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Live Reporting

Tori Watson and Robin Sheeran

All times stated are UK

  1. Good evening


    We're going to leave the debate at this point.

    We'll be back at Stormont at 10:00 tomorrow for live coverage of the Committee for the Economy.

    Do join us then, and in the meantime have a great evening

  2. Amendment 6 defeated

    Amendment 6 is defeated by 56 votes to 25.

    Amendments 3, 7 and 8 pass on oral votes.

    The members move on to debate the second group of amendments.

  3. Amendment 4 defeated

    Amendment 4, brought by Rachel Woods, is defeated by 56 votes to 25. A total of 81 members voted.

    Amendment 5 passes on an oral vote.

    There's no clear majority when amendment 6 is put to an oral vote so the house divides once again.

  4. House divides

    Now that the debate’s been wrapped up, it’s voting time.

    MLAs pass amendments 1 and 2 quickly on oral vote.

    The Speaker says amendment 3 can't be voted on until MLAs have had their say on amendments 4, 5 and 6. These propose changes to amendment 3.

    Alex Maskey puts amendment 4 to oral vote but there’s no clear majority and so the house divides.

    You can read the amendment in full here.

  5. 'Legal aid is a scarce resource and an important one'

    Justice Minister Naomi Long is back on her feet to wind on the debate.

    MLAs have been discussing Group One amendments since 15:30, so it might take the minister some time to address all the points made.

    Ms Long starts by referring to a pilot being run in Emma Rogan’s constituency of South Down.

    She says “it’s a very important first step” in rolling out further support, especially for children.

    Turning to points raised by Green Party MLA Rachel Woods about notices and orders for those under 18, the minister says “the approach taken” reflects orders approved by the assembly in 2015.

    Minister Long refers to comments she previously made around the impact an amendment aimed at widening legal aid would have on the executive’s budget. The minister said it would be “RHI on steroids”.

    Naomi Long

    Ms Long clarifies that these comments were not about “legal aid costs themselves” but rather the “potential repercussions” the amendment could have had.

    She adds that she believes that legal aid is something “we should protect and guard”.

    In relation to amendment 6, the minister says “it is a much more serious problem” and carries a “significant risk” of “failing vulnerable victims of abuse by facilitating their further abuse”.

    Mrs Long calls for members not to vote in favour of the amendment, as she says it will mean that “regardless of means a perpetrator who claims to be a victim of abuse will be able to claim the waiver and use legal aid in order to repeatedly return the victim to the courts”.

    “Legal aid is a scarce resource and an important one,” says the minister, adding that should be focused “on those who need its help”.

  6. Ní Chuilín 'proud to play part' as Communities Minister

    Carál Ní Chuilín says it's been a "huge privilege" to fill in as Communities Minister on behalf of her colleague Deirdre Hargey.

    View more on twitter

    Ms Hargey temporarily stepped down from her role on health grounds back in June as she was due to have surgery.

    Ms Hargey is due to return to her position tomorrow.

  7. 'Widen the scope of legal aid provision'

    Gerry Carroll

    Gerry Carroll of People Before Profit is first up to speak after the short adjournment.

    He will be supporting all amendments in Group One apart from number 3, which has been put forward by the minister.

    The West Belfast MLA says he will support amendment 5, which has been put forward by Rachel Woods, “to widen the scope of legal aid provision”.

    “It’s worth stating for my party that we stand with groups like Women’s Aid” says the MLA.

  8. 'Victims and survivors should be front and centre'

    Rachel Woods begins by warning that members that "this will not be a short speech".

    She has brought a number of amendments that have not found favour with the minister.

    Ms Woods welcomes amendment 1 and its application to pre-school children.

    On amendment 2, she has some concerns regarding age limits and a potential gap in protection.

    She turns to the matter of legal aid, which has divided members in their discussions of this bill.

    The North Down MLA outlines her understanding of how the amendments have emerged.

    "Victims and survivors should be front and centre when members come to decide how they will vote on these amendments," she says.

    Rachel Woods

    "Whilst I appreciate that the minister and others are concerned with costs and risks, as am I, there is a balance to be struck between these issues and how we best support victims," Ms Woods adds.

    "The minister's proposed solution to stop perpetrators claiming to be victims does not solve anything in that regard, it just limits the opportunities for it to occur and in doing so limits victims' ability to access legal aid when they need it," she says.

    The minister objects to some of the content of Ms Woods speech and the Speaker, Alex Maskey intervenes to warn members about the tenor of the debate.

    "If I was a victim of domestic abuse watching this and listening to this debate this afternoon I would be quite disturbed by some of the behaviour of a small number of members," he says.

    Ms Woods concludes her speech and the speaker suspends the sitting for a short comfort break.

  9. Information and Support: Domestic Abuse

    If you, or someone you know, have been affected by domestic abuse or violence, the following organisations may be able to help. If you are in immediate danger, you should dial 999.


    The National Domestic Abuse Helpline

    The 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline (Northern Ireland)

    Further helpline numbers are available on the BBC Action Line website.

