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Summary

  1. Employment Minister Stephen Farry is delivering a statement on the 'Enabling Success' strategy, to support people who are not engaged in the labour market back into work.
  2. Members of the DUP are bringing a motion on illegal fuel laundering, calling on the justice minister to ensure action is taken to secure a greater number of convictions for the crime.
  3. From 2pm, Finance Minister Simon Hamilton and Health Minister Jim Wells are answering questions from the floor of the Assembly.
  4. An SDLP motion is calling on all local MPs to "play their full part in achieving the best possible outcomes for Northern Ireland", particularly in relation to the block grant and welfare provisions.

Live Reporting

By Robin Sheeran and Robert Ainley

All times stated are UK

That's all for today

A rather humdrum session culminates with one of the oddest votes we have seen in a long time covering the Assembly.

Join us again tomorrow morning at 10.30 for more live coverage from Parliament Buildings, Stormont.

No tellers for the noes

MLAs in the chamber
BBC
MLAs prepare to leave after the vote is not called

Those opposed to the motion do not provide tellers (MLAs to stand by the door to count the votes) so the motion passes by default.

Division

With no clear result in the oral vote, the house has divided to make its decision.

'When you throw your stick...'

Lord Morrow
BBC

The DUP's Lord Morrow comes up with a canine comment:

"When you throw your stick into a pack of dogs you always know the one you've hit. It's the one that gowls the loudest!".

'Election broadcast'

Stewart Dickson
BBC

Stewart Dickson of Alliance describes the debate as a party election broadcast for the other parties.

He calls on the Northern Ireland parties represented to "stop taking out the begging bowl".

'Unashamed'

The UUP's Jo Ann Dobson says she is "an unashamed Unionist".

"We receive a subvention of £10bn per year" from Westminster," she says.

Mrs Dobson says the work done at Westminster is "vital to daily life in all corners of our nation".

'False premise'

Rosaleen McCorley
BBC

Rosaleen McCorley of Sinn Fein says she will not support the motion as it is "based on a false premise".

She says the debate is based on the notion that "it somehow reaps benefits" and this is not the case.

In reply to an intervention from the DUP's Paul Frew, Ms McCorley says she has no desire "to take an oath of allegiance to a British crown".

'Hysteria'

David McIlveen
BBC

The DUP's David McIlveen says he detects "a hysteria around the very prospect of a referendum" on membership of the European Union.

He joins Colum Eastwood in criticising Sinn Fein's policy of abstentionism.

'Celtic coalition'

Colum Eastwood
BBC

Colum Eastwood proposes the SDLP motion.

"We're all very good here at blaming the British when we've run out of money," he says.

The Foyle MLA calls for a "Celtic Coalition" to lock David Cameron out of Downing Street.

Westminster Elections

An SDLP motion is calling on MPs from all parties to "play their full part in achieving the best possible outcomes for Northern Ireland", especially in the event of a hung Parliament, following the May election.

Motion passes

The motion and amendment pass on an oral vote.

Alastair Ross concludes

Alastair Ross
BBC

Alastair Ross of the DUP winds on the debate.

He says as much as 13% of fuel in Northern Ireland may have been laundered, compared to around 2% in the rest of the UK.

He talks about detection technology, law enforcement and the environmental impact of illegal fuel processing.

'Cancerous crime'

Alban Maginness
BBC

Alban Maginness of the SDLP says this "cancerous" crime has been "going on for years" and business owners have been at times forced or pressurised into receiving illegal fuel.

He says he hopes the introduction of the National Crime Agency (NCA), with its extended powers, and a new fuel marker will make it "extremely difficult" for people to launder fuel.

'A reserved matter'

The justice minister reminds MLAs that excise evasion is "a reserved matter and responsibility for tackling fuel laundering lies firmly with HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs)".

He says HMRC has found an dismantled over 90 illegal fuel sites in the last three years.

Part of the difficulty in securing prosecutions, he says, is due to the fact that fuel processing plants often do not require people on site.

He adds that when people are apprehended they are rarely "Mr Big" but are normally "the person driving the lorry for 100 Euro a day

'Scourge on society'

David Ford
BBC

Justice Minister David Ford describes fuel laundering as "a scourge on our society" as the earlier debate resumes.

He points out the importance of the lost tax revenue, while noting that the Stormont Executive would not receive all of the fuel duty, as it was not a devolved matter.

The minister talks about the environmental damage as well as the cost to individuals of the damage illegal fuel can cause to car engines.

'Complex issue'

Pat Sheehan
BBC

Sinn Fein's Pat Sheehan asks when the minister will bring forward new guidelines on the termination of pregnancies.

Mr Wells says it is an 'incredibly difficult and complex issue' and whatever his decision it will inevitably go to judicial review.

He says "we are coming very close" to bringing guidelines to the Executive for discussion, but it will be difficult to reach a consensus in the community.

"I can't see that happening in my time of minister of health".

Suicide strategy 'working'

George Robinson of the DUP asks about cross-departmental support to address the problem of suicide.

The minister says the "good news" is that the figures have dropped from 303 suicides in 2013, to 280 in 2014.

"We believe that the strategy is working," he says, adding that each suicide affects 60 people personally.

'Crossing a Rubicon'

The minister says that for the first time there are more people that are alive after having cancer for 10 years than have died.

He says Northern Ireland has "crossed a Rubicon".

Cancer delays

Jo Anne Dobson
BBC

Ulster Unionist Jo Ann Dobson asks about waiting times for suspected cancer.

Jim Wells says he is "disappointed" that the figures remain below the target of 95%.

He says the delay is between the time when the patient is referred by a GP and their visit to a specialist.

