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  1. The Health Minister, Michelle O'Neill, gave a statement on waiting times.
  2. MLAs discussed the draft Programme for Government framework.
  3. The first official item of opposition business, a proposal for a manufacturing strategy, was discussed in the chamber.
  4. DUP members brought to the house, a motion on illegal drugs.
  5. Sinn Féin party members presented a motion on the protection of Woodburn Forest.

Live Reporting

By Robin Sheeran and Brooke Allen

All times stated are UK

Thank you for joining us

That's it for today's proceedings at Stormont. 

We will be back with more live coverage tomorrow from 10:30 GMT when there will be an item of opposition business in relation to early years development and pre-school childcare.

There will also be a private members motion on economic strategy and the UUP’s Jo-anne Dobson and Robbie Butler will present a motion on the continuing crisis in hospital waiting times.

Do join us then - for now, good evening.

Motion passes

After concluding remarks made by Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly, the motion passes on an oral vote. 

The speaker adjourns the assembly. 

Changes to the current legislation

Chris Hazzard

Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard says he wants to "facilitate a sustainable mineral development and balance that with the need to protect the environment and ensure compliance with all environmental regulations". 

He says:

As a result, I have decided to propose a change to the current legislation, policy and procedures in relation to mineral exploration. I propose to remove permitted development rights for all oil and gas exploration. In the future, for my proposals, exploration for oil and gas will require the submission of a planning application and be subject to the full rigours of the planning process including environmental impact assessments and public consultation."

And the minister says he intends to consult on the legislative change shortly.  

'We need to stop the drill'

Woodburn Reservoir
Woodburn Reservoir

Green Party MLA Steven Agnew says "there was an opportunity to scrutinise this decision" and that the Department of the Environment (DOE) was "asleep at the wheel" when development rights were granted.  

He presents a petition "signed by close to 65,000 people" objecting to this. 

"We need to stop the drill," he says. 

Gerry Carroll, from People before Profit, says "we need to put the environment before the interest of big companies". 

'Assurances have already been given'

The SDLP's Mark Durkan supports the motion and says he "cannot understand why any party or any person would have a problem in ensuring that any application is not approved without assurances being secured on negative impact on our environment and on human health". 

Gordon Lyons says: "Of course we want those assurances, but the point we have made is that those assurances have already been given."

DUP MLA challenges conclusions

Christopher Stalford

The DUP's Christopher Stalford says he thinks caution should be exercised in undertaking a project like this.

However, he asks Mr Beggs, "giving that the government pays people from Northern Ireland Water and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency to provide advice, why does the member think he is better qualified than those who we pay to advise us?"

"I think sometimes you need a bit of common sense - why take on board additional risks? Why are you coming here if you are going to accept what the officials say every time? Sometimes you have to challenge them," he says.

Lyons does not support the motion

The DUP's Gordon Lyons says he will not be able to support the motion. 

He says he understands that there are concerned residents. However, he says "if the assurances tabled in the amendment [water supply, the environment, tourism and local communities] were not already provided then we would have cause for concern". 

Ulster Unionist Roy Beggs, who supports the motion, asks Mr Lyons, "would you appreciate that things go wrong and when things go wrong there are risks?"

"Why take on board additional risks in a water catchment area?" he asks. 

Motion: Protection of Woodburn Forest

Woodburn Forest
Woodburn Forest

The final motion this evening has been proposed by Sinn Féin MLAs, Oliver McMullan and Gerry Kelly. 

They are asking for assembly support on the protection of Woodburn Forest.

They are calling on the Executive to ensure that applications by the company Infratrata are not approved until assurances are secured against any negative potential impacts on water supply, the environment, tourism and local communities.

The motion (as amendment) is agreed

Cannabis plants

In her closing remarks, Justice Committee Deputy Chairperson, Pam Cameron, says "the longer we accept the status quo, then the more we condemn our young people to remain trapped in these unholy environments where drugs are a currency and criminality is a character reference". 

