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Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

  1. That's all for today

    Parliament Buildings

    Paul Givan runs through the agenda for next week and draws the meeting to a close.

    We'll be back at noon on Monday - join us then for a plenary meeting of the full assembly.

    In the meantime have a great weekend.

  2. Court costs and the Aarhus Convention

    The committee's now looking at five statutory rules (SRs).

    All the assembly committees have been trawling through a mountain of this legislation that has accumulated over the past three years.

    The first concerns victim statements and it passes without debate as do SRs on county court payments and police pensions.

    Wide shot of the committee

    The next is a bit more complicated involving costs to be paid by people applying to the courts for review on environmental issues.

    A departmental official comes in to unpick the UN's Aarhus Convention for the members and they're happy to approve the SR.

  3. 'Legal aid reforms have cut spend by £20m'

    Next on the agenda is a briefing from four officials from the Department of Justice's justice delivery directorate.

    Deborah Brown says it's responsible for ensuring good governance and financial management, enabling access to justice and the Legal Services Agency.

    The department also deals with legal aid reform - a matter that has has been a regular bugbear for the Justice Committee over the years.

    Stephen Martin says it's all about ensuring access to justice while improving value for money.

    Statue of Justice

    Ms Brown explains that reforms to legal aid have brought the annual cost down from about £105m to about £84 over the past two years, although this year's budget is up to about £88m.

    She says that's because the system is processing legal aid payments more quickly.

    There are, however, a "couple of large criminal cases at the moment with about 30 defendants", which she says "have the potential to tip the balance" in terms of projections for legal aid spending.

    "We think a cuple of those cases will start to pull down some payments," adds Ms Brown.

    On a separate issue, Ray Murray is responsible for Access NI, the vetting and barring system for people working with children or vulnerable adults.

    He tells the committee his division deals with about 140,000 applications a year - the amount that are refused is in single figures.

  4. Naomi Long to lay out her legislative plans

    Sinn Féin's Raymond McCartney thanks Mr May for outlining the proposed legislative programme - the new laws the departments is thinking of introducing.

    Naomi Long

    He asks if the new Justice Minister Naomi Long will be able to lay out her proposals when she appears in front of the committee in a few weeks' time.

    "That would be the plan, I think," says Mr May.

  5. 'Autumn or beyond for domestic violence legislation to come into force'

    Before Stormont collapsed in January 2017 work was well under way in the Department of Justice (DoJ) for legislation to tackle domestic abuse.

    And it's high on the agenda for the members of the Justice Committee today, with many keen to find out from the DoJ's Peter May how soon it could go before the assembly.

    Mr May says it'll be one of the first pieces of work that MLAs deal with in the new assembly session.

    Last year there were calls for Northern Ireland to be included in new Westminster legislation on domestic abuse, covering England and Wales.

    A woman with bruising on her face

    That legislation could be passed in time for the summer recess, Mr May says.

    If the assembly took control of the issue and introduced its own legislation it could be "autumn or beyond" before it comes into effect.

    Committee chair Paul Givan says "as point of principle" he'd prefer Stormont to legislate, adding: "This place can be more effective to make sure it is tailored more to Northern Ireland."

    Mr May also says a separate piece of legislation to address stalking will probably be take to to the assembly this year.

  6. 'Most of Brexit budget spent on policing'

    DUP MLA Paul Frew, the previous chair of the Justice Committee, notices that in the Department of Justice's current budget there's £10.7m for Brexit-related matters.

    About £9.8m of that, Mr Frew says, is assigned to the PSNI.

    He wants to know how the department came up with that figure, given the "state of flux that we have been in" over Brexit.

    Police vehicles

    Mr May says the PSNI put forward a business case for recruiting more officers to tackle potential threats after Brexit and much of that £9.8m has gone towards that.

    He says that in terms of post-Brexit security arrangements the department wants to "replicate or get as close as possible" to what's been in place during the UK's Eu membership.

    The permanent secretary is particularly keen on nailing down guarantees on the European Arrest Warrant and the sharing of data with other law enforcement organisations - the Garda Síochána, for example.

  7. 'Police recruitment will cost about £40m'

    It'll cost about £40m to increase the number of Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers to 7,500, says Peter May.

