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Summary

  1. Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín delivered consecutive statements on the latest meetings of the North South Ministerial Council inland waterways and language sectoral bodies.
  2. MLAs voted to grant accelerated passage for a bill that would reduce the number of Executive departments.
  3. The Assembly then debated the second stage of the Departments Bill.
  4. Health Minister Simon Hamilton and Justice Minister David Ford appeared for Question Time.
  5. MLAs also debated the second stage of a bill updating laws on the sale of tobacco and related products, to take account of 'e-cigarettes', which currently carry no age restrictions.
  6. MLAs debated anti-bullying legislation.
  7. A bill that would require food businesses to display their food hygiene ratings had its final stage debate in the house.
  8. The Insolvency Bill went through its final stage in the house.

Live Reporting

By Robin Sheeran and Robert Ainley

All times stated are UK

  1. That's all for today

    Speaker Mitchel McLaughlin adjourns the Assembly.

    Join us tomorrow morning at 10:00 GMT for live coverage of the Finance Committee.

  2. Support for the regulations

    Alex Maskey

    Sinn Féin's Alex Maskey replies on behalf of the Social Development Committee, which he chairs.

    He recommends that the Assembly support the regulations, a viewpoint shared by the SDLP's Dolores Kelly.

    She wishes all the members a happy Christmas.

    The Ulster Unionists and Alliance also express support.

    Mr Storey closes the debate and the regulations pass on an oral vote.

  3. 'Some jargon is inevitable'

    Mervyn Storey

    Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey introduces the debate on the Occupational Pension Schemes Regulations.

    He explains that these are technical matters and "some jargon unfortunately is inevitable".

  4. Insolvency Bill passes

    Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell concludes the debate.

    The bill passes its final stage.

  5. 'Will bring relief'

    Máirtín Ó Muilleoir

    Sinn Féin's Máirtín Ó Muilleoir says the demand for these changes came "after the start of the crash when we were deluged with administrations and people being made bankrupt".

    "It has been a while coming forward, but I think this will bring relief to those who suffer the trauma of administration and those who are made bankrupt and also help the practitioners", he says.

    The UUP's Adrian Cochrane-Watson and Alliance's Kieran McCarthy also speak in support of the bill.

  6. Electronic communications

    Patsy McGlone, the SDLP chair of the Enterprise Committee, says the existing legislation was put in place "before the advent of modern means of communication".

    He says the bill "helps to bring insolvency legislation into the 21st century" by "establishing that documents stored and transmitted electronically in the course of insolvency proceedings are as good and valid in law as paper documents".

    It also enables the use of videos or teleconferencing in insolvency meetings, he says.

  7. Insolvency law 'needs to be modernised'

    Jonathan Bell

    Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell begins the final stage of the Insolvency (Amendment) Bill.

    He talks about the scale of the issue in Northern Ireland, with 1,358 individuals declared bankrupt and 233 companies compulsorily wound up by the courts in 2014/15.

    He says "insolvency legislation needs to be modernised and improved to keep pace with changes in wider society," he says.

  8. The bill proceeds to the next stage

    The Alliance amendments are defeated, and the bill completes the consideration stage with a number of minor ministerial amendments.

  9. 'Time to nail the myth'

    Chris Lyttle

    Chris Lyttle of Alliance defends his party's amendments against claims that they are an electoral stunt.

    He says the call for a regular review is "a genuine, substantive proposed amendment to the bill".

    Mr Lyttle calls for "a more honest debate" and says it is time "to nail the myth" that there is no cost paid for water.

    He says the executive spends £280m on the subsidy to NI Water, which could otherwise be spent on health, education or community safety.

  10. Water charges

    taps

    Ulster Unionist Adrian Cochrane-Watson says he was impressed by the demostration of soft SuDS on a committee trip to Cardiff

    He says his party is "committed not to implement water charges during this mandate".

  11. Soft SuDS

    Seán Lynch

    Seán Lynch of Sinn Féin speaks in favour of the drainage system called Soft SuDS, using landscaping and natural features to help prevent flooding.

    The SDLP's John Dallat says he thought there had been agreement on the bill

    He welcomes the progression of the bill through the Assembly.

  12. '£2m wasted'

    Trevor Clarke

    The DUP's Trevor Clarke chairs the Regional Development Committee.

    Regarding the cost of installing water meters, Mr Clarke says "£2m has been ultimately wasted".

  13. Infrastructure review

    Sewerage plant

    The minister explains her opposition to an Alliance amendment calling for a review of "iinfrastructure investment needs" every two years.

    Miss McIlveen says this would be "a duplication of the reporting regimes currently in place".

    She says the regulator has also expressed concerns about the amendment.

  14. Water and Sewerage Services Bill

    Michelle McIlveen

    Regional Development Minister Michelle McIlveen introduces the debate on the Water and Sewerage Services Bill.

    Among other measures, the bill aims to extend existing arrangements to allow the department to pay a subsidy to NI Water in view of the Executive’s commitment not to introduce water charges.

    It would also remove the requirement on NI Water to install meters at houses newly-connected to the water supply.

  15. The bill progresses

    The bill proceeds to committee stage on an oral vote.

  16. 'Legal quagmire'

    John O'Dowd

    Responding to the debate, Minister John O'Dowd addresses a number of MLAs' concerns.

    On whether schools should have responsibility for tackling bullying outside of their grounds, he says "I think it would be a legal quagmire to insist schools become the 24-hour guardians of pupils activities, online or offline".

  17. Record-keeping concerns

    John McCallister

    Independent Unionist MLA John McCallister raises a number of concerns with the bill, including whether it took account of teachers experiencing bullying and who would have access to the records, adding "I think it's a fair comment that government doesn't always have the best record, sometimes, of keeping information in a sensitive way".

  18. Cyber bullying

    NI21's Basil McCrea speaks on cyber bullying, which he says differs from traditional bullying because of its anonymity.

    He tells MLAs that the Lord Chief Justice, Sir Declan Morgan, had said the law in this area was deficient.

    "Where there is race crime, or homophobic crime or any other form of bullying should be a police matter", he says "we've got to encourage the authorities, those responsible people to go to the police and make sure they act on the matter".

  19. 'Deficiencies'

    Jim Allister

    The TUV's Jim Allister says under the 1998 Education Order, there is already a statutory requirement on principals to deal with bullying. 

    This bill, he says, "creates a dichotomy" that "removes the bullying dimension of that obligation and effectively superimposes it on the board of governors".

    Mr Allister says the section on motivations for bullying also has "deficiencies", citing the example of a young child who was "picked upon by other children and bullied because he didn't have the same material things in life that other kids had".

    "That child was demeaned and diminished and bullied on a have/have not basis", he says, "which box in this tick-box exercise would you have for that?".

  20. 'Schools perhaps haven't done enough'

    Anna Lo

    Alliance's Anna Lo says the fact we need legislation to deal with bullying "is an indication that perhaps schools haven't done enough".

    She talks about the "heartache and anger" she felt as a mother of children who experienced "racist bullying, early in their schooling". 

    Ms Lo says "75% of children from ethnic minority groups experienced derogatory racist name-calling" and "42% of minority ethnic 16 year old students had been a victim of racist bullying or harassment in their school".