She makes reference to individual contributions to the motion. 

The motion as amended is agreed on an oral vote. 

Knowing when to be tough and when to be caring

Colin McGrath

The SDLP's Colin McGrath, who tabled the amendment to the motion, says "we have agreement right across from all sides". 

"We are asking Northern Ireland to be tough whenever it has to be, but caring when it needs to be and sensible to know the difference and to educate people of the risks to them and allow them to make truly informed decisions," he says. 

Justice Minister speaks for first time in assembly

Claire Sugden

The Justice Minister, Claire Sugden, speaks for first time in the assembly since her appointment in the role almost two weeks ago. 

She congratulates the members for highlighting this issue so early on into the mandate and says that the members who have tabled the motion are all members of the Justice Committee. She says she wants to have a good working relationship with the committee. 

She also congratulates the authors of the amendment. 

Oil well protest ahead of Stormont debate

Protesters outside Stormont this evening

A protest is under way at Stormont, where a controversial oil well project is to be debated by politicians this evening.

A group of activists opposed to the exploratory well near Carrickfergus claims the drill poses a risk to the water supply to homes. But Northern Ireland Water insists there is no threat.

Cross party support


Sinn Féins Michaela Boyle, Ulster Unionist Doug Beattie and Trevor Lunn from the Alliance Party all rise to support the motion and the amendment. 

The DUP's Lord Morrow commends those who have brought the motion and amendment to the chamber and says he "fears that the message is still not getting through". 

Sinn Féin's Daithí McKay, who also supports the motion and amendment, says "we need to focus on prevention - that is key in this debate". 

SDLP table amendment

In his opening remarks, Mr Frew says "we have to get smart on how we tackle the problem".

The speaker calls the SDLP's Nichola Mallon to move the amendment and give her maiden speech in the chamber. 

Ms Mallon says "as the original motion points out, the Minister for Justice has a key role to play" in tackling drugs, but her party understands that the PSNI and the Department of Justice need to do much more in working with communities to tackle drugs on our streets.

"We also understand that this issue can not be tackled by focusing on the supply side alone," she says. 

"The job is not one solely for the Minister of Justice. It is a much wider job for the Executive." She references the health and education ministers in particular. 

Motion: illegal drugs

PSNI drugs campaign
PSNI drugs campaign

We now move on to the next item on the agenda, the first item of Private Members Business. DUP party members, Paul Frew, Pam Cameron and Sammy Douglas, bring to the chamber, a motion on illegal drugs. 

The motion proposes that the Minister of Justice, Claire Sugden, works alongside the relevant bodies to bring forward further measures to raise awareness of illegal drugs, and to ensure that the criminal justice system is equipped to deal with drugs. 

SDLP members Nichola Mallon and Colin McGrath have tabled one amendment. 

Motion passes

The motion passes on an oral vote.

Deputy First Minister closes the debate

Martin McGuinness

Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, closes the debate. 

He responds to the individual points made by MLAs throughout the debate. 

More criticisms to the PFG framework

The TUV leader, Jim Allister, describes the document as "synthetic and shallow" while the Green Party's Claire Bailey says the document "ignores the role of women in Northern Ireland if it makes no commitment to us". 

"I really hope that within this mandate we can begin to address the gender inequality in Northern Ireland with the urgency it really deserves," she says. 

'114 pages of concentrated waffle'

Gerry Carroll

Gerry Carroll from People Before Profit describes the PFG as "114 pages of concentrated waffle". 

"This house has failed a vast majority of people for too long," he says. "We don't have a generation to wait for this house to get its act together." 

In his concluding remarks he says, "what Stormont does, people and the workers can undo." 

Green Party leader 'not optimistic'

In his opening remarks, Green Party leader Steven Agnew sends his condolences to the family of a man who was found dead in his constituency on Sunday night. 

With reference to the PFG, Mr Agnew says he is "not optimistic". 

