Got a TV Licence?

You need one to watch live TV on any channel or device, and BBC programmes on iPlayer. It’s the law.

Find out more
I don’t have a TV Licence.

Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

  1. That's all for today

    It's been a shorter than usual day at the assembly as question time has been suspended for the duration of the health crisis.

    We'll be back on Thursday at 10:00 when Health Minister Robin Swann and the chief medical officer will be briefing the Health Committee.

    Keep safe and do join us then.

  2. MLAs opt to change voting arrangements

    Catherine Kelly of Sinn Féin backs the motion.

    The proposals are "unprecedented but we are facing unprecedented times", she says.

    Gary Middleton

    The DUP's Gary Middleton winds for the Committee on Procedures.

    "It is imperative that we as an assembly do all that we can to protect one another, the staff, and the building users as well," he says.

    The amendments pass on an oral vote.

  3. 'Assembly to give its upmost priority to tackle COVID-19'

    People Before Profit's Gerry Carroll says the current crisis "merits the necessity of the assembly to give its upmost priority to tackle this pandemic".

    He says "this means scaling back other areas of work," adding that "many of these changes and standing orders are justified".

    But Mr Carroll emphasises it is "crucial that we demand maximum democracy and scrutiny at this time".

    Gerry Carroll
  4. 'Proposals undermine democracy'

    The UUP's Rosemary Barton says that although the motion is temporary, appling from 3 March to 30 September, her party has reservations about it.

    She the current health crisis has seen the assembly pass legislation "that undermines democracy and reduces scrutiny".

    Rosemary Barton

    Ms Barton accepts that an alternative method of voting must be found as it is not possible for members to queue in the lobbies whist observing social distancing.

    She suggests that a means of voting other the proxy voting solution suggested by the Committee on Procedures.

    The Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA says her party will not oppose the motion but will seek to amend the proposals in the committee.

  5. Amend Standing Orders

    The assembly then moves to discuss a motion to Amend Standing Orders.

    The deputy chair of the Procedures Committee, Tom Buchanan, opens the debate and says it was apparent earlier this month that "business as usual could not continue as usual during the current period".

    The DUP MLA thanks the "speaker, business committee and chairperson liaison group bringing these measures at such a crucial time".

    Tom Buchanan

    Mr Buchanan then covers some aspects of the proposed changes which emphasise "social distancing at all times during the current period".

    They include proxy voting in the assembly and committees voting without holding a meeting.

    He adds it would be a temporary measure, in place until the end of September.

  6. 'A vital piece of legislation'

    Edwin Poots replies to the debate.

    The minister says it's a "vital piece of legislation".

    He says the objective is to see all farmers benefit "on an equitable basis".

    He says he hopes that the funding levels can remain unchanged until at least until 2024.

    Edwin Poots

    He says he hopes that the funding levels can remain unchanged until at least until 2024.

    Mr Poots says this would not be the case in the EU where there will "almost certainly" be cuts.

    He says he will be keeping a close eye on EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) developments to ensure that farmers in the Republic of Ireland do not achieve a significant advantage over Northern Irish farmers.

    The minister expresses his disgust with other countries that he says have spread diseases.

    "The wet markets in China are a disgusting practice and that is what has brought this horrible corona virus to our door," he says.

    The legislative consent motion passes on an oral vote.

  7. 'Increase transparency for farmers and food producers'

    The DUP's Harry Harvey says "food security was not provided for in the 2017-19 bill which fell in the last parliament" but that he's "glad to see it’s inclusion" now.

    He says the "measures set out will hopefully increase transparency for farmers and food producers" but says should be more work done in this area.

    The Green Party's Claire Bailey says her party would like to see a sunset clause, "similar to that taken by Wales who are working on their sunset clause to address their own needs".

    Harry Harvey

    People Before Profit's Gerry Carroll says there is a need to "scrutinise this bill and any other measures introduced down the line".

    He says farmers are "at the mercy of international markets" and that he hopes future developments will be "sustainable and friendly to the environment" which he says is "key to going forward".

  8. 'Crisis shows how vital farming is'

    The DUP's Wiliam Irwin says he supports the bill and "won't labour further"

    He says the crisis has "highlighted just how important our local food supply chain really is" and just "how vital our farming committee really is".

    William Irwin

    John Blair of Alliance says he wants to thank those working in the agricultural and agri-food sectors in these most challenging times.

    He says his party supports the bill but he has some concerns about matters such as the lack of clarity around the Northern Ireland protocol.

  9. 'Importance of the agriculture sector'

    The UUP's Rosemary Barton says the current coronavirus crisis highlights the "importance of the agriculture sector" and "highlights the need for a successful agri-food sector".

    She adds there is a "need to ensure unnecessary restrictions do not create situations where perfectly good food is being destroyed".

    NI Assembly
    Image caption: Social distancing measures are in place in the assembly chamber

    She says this bill gives "powers to support farmers when current EU mechanisms come to an end".

    She says it "gives farmers support to produce a quality-based product that will continue to be affordable for the consumer".

