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Summary

  1. MLAs debated proposed legislation for an official Assembly opposition.
  2. Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín and Education Minister John O'Dowd appeared at Question Time.
  3. The Assembly voted on the 2015-16 Spring Supplementary Estimates and 2016-17 Vote on Account.
  4. The Budget Bill had its first reading.

Live Reporting

By Robin Sheeran and Robert Ainley

All times stated are UK

  1. Goodnight

    Stormont Live's coverage of the Assembly finishes here.

    Join us tomorrow morning at 10:30 GMT for more live business from Stormont, including the second stage debate on the Budget Bill

  2. Budget Bill

    The Budget Bill has its first reading in the house.

    Speaker Mitchel McLaughlin says that as the Finance Committee is satifsifed there has been sufficient consultation, the bill can be granted accelerated passage. 

  3. Funding motions pass

    The Spring Supplementary Estimates, 2016/17 Vote on Account and Supply Resolution for the 2013-14 Excess all pass on oral votes.

  4. 'Have their cake and eat it'

    Finance Minister Mervyn Storey says some MLAs "want to have their cake and eat it".

    "They come into this house and tell the finance minister their ills and shortcomings but they haven't been able to identify how they would spend the money differently, how they'd handle political crises," he says.

  5. 'Spend money when we say we will'

    Mike Nesbitt

    Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt says he is not going to ask for more money, but "quite the opposite".

    What he is asking for, says Mr Nesbitt, "is that when we say we're going to spend money, we actually spend it".

    He says that 81% of this year's proposed capital allocation to the Social Investment Fund was "returned, not spent".

    Mr Nesbitt says that of £80m available for the scheme, designed to tackle poverty and deprivation, "less than £1.5m was spent".

  6. 'Getting a free ride'

    Máirtin Ó Muilleoir

    Sinn Féin's Máirtín Ó Muilleoir criticises the owners of derelict sites, who pay no rates.

    "There are some people in this city who are getting a free ride," he says.

    "I think of those who are 'land banking' key sites in the city of Belfast," the former lord mayor of the city adds.

  7. 'I feel like John the Baptist'

    Leslie Cree

    Ulster Unionist Leslie Cree calls for the "adoption of a modern financial process".

    He says he feels "like John the Baptist. A voice crying in the wilderness".

    Judith Cochrane of Alliance says her party's MLAs did not vote for the budget because "they didn't think it was strategic enough in order to deliver our aspirations for Northern Ireland".

  8. 'Engage with the legal professions'

    Law court

    Alastair Ross of the DUP chairs the Justice Committee.

    He calls on the justice minister "to engage with the legal professions" to find a suitable resolution to the dispute over legal aid fees.

    Claire Hanna of the SDLP says the budget has been brought to the house on accelerated passage "on the back of a two-party deal that has by no means got consensus in this house".

  9. 'The same fair deal'

    Daithí McKay

    Sinn Féin Daithí McKay chairs the Finance Committee.

    He says he fully supports "a Fresh Start and a fair start".

    Mr McKay advises the minister to keep an eye on Scotland where there is said to be "devolution deadlock" over the proposed increase in devolved powers.

    He says that if new powers are ceded to Scotland or Wales "we should be demanding the same fair deal here"

  10. 'Streamlining service delivery'

    The minister outlines some of his proposed spending, including "a further £20m for skills after the May election" and "an additional £20m to help to address pressures in our schools".

    Speaking of the reduction in the number of departments from 12 to nine, Mr Storey says "this will help to rationalise our civil service and bring benefits of a more streamlines delivery of public services.

  11. 'Substantial amounts'

    money

    Mr Storey explains that the debate will cover "the final spending plans for the 2015-16 year, and the first few months of the 16-17 year".

    "The amounts that I now ask this assembly to vote in supply for 2015-16 are substantial - some £15.8 bn in cash, £17.1 bn of resources, and £2.6 bn of accruing resources.

  12. Supply resolutions

    Mervyn Storey

    Finance Minister Mervyn Storey introduces the debate on supply resolutions - the 2015-16 Spring Supplementary Estimates, the 2016-17 Vote on Account, and the 2013-14 Excess Vote.

  13. Motion passes

    Despite murmurs of opposition, the motion passes on an oral vote.

  14. 'Bar set artificially high'

    Jim Allister

    The TUV's Jim Allister says the threshold for involvement in an opposition "has been set artificially high".

    He says the reduction in the number of departments means that after May's election, it could take 11 or 12 seats to qualify for a ministerial post.

    This would mean there could be around 30 MLAs in parties that were neither in the Executive, nor in the official opposition.

    Alliance's Stewart Dickson, speaking on behalf of his party colleague Chris Lyttle, who is unwell, says his party supports the establishment of an official opposition but would not support today's motion "not least of all that where a party would qualify for an Executive position but would choose to form part of an opposition".  

  15. 'A positive start'

    The DUP's Gordon Lyons speaks in support of the motion which he says is a "positive start".

    Alex Maskey of Sinn Féin says while he supports the creation of an opposition, his party would "much prefer all of those with an electoral mandate would be around the table, working together, sharing the burden of trying to tackle all of the many outstanding difficulties that we as a society have yet to resolve".

    The SDLP's Alex Attwood seeks clarification from the junior minister as to when a party must declare itself as officially in opposition. He says it would be "less than proper" to do so before a Programme for Government had been agreed.

  16. 'About improving the institutions'

    Ulster Unionist Mike Nesbitt speaks in his capacity as party leader.

    He says he supports the introduction of an opposition as part of the normalisation of politics, adding: "It is not about undermining anything, it's about improving and acknowledging that these institutions are here to stay".

    Mr Nesbitt says while his party "lost some arguments", such as the the opposition parties having first refusal of the role of committee chairman, they had one the "big argument", the creation of an official opposition.

  17. Entitlements for an official opposition

    Emma Pengelly

    Junior Minister Emma Pengelly introduces a motion seeking the Assembly's approval for a set of entitlements and powers to be held by an official opposition, as laid out in the Fresh Start Agreement.

    The official opposition will comprise parties who are offered, but decline, ministerial positions.

    Among the proposals are to grant enhanced speaking rights to the opposition.

  18. 'Another kick in the teeth' for Ballymena

    Paul Frew

    DUP North Antrim MLA Paul Frew describes the decision to close the courthouse as "yet another kick in the teeth" for Ballymena.

    He asks how much it will cost to maintain Ballymena courthouse after it has closed.

    Mr Ford says he does not have the figures, but "the savings even allowing for the ongoing costs of ensuring that the building is maintained and security is provided will be £221,900".

  19. Disability access problems

    Wheelchair ramp

    Sinn Féin's Raymond McCartney  says it is "very, very obvious that the minister is doing this for cost savings only".

    He says that Omagh courthouse is not ready to take the caseload from Strabane due to disability access problems, and the courts in Londonderry have "capacity difficulties".

    Mr Ford says he accepts that Omagh is "the least modern of the courts being retained", but he rejects the criticism that his decisions are based purely on saving money, pointing to the problem of "falling business volumes".

  20. 'Not every market town needs a courthouse'

    The DUP's Alastair Ross, who chairs the Justice Committee, says "no-one is arguing that every market town should have a courthouse", but he wants to know what will happen to the buildings.

    The minister says that the buildings can be used for other purposes, and in the first instance they will be offered to other statutory bodies.