care in Northern Ireland.

    Mr Swann says this is a welcome opportunity to clarify the situation regarding continuing health care.

    “Continuing health care has become an outdated and criticised scheme serving principally to offer only confusion and false hope,” he says.

    He says a departmental review found the risk of variants in the application of departmental guidance and continuing healthcare practice across the trusts – this led to regional inconsistency and an effective postcode lottery.

    He says when he took up his role it became clear that previous inequality and variants across NI needed to be addressed.

    A stakeholder working group has been established.

    He says he appreciates concerns raised by service users and advocates and it is only right that when issues are raised they are addressed.

  20. Topical Questions

    Rosemary Barton

    Time for topical questions.

    MLAs are allowed 15 minutes to ask questions on topical issues that have not come up in listed questions.

    Rosemary Barton of the UUP asks if the have been any discussions at north-south meetings "regarding overcoming the many difficulties within the agricultural industry that have resulted since the introduction of the Protocol".

    The minister says there have been discussions north-south and many discussions east-west.

    He says he has corresponded with colleagues in the UK government "on over 50 occasions"

    Mr Poots says he has been in discussions with colleagues in the Republic of Ireland "and indicated to them the damage that is being done to relationships as a consequence of their support for the Protocol".