    Rosemary Barton
  10. 'Payments are a lifeline to farmers'

    Back to the Agriculture Bill debate and the first speaker after lunch is Sinead McLaughlin.

    She extends her sympathy to the family and friends who have lost their lives to COVID-19.

    Sinead McLaughlin

    Ms McLaughlin says that at this time it is important to give recognition to farmers, who are facing to reduced orders for their produce and lower incomes.

    The Foyle MLA says the payments have been a lifeline to our farmers "in these difficult months," and that they are part of the reason why her party was "resolutely opposed to Brexit".

  11. Lunch break


    The members are taking a break to allow time for the Business Committee to meet.

    It also allows time for a quick bite of lunch.

    We'll be back at 14:00. See you then.

  12. 'All of this is the product of Brexit'

    The chairperson of the Agriculture Committee, Declan McAleer says the it scrutinised the bill over three meetings.

    This was due to the committee "doing similar amount of work" for other bills and that three "overlapped and interlinked".

    He says members would have preferred to have had more time.

    Declan McAleer

    As Sinn Féin spokesperson he says there should be a sunset clause for the legislation to "thrash out our own agricultural policy here in the north".

    "All of this is the product of Brexit," says Mr McAleer.

    "We are burdened with developing new legislation as we have been taken out of the EU against our will."

  13. Continued payments to farmers

    Next we have the first stage of the Domestic Abuse Bill. This involves Justice Minister Naomi Long introducing the bill.

    This takes about a minute.

    Then it's on to a legislative consent motion on the Agriculture Bill, introduced by the Agriculture Minister, Edwin Poots.

    The Agriculture Bill includes UK-wide proposals for measures to enable continued financial support to farmers following exit from the EU.

    Edwin Poots

    The Agriculture Bill covers UK-wide proposals for measures to enable continued financial support to farmers following exit from the EU.

    As it covers matters that would normally be devolved to Stormont, the assembly must vote to give consent to Westminster to legislate for Northern Ireland.

  14. Re-profile to 'fund fight against COVID-19’?

    The UUP's Mike Nesbitt asks the minister whether establishing an Office of Identity, including commissioners for Irish and Ulster Scots, could be "re-profiled to help fund the fight against COVID-19".

    Mr Murphy replies that each department has been "tasked with bringing forward essential business" and that "that will have reconsider what spending they can do in the immediate time ahead”.

    Mike Nesbitt

    Meanwhile Sinn Féin's Seán Lynch asks the minister whether the £1m allocated for those effected by the blood contamination scandal will "continue next year".

    The minister says that in "next years budget an additional £1m to meet that cost as well".

  15. 'Health advice contradicted economic advice'

    Caoimhe Archibald of Sinn Féin asks for clarification on the job retention scheme.

    Mr Mr Murphy says some of these schemes have been put together in 24 hours when normally they might have taken years to consult on.

    He says that in some ways the British government's health advice has contradicted the economic advice and that has caused confusion.

    Mark Durkan

    The SDLP's Mark Durkan wants to know if the measures taken to address the COVID-19 crisis will affect the executive's ability to extend the welfare mitigation package.

    The minister says funding for the bedroom tax scheme and other mitigations forms part of the budget.

  16. 'Make sure our health professionals are properly equipped'

    Paul Givan of the DUP asks the minister about Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) supplies and when they will be delivered.

    Mr Murphy says there is a need to "learn lessons from the international experience" of others.

    He says there is a need to "make sure our health professionals are properly equipped to protect themselves and also that they don't become transmitters of disease themselves".

    Paul Givan

    He says there will be work "to make sure we have all that we have asked for and the standard we require".

    The minister adds there is "huge demand" for PPE from China "from all nations".

  17. Delay to self-employed package

    The DUP's Jonathan Buckley welcomes the £639m set aside to address COVID-19 issues.

    He's concerned about a delay in getting the funding package to the self-employed.

    Jonathan Buckley

    The minister says the self-employed scheme was only announced by the Treasury last week.

    Mr Murphy adds that he has raised the matter of the delay until June with the chief secretary to the Treasury.

  18. 'First priority was to keep people afloat'

    Alliance party MLA Andrew Muir asks the minister about plans for recovery to "provide sufficient funds to ensure the economy recovers".

    He says certain sectors, including "hospitality, hotels, leisure, non-food retail" have been particularly hard hit.

    Andrew Muir

    Mr Murphy says "turning minds to recovery is essential".

    He says his department's "first priority was to keep people afloat" and "keep lights on and a roof over peoples heads".

    He says the schemes are being introduced in a "space of days" which would "have previously taken months".

  19. 'The rule book no longer applies'

    The SDLP's Matthew O'Toole asks for more detail on the re-prioritising of budgets to address the coronavirus crisis.

    Conor Murphy says that "in many ways the rule book doesn't apply in a whole range of measures".

    Matthew O'Toole

    The minister says accountability mechanisms will be set aside so that departments can be flexible.