Health Questions

Jim Wells
BBC

Health Minister Jim Wells is now on his feet.

'Maximum payback'

David NcNarry
BBC

David McNarry of UKIP asked for the criteria used to identify redundancies under the exit scheme.

The minister said the criteria were based on the "best value for money" based on the "least cost upfront" and the "maximum payback".

Mr Hamilton said civil servants over 60 years old would receive only the equivalent of six months' pay, younger applicants would receive 20 months'.

Business rates

Gary Middleton
BBC

Gary Middleton, the new DUP MLA for Foyle, asks the minister if he was plans for a review of business rates in Northern Ireland.

The minister says a review of the system is "going to start in the next number of weeks", adding that he goes into the review with an open mind as to the future of the business rating system.

'Unfair' rates

Sean Rogers
BBC

Sean Rogers of the SDLP asks about the revaluation of non-domestic rates.

The minister says it was unfair for businesses to be paying rates based on a 2001 valuation.

"There are far more winners than losers," he says.

'Critically important'

Sinn Fein's Sean Lynch asks about protections for front line services under the exit scheme.

Mr Hamilton says it is "critically important" to ensure that there is "continuity of service".

Welfare reform

The minister says the Stormont House Agreement allowed for access to a £700m loan facility for public sector exit schemes.

He says it is "imperative that we move forward with welfare reform".

Business continuity

Simon Hamilton
BBC
Simon Hamilton

Lord Morrow asks Simon Hamilton for an update on the Civil Service voluntary exit scheme.

The minister says those selected will leave the service between 30 September 2015 and 31 March 2016.

"Business continuity" will be a priority, he adds.

Question Time

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton and Health Minister Jim Wells are answering questions.

'Serious threats'

Patsy McGlone
BBC

Patsy McGlone of the SDLP says cross-border crime such as fuel laundering presents "serious threats to the economic prosperity of our country and risks to our population".

He says it is among the criminal activities, such as tobacco, drugs and alcohol smuggling, as well as the sale of counterfeit goods, that must be urgently addressed.

'Absolutely frightening'

DUP MLA Jonathan Craig says the intricacy of these fuel laundering operations is "absolutely frightening", with "escape routes, tunnels, look-outs in the surrounding areas".

He says the way to close down these plants is to "grab their assets".

'£1m clean-up'

Stewart Dickson
BBC

Stewart Dickson of Alliance speaks in support of the motion and amendment.

He says many people see fuel laundering as a victimless crime, but "nothing could be further from the truth".

People are not only being terrorised by gangs in their own communities, says Mr Dickson, but also poisoned.

He says between June 2012 and December 2014, the cost of clearing illegal waste and fly-tipping was almost £1m.

Public health risk

Roy Beggs
BBC

Ulster Unionist Roy Beggs says the fact the issue of illegal fuel laundering has been raised before, and "is testament to not only the importance to the community that it is addressed, but also the lack of meaningful action taken to address it".

Mr Beggs says the illegal activity has reduced fuel tax revenue, caused damage to the environment, undermined legitimate business and put public health at risk.

Fuel dye

Sean Lynch
BBC

Sean Lynch of Sinn Fein says the lack of arrests for fuel laundering is "very disappointing" and risks undermining confidence in policing.

He suggests investing in dedicated policing and using dye to identify illegal fuel, a method used successfully in the Republic of Ireland.

Illegal fuel sites

He begins by welcoming the passage of legislation extending the powers of the NCA (National Crime Agency) to Northern Ireland.

But, he talks about the closure of several illegal fuel sites, including at Mobuoy, Co. Londonderry, and says the NCA must demonstrate that "no individual and no organisation is off limits, or is protected or receives a light touch".

"There are questions that linger about how that was allowed to happen", he says.

'No-one off limits'

Alex Attwood
BBC

The SDLP's Alex Attwood, a former environment minister, introduces his party's amendment.

'Alarming' levels of illegal fuel

Fuel laundering tanks
HMRC
Fuel laundering plants operate along the Irish border

The British Irish British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly (BIPA) recently described the number of border area fuel laundering plants and filling stations selling illicit fuel is as

"alarming".

£80m fuel duty lost

Mr Bell says around £80m in fuel duty is lost annually, and he has been told by academics and businesses that the true figure is "much, much higher than that".

He says the proceeds of one fuel laundering operation in County Armagh would have been enough to employ 817 new teachers.

The Strangford MLA talks about the environmental damage caused by dumping of chemicals used in the processing of illegal fuel - " they have no scruples about poisoning the environment", he says.

Fuel laundering

Jonathan Bell
BBC

DUP MLA Jonathan Bell introduces a motion on illegal fuel laundering.

He says claims that 12-13% of fuel in Northern Ireland was illegally laundered are a "conservative estimate".

North west

Pat Ramsey
BBC

Pat Ramsey of the SDLP asks when the minister sees the strategy getting "up and running" in the north west.

Mr Farry says a pilot project referred to by Mr Ramsey could potentially be in place from autumn 2015 to March 2016.

'Hard to reach'

Gregory Campbell
BBC

Gregory Campbell of the DUP asks how the minster intends to monitor "hard-to-reach communities" with particularly high rates of economic inactivity.

The minister says "ongoing scrutiny" and the collection of data will be important.

He says there "pockets" where the combination of economic inactivity and unemployment figures shows "one in two adults are not part of the labour market".

'Key focus'

Bronwyn McGahan
BBC

Sinn Fein's Bronwyn McGahan asks about the provision of affordable childcare for lone parents.

Mr Farry says "issues around childcare will be a key focus" as the strategy develops.