    The number of officers sits at about 6,700 - that's about 800 below what it was when the PSNI was formed in 2001.

    The PSNI crest

    Chief Constable Simon Byrne says he wants money to be found to allow a big boost in its staffing.

    Mr May says it could be eight weeks from now before a decision is made about recruiting extra officers.

    That's because it's yet to be determined how much money the justice department will receive in the 2020-21 Stormont budget.

  8. Justice department permanent secretary briefing committee

    Peter May

    The Justice Committee has been hearing from the Department of Justice's top official Peter May.

    He's been giving a briefing about the issues facing his department and what it's been doing in the three years since the committee last met.

  9. Poots 'not convinced' by incineration arguments

    BBC News NI

    A Stormont minister appears to have cast doubt on the future of a major waste infrastructure project for Northern Ireland.

    Agriculture and Environment Minister Edwin Poots said he was "not convinced" of the argument for incineration.

    An artist's impression of the proposed waste facility in Glengormley

    A waste incinerator forms part of a planned £240m facility for the outskirts of Belfast.

    It has been proposed for a site near Glengormley and has attracted considerable opposition.

    Read more here: Edwin Poots 'not convinced' by incineration arguments

  10. Who's who on Justice Committee?

    The Justice Committee is sitting for the first time in this new assembly and some fresh faces are taking their seats on it.

    View more on twitter

    The DUP's Paul Givan, a former Stormont minister, is leading the committee as its chair, while Linda Dillon of Sinn Féin is the deputy chair.

    Most of the rest of the members are also experienced heads, with only Rachel Woods of the Green Party - who joined the assembly last year - having never sat on an assembly scrutiny committee before.

  11. Agriculture Committee adjourns for today

    The Agriculture Committee business draws to an end with virtually all of the statutory rules the members were to assess having bene given the rubber stamp

    After lunch we'll have coverage of the Justice Commitee from 14:30.

    Department of Justice officials - including permanent secretary Peter May - will be outlining to the committee the big issues on its agenda.

  12. 'When was a ship last recycled in NI?'

    Matters at the Agriculture Committee are floating along nicely and next up is a statutory rule relating to the Ship Recycling Facilities (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2018.

    SDLP MLA John Dallat wants to know "when a ship was last recycled" in Northern Ireland.

    Emma Finlay from Stormont's agriculture department tells him that's "actually a very good question".

    A HArland and Wolff worker looking at a ship in the shipyard

    In reality, she explains, the legislation applies less to the recycling of ships and more to oil rigs at the Harland and Wolff (H&W) shipyard in Belfast.

    "That's actually what this [statutory rule] is about in terms of relevance to Northern Ireland."

    Ms Finlay says the chief executive of H&W told her the firm is also considering being able to recycle off-shore wind turbines.

  13. Local stoats breathe easy

    Onwards to four exotic-soundic regulations on humane trapping and spring traps.

    The DUP's Maurice Bradley asks about new legal protection for stoats - is there a lot of stoat-trapping going on in Northern Ireland, he wonders.

    Departmental official Mark Preston says it's not really an issue in Northern Ireland, although stoat trapping is common in Scotland.

    A stoat

    Green Party leader Claire Bailey asks whether the stoat population has ever been seen as posing a problem - the answer, it seems, is no.

    "All the stoats are dead on then," she jokes.

  14. Preventing water pollution from farms

    DUP MLA William Irwin, who farms, asks about the nutrient action programme regulations - he wants to know if there any changes to the rules that farmers must adhere to.

    Departmental official Brian Ervine says that's a significant regulation, explaining that the purpose is to prevent nutrient pollution of water from farming sources and it places significant requirements on farmers.

    The committee room

    The action programme has to be reviewed every four years and these changes are the result.

    The members express their approval of the batch of five statutory rules Mr Ervine is dealing with.

  15. 'Few replies on water supplies consultation not unusual'

    The Agriculture Committee moves to four statutory rules on water supplies and departmental official Eamon Campbell is answering the members' questions.

    Ulster Unionist Rosemary Barton asks about the effect of regulations on dairy farmers, who use considerable amounts of water.