He calls on the First Minister and her party to "respect the mandate of those of us who were elected with the commitment that we would achieve marriage equality" and says he hopes they will see "no petition of concern" when this issue is brought to the assembly. 

No mention of breaking educational barriers

pupil writing

Ulster Unionist Sandra Overend speaks with reference to educational indicators and outcomes. 

"I am disappointed that we stand today with only a framework, rather than a detailed PFG that was promised in the Fresh Start Agreement," she says. 

She says that, in regard to education, "there is no mention about breaking down the barriers and moving to a single system. While this framework is aspirational, it is lacking in a central and overall vision which is so badly needed for education." 

'Society is crying out for action'

SDLP party leader Colum Eastwood says "society is crying out for action, not warm words." 

"We will positively and constructively engage in the process for consultation but we need to see that the people in the areas that have been left behind for far too long, that their needs are addressed."

He says "if we do not see, once and for all, investment in the University in Derry, in Magee, we will not be supporting the PFG that again fails to do that." 

Only 6 indicators 'relate to health'

Jo-anne Dobson

Speaking in relation to health, Ulster Unionist Jo-Anne Dobson, says health targets remain important as a means to monitor and judge performance and describes how the targets would be better left out of the document "rather than rushed". 

"There are 42 indicators in the PFG document and only 6 of these relate to health", she says. 

Document has a 'lack of specifics'

University of Ulster Magee Campus
University of Ulster Magee Campus

The SDLP's Mark H Durkan says "the document doesn't grasp or even attempt to grasp opportunities" to do things better. 

"We are making it our business to improve the performance of government," he says. 

With reference to his own constituency, Foyle, he says the PFG does not outline proposals for the expansion of the University of Ulster campus in Magee and "the economic and social benefits that it would undoubtedly bring". 

"Please forgive our concerns at the lack of specifics in this document. We cannot argue with these desired outcomes, who could? But we just want to ensure them," he says. 

Beattie disappointed at this 'whimsical document'

The Ulster Unionist Doug Beattie says he is "disappointed at this whimsical document, on crisp white paper, with no real value or intellectual currency". 

"At the heart of this document is the Fresh Start Agreement and at the heart of the Fresh Start Agreement is tacklingParamilitarism." 

He says there is no mention of Paramilitarism until page 29 of the document and that "even then, it is fleeting with no measurable outcomes or indicators". 

Stormont Today

Mark Carruthers

Catch all of the action from today's plenary on Stormont Today, tonight at 23:15 GMT on BBC Two Northern Ireland with Mark Carruthers. 

Pengelly pays tribute to Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali

The DUP's Emma Little Pengelly quotes the late Muhammad Ali - "it is not the mountains yet to climb that bring us down, but the pebble in our shoe". 

She says this is relevant when it comes to governments and departments and "despite the consensus about what those mountains are we want to climb, we don't see the progress necessarily that we all want to see."

"To me, those pebbles are the way we do business," she says. 

"If we always do what we have always done, we will always get what we have always got. That is why I warmly welcome this new innovative change within the current PFG". 

Palmer describes PFG as 'vague'

Jenny Palmer

In her maiden speech, the Ulster Unionist Jenny Palmer describes the PFG as 'vague' and says she looks forward with interest to seeing what the Minister actually intends to deliver. 

In her suggestions to the PFG, she says improvements must be made to the trend of "the decentralisation of government administration away from Belfast". She uses the example of the DVA office moving from Belfast to Wales

'It's not all going to be a bed of roses'

John O'Dowd

Sinn Féin's John O'Dowd describes cuts in the Executive budget over the past five years and says "each of the Executive ministers are faced with a huge challenge within their departments, in terms of trying to ensure that we prioritise our spending to the areas where we are going to make the most impact and change". 

"That's where the PFG comes into its own. It sets out a vision for the future," he says. 

"What we have in front of us, is a cohesive document from the Executive setting out a pathway for the success of this society. 

"And it's not all going to be a bed of roses," he says. 

"This Executive are going to be dealing in a very different financial climate."

