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Summary

  1. MLAs passed the final stage of a bill to reduce their numbers from 108 to 90. The change is due to come into effect in 2021.
  2. MLAs passed the final stage of the Budget Bill which authorises funding for the Executive departments as well as borrowing power for the Finance Department.
  3. A number of other pieces of legislation were discussed including the Shared Education Bill and the Housing in Multiple Occupation Bill.
  4. Social Development Minister Lord Morrow and Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill were at the despatch boxes for Question Time.

Live Reporting

By Robin Sheeran and Laura Trueman

All times stated are UK

  1. The Budget Bill passes

    The house divides and the Budget Bill completes its final stage on a cross-community vote.

  2. Downturn in the construction industry

    Dolores Kelly

    Dolores Kelly of the SDLP intervenes and asks the minister about "the great downturn in the construction industry".

    She wants to know when the social development minister, Mr Storey's DUP colleague Lord Morrow, is going to start building new houses in north and west Belfast..

    Mr Storey says "we've built more houses than what the programme for government target was. Do we want to do more? Yes, we do".

  3. 'Time to review the budgetary process'

    Leslie Cree

    Ulster Unionist Leslie Cree says "now is the time to review the whole" of Northern Ireland's budgetary process.

    The minister replies to the debate.

    "It is all about the choices that we make," he says, "ultimately, we collectively will live with the choices we make".

  4. 'Slap them in the face'

    Alex Attwood

    Alex Attwood of the SDLP says he wants to make "six or seven points".

    He says that in considering the budget, "in every department there are streams of European Union Funding that sustain the life of those departments".

    Mr Attwood says that on the one hand "we are saying in this budget bill today 'thank you very much, Europe, for peace funds, and structural funds and community initiative funds', yet on the other hand we can slap them in the face come May of this year".

  5. Budget Bill debate begins

    Mervyn Storey

    Finance Minister Mervyn Storey introduces the final stage of the Budget Bill which authorises funding for the executive departments as well as borrowing power for the Finance Department. 

    "We have paved the way for what I believe is a stable financial environment," he says.

    Sinn Féin's Daithí McKay, who chairs the Finance Committee, says he expects that "all statutory committees will closely monitor the forecasting and expenditure of their respective departments during the remainder of the financial year".

  6. Bill to reduce MLA numbers passes final stage

    The bill passes with the necessary cross-community support on an oral vote.

  7. 'The scrutiny it deserves.

    Andy Allen

    Ulster Unionist Andy Allen says his party did not support accelerated passage, believing it would not have "the scrutiny it deserves", but he will support the bill it going through "rather reluctantly".

    Chris Lyttle of Alliance says his party supports the reduction in the number of MLAs.

    He says he does not believe a "clear case has been made" as to why the change will not be made until 2012.

    This point is also raised by the Independent Unionist, John McCallister, who asks why it was rushed through accelerated passage "and we are passing a bill that doesn't apply for over five years".

  8. 'Right time for reform'

    Alex Attwood

    The SDLP's Alex Attwood says "this is the right option and the right time for this measure of reform".

    "But let's not elevate it into something that is major reform unless it measures up to what reform is meant to serve and that is the interests of the people we all represent," he says.

  9. 'Reasonable and balanced'

    The DUP's Paul Frew says he "sees this day as a success" but still feels more needs to be done.

    Sinn Féin's Alex Maskey says "we made the agreement and we are happy to stick by it".

    "It is a reasonable and balanced decision to take," he adds.

  10. Bill to reduce MLA numbers at final stage

    Emma Pengelly

    The DUP Junior Minister Emma Pengelly speaks on the final stage of a bill that aims to reduce the number of MLAs from 108 to 90.

    The change is due to come into effect in 2021.

    Mrs Pengelly says "there is a better way of doing business".

    "People want this change and we must deliver this change," she adds.

  11. The bill progresses

    Following a series of oral votes, Alliance and Green amendments are defeated and the bill advances to its final stage.

  12. 'A further barrier to integration'

    Steven Agnew

    Steven Agnew of the Green Party refers to his Amendment 10 adding the words "integrated and".

    He says the bill represents "an agenda for shared education" and that it will function as "a further barrier to integration".

    Replying to the debate, John O'Dowd says there is clear support across the house for shared education.

  13. Integrated education 'on the back burner'?

    Trevor Lunn

    Trevor Lunn says it is "not a secret that we have had some reservations about the direction of travel in all this".

    He adds that "there is a perception out there that integrated education is being put on the back burner". 

    He says that his amendments eight and 11, adding the words 'integrated education', "certainly would not harm the shared education movement".

  14. 'Supportive of shared education'

    Pupils in a lesson

    Dolores Kelly of the SDLP says she wants to hear more from Mr Lunn on his amendments

    "Broadly, our party is supportive of shared education," she says.

    Ulster Unionist Sandra Overend says her party "wants a Northern Ireland set on a course to create a single state education system".

    Mrs Overend adds that "if shared education is a vehicle to that single system we will support it".

  15. 'The main fracture line'

    Peter Weir

    Peter Weir of the DUP says the minister's new clause 14 is intended to deal with the same issue raised by Mr Lunn's amendment two.

    "From a technical point of view the minister's amendment is the better of the two," he says.

    Mr Lunn intervenes to ask Mr Weir "what he thinks is the status of 'others' in our society? This society is not comprised entirely of Protestants and Roman Catholics, far from it".

    Mr Weir says says the bill is intended to address "the main fracture line " in society, and that to go against this is to go against the spirit of what was meant by shared education.

  16. 'Contrary to the policy intention'

    Mr O'Dowd says he has made a number of minor and technical amendments.

    Referring to amendment three, brought by Trevor Lunn of Alliance, Mr O'Dowd says this seeks to add "'other' to the qualifying statement regarding reasonable numbers of Protestants and Roman Catholic children".

    The minister says "this would alter the meaning of shared education and run contrary to the policy intention".

  17. Shared Education Bill

    John O'Dowd

    Education Minister John O'Dowd opens the debate on the further consideration stage of the Shared Education Bill.

    The bill is intended to provide a legislative definition of shared education, and introduces a duty on the Education Authority to encourage and facilitate shared education. 

    There is a single group of 14 amendments.

  18. 'Not opening doorway for every crook'

    Lord Morrow says he believes "this order is not opening up the doorway or gateway for every crook to come in and take over and be accepted".

    He says "all of the churches he is aware of, are in support of what is being done" by this order.  

    The motion passes on an oral vote. 

  19. Concerns raised

    Jim Allister

    Jim Allister raises concerns about the motion and the changes to the Charities Act concerning religious charities.

    The proposal would remove automatic disqualification meaning it would be for the Church to decide who could be a trustee.

    Mr Allister says he cannot understand the change. 

  20. Draft Charities Act

    charity collection box

    MLAs are debating an order brought by Social Development Minister Lord Morrow that would allow charities granted the status of a 'religious charity' certain exemptions from laws that apply to other charities.