    Mr Campbell says the new regulations are designed to protect the environment and will require environmental impact assessments.

    Drinking water

    Harry Harvey of the DUP asks about the few replies to a consultation on new drinking water regulations.

    Mr Campbell says that in seven years in the job it's not unusual to have a small response to consultations.

    Having heard the official's explanation, Mr Harvey says he's happy enough if it means cleaner water.

    The members are happy with the SRs on water supplies and they go through on the nod.

  16. 'Would Irish vessels be considered foreign in NI waters?'

    Sinn Féin's Philip McGuigan (below) is concerned about the statutory rules relating to licensing for sea fishing and the effect they could have on Republic of Ireland-registered boats fishing in Northern Ireland waters.

    The Agriculture Department officials explain that the statutory rules were drawn up in readiness for a no-deal Brexit and their purpose is to prohibit foreign vessels in UK waters unless they've been licensed to do so.

    Mr McGuigan believes that if implemented the rules would be restrictive and mean a lot of changes for the fishing industry - he claims it's "completely unsatisfactory" that Irish fishing vessels could be considered "foreign" in Northern Ireland waters.

    Philip McGuigan

    Civil servant Patrick Smith says the rules won't come into effect until December 2020 and can be withdrawn before then if they're no longer required - he adds that they'll be reassessed in the Fisheries Bill at Westminster.

    "I'm shocked that there's been no consultation with the fishing industries," Mr McGuigan says.

    Official David Small says he's not not certain what degree of consultation there was or whether Irish fishing vessels would indeed be "classed as foreign vessels" and he promises to write to the committee to clarify those points.

    The committee agrees to defer a decision on the statutory rules until there's been more detail from the officials as to the consequences of the rules.

  17. 'Intensive negotiations about fishing coming up'

    Fishing is high on the agenda for members of the Agriculture Committee and they're queuing up to ask about access for fishing fleets in Northern Ireland waters after Brexit.

    Agriculture department officials David Small and Patrick Smith point out that that's yet to be determined in the new fisheries agreement between the UK and the EU, which Mr Smith says is expected to be ratified by July.

    Fishermen working with a net

    "Issues in terms of vessels from the Republic of Ireland in our waters will be addressed as part of that agreement," adds Mr Smith.

    His colleague Mr Small says there'll be a "pretty intensive round" of negotiations between the UK and the EU in relation to mutual access into waters for fishing.

    "Our aim will be to increase the opportunities for the Northern Ireland fishing fleet rather than... a situation... where it's worse. Certainly that's what the fishing industry wants us to do."

  18. Extra staff required for Brexit legislation

    Declan McAleer asks if there any potentially controversial SRs for the Agriculture Committee to assess.

    David Small says there's nothing he would consider controversial but it should be noted that when dealing with Brexit preparations departmental officials were working to very tight changing deadlines.

    "It was a very difficult process," he says.

    Union flag and EU flag

    The SDLP's John Dallat asks about the cost of preparation for Brexit and the staffing implications.

    Mr Small says the department had to bring in extra teams to bring forward the considerable amount of legislation required.

  19. Brexit preparation and EU reguations

    Chair Declan McAleer of Sinn Féin opens the Agriculture Committee meeting.

    David Small of the Environment Marine and Fisheries Group is briefing the members on the backlog of statutory rules (SRs).

    His group includes the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, which deals with a wide range of environmental responsibilities, including waste and river pollution incidents.

    David Small

    Mr Small's remit also includes issues relating to Brexit, climate change, fisheries and single-use plastics.

    He says that during the period the assembly was not sitting officials only took forward legislation they considered necessary.

    That included changes to meet EU legislation or regulations and the UK's preparations for Brexit.

  20. On the Agriculture Committee agenda

    Plenty for the MLAs on the Agriculture Committee to work through this morning, mostly the backlog of statutory rules that have built up over the three years Stormont has been in cold storage.

    The rules cover everything from the humane trapping of animals to waste management to the quality of bathing water to pesticides and fertiliser.

    A tractor pulling a slurry spreader

    The sitting started at 10:00 but the first section is in private. It's due to open up in public session any moment now and you can watch it by pressing the play button at the top of this page.

    The full agenda can be found on the assembly website by clicking here.