Alliance recognises 'a focus on outcomes'

Naomi Long

The Alliance Party's Naomi Long says she wants to "start perhaps unusually from an opposition position by endorsing the process which has been adopted by the Executive in developing their PFG on this occasion". 

"We recognise a focus on outcomes rather than activity is a better place to start if we want to see the lives of those we represent measurably improved during this mandate. It is possible to do much and achieve little - activity and delivery are not the same thing," she says. 

"We welcome the move from departmentally driven action based planning towards a more strategic outcomes based approach."

'No mystery about the issue'

Arlene Foster says "she is glad the member has raised this issue as it seems to be his one big issue that he mentions time and time again". 

"The member has to accept that he wasn't involved in the [PFG] workshop process," she says. 

"There is no mystery about the issue. It was very clear during those workshops that this would be the process that would be developed and that's how it has happened."

Getting started

Alliance Party MLA tweets

Returning to the Fresh Start Agreement

Leader of the opposition and leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, Mike Nesbitt, says "the Ulster Unionists will be constructive in their opposition and that means scrutiny". 

Mr Nesbitt says he and his party were not involved in the discussions leading up to the PFG framework. 

Instead, he makes reference to the Fresh Start Agreement, and in reference to the PFG, says "we are supposed to be at the second stage today". 

He asks the deputy first minister to "make clear why they did not follow the process that they spelled out in the Fresh Start document, which he and the first minister think is the foundation for a different and better way for doing government".  

What was the DUP's manifesto commitment?

The DUP fought the election on 5 May on the basis of a five-point plan, saying it would:

  • prioritise health spending;
  • create more jobs;
  • protect family budgets;
  • raise standards in education;
  • and invest in infrastructure.

You can read the details of the manifesto here.

DUP election

PFG 'will deliver' on five point plan

Arlene Foster says she believes that the points included with the PFG will deliver on the five point plan on which she was elected

"In the next eight weeks, we will provide opportunities for people to have their say on the PFG framework. A public consultation process has already started and I would encourage everyone to respond and make their voice heard. Work has already commenced in departments to identify key stakeholders and partners and to put together plans needed to progress against the outcomes," she says. 

She outlines various challenges in the development of the PFG, placing an emphasis on problems faced by budgets. 

In conclusion, she says she commends the PFG framework and asks the assembly to support the motion. 

Working together

BBC Northern Ireland's political editor tweets

Motion: Draft Programme for Government framework

Arlene Foster

The First Minister, Arlene Foster, is now discussing the next item on the agenda, calling upon members to take note of the draft Programme for Government (PFG) framework 2016 - 2021. 

She says "the new programme for government will be different and will represent a first for Northern Ireland". 

The amendment and motion passes

On an oral vote, the amendment to the motion is not agreed and the House divides. 

The results are that: 95 MLAs vote, with 58 voting yes and 37 voting no - and therefore the amendment passes. 

The motion with the new amendment then passes on an oral vote. 

'We already have a strategy'

The Minister for the Economy, Simon Hamilton, says "he is glad the first debate in the assembly is focused on the economy". 

"This is a sector which is challenged but isn't in the crisis that some would suggest," he says. "I will always be a champion and cheerleader for local industry."

"For those looking for a strategy," he says, "we already have one, it's called the Economy Strategy, and it will be refreshed and refocused in line with the PFG (Programme for Government)." 

He says: "I can assure the house that it will be highlighting the particular significance of manufacturing to the local economy."

"I can support the amendment," he says.  


Economy Committee will debate issue fully

Conor Murphy

Conor Murphy, the Chairperson of the Economy Committee, says the committee has not yet had a chance, but they will debate this issue fully and will listen to stakeholders to provide suggestions for the minister. 

Speaking personally he says, "I would want to see any strategy for manufacturing to be regionally balanced across the six counties". 

In conclusion, he says he believes that "we can come up with a manufacturing strategy which is located within the economic strategy and is backed by a budget through the Programme for Government".