  10. 'Further talks planned' over UK's Christmas rules

    Nick Eardley

    Political correspondent

    Further talks between the four nations over the UK's plan to ease Covid rules over Christmas will take place on Wednesday.

    No decisions were made during a conversation tonight.

    A source said: "There was broad recognition that a commitment has been made to people and they will expect us to honour it - but there is a need to be stronger and clearer in guidance and messaging."

    The source said there were discussions on travel over the Christmas period, but no decisions were made.

  11. 'House wants better support for victims of domestic abuse'

    Gordon Dunne

    Gordon Dunne of the DUP welcomes the movement of the bill to the further consideration stage.

    He says “better supporting victims of domestic abuse” is the desire of the house.

    The North Down MLA refers to a BBC NI report which revealed six women have been murdered since 2015 despite previously reporting their violent partners to the police.

    Nicola Brogan

    This is Nicola Brogan’s maiden speech.

    The Sinn Féin MLA “pays tribute” to her predecessor Catherine Kelly, who she says “was at the fore of helping the most vulnerable in our society”.

    Ms Kelly was one of four Sinn Féin officials to resign over a failure to return money from a Stormont emergency Covid fund.

    Turning to the Domestic Abuse and Family Proceedings Bill, the MLA calls for members to support amendment 1.

    "Domestic abuse is recognised as an adverse childhood experience," she says, adding that it can often interfere with their learning opportunities.

  12. 'A childhood free from abuse and fear'

    Cara Hunter

    Cara Hunter says “children are the hidden victims of domestic abuse” even if they “do not witness the abuse itself”.

    The SDLP MLA says she’s spoken to many mental health charities who say “nothing can compensate” for a childhood “free from abuse and fear”.

    Jemma Dolan

    Jemma Dolan of Sinn Féin rises to support amendment 2 relating to domestic abuse and protection orders.

    She says there’s a need for the bill to be delivered alongside education for young people on healthy relationships.

  13. Operation Encompass

    Emma Rogan

    Emma Rogan of Sinn Féin speaks in support of amendment 1.

    She refers to Operation Encompass, where police contact a designated person in a school if they are aware that a pupil has been involved in a domestic incident, and says that it could be employed in Northern Ireland.

    "A pilot within my own constituency of South Down on Operation Encompass is due to take place shortly," Ms Rogan says.

  14. 'I’m here to make a bill better'

    DUP MLA Paul Frew sits on the Justice Committee.

    He says it has made “massive positive” contributions to the bill, but thanks the department and minister “for moving this bill” to the further consideration stage.

    “I never thought the Domestic Abuse and Family Proceedings Bill would have been put in jeopardy and delayed as it was, because of amendments that the committee sought to put down in order to strengthen the bill” he adds.

    Paul Frew

    Speaker Alex Maskey makes a brief intervention and says he doesn’t want the debate to enter “who did what, when” territory.

    Turning to amendments, the MLA describes those relating to information sharing with schools as “a no brainer”.

    After a bit of a verbal tussle with the minister regarding amendments around legal aid, Mr Frew says “I’m here to make a bill better, and that’s why I’ve put my name to some clauses”.

    He then reads a list of amendments which he will be supporting.

  15. PM: UK wants EU trade deal but not 'at any cost'

    Boris Johnson

    The UK wants a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU but not "at any cost", Boris Johnson has told his cabinet.

    Mr Johnson also told his senior ministers that the talks are still "most likely" to end without an agreement, the PM's spokesman said.

    UK-EU officials are trying to agree a trade deal by 31 December, when the UK stops following EU trading rules.

    If no deal is reached, the UK and EU would trade under World Trade Organization rules.

    Read more on this story here.

  16. 'Health Committee took hardly any recess'

    Paula Bradshaw

    Paula Bradshaw, who's the minister's Alliance Party colleague, replies to a point made by Justice Committee chair Paul Givan about a week being wasted in bringing the further consideration stage.

    She says that the Health Committee, which she sits on, "took hardly any recess" unlike the Justice Committee.

    Speaker Alex Maskey intervenes, tells the member sit down and asks her to return to the order paper.

    Ms Bradshaw works her way through the amendments and says she is opposed to amendments 4, 6 and 13.

    She says amendment 4, brought by Green Party MLA Rachel Woods would "simply increase the cost to no benefit to the victims".

  17. 'Refining and balancing a really good bill'

    Ulster Unionist Doug Beattie says all the amendments have been put forward "for the right reasons".

    "What we are really doing is refining and balancing what I think is a really good bill," he says.

    Mr Beattie says the UUP will support amendments 1 and 2.

    Turning to amendments 3 and 7 regarding legal aid, he says says he understands why some people says it's not about the money.

    Doug Beattie

    "The reality is that unfortunately if we are really are honest, it is in some cases," and some people will lose out.

    "We do have to be fiscally responsible," Mr Beattie says.

    He says he believes the minister will act to introduce clause 27 on legal aid provided there are "no repercussive effects" on the block grant.

  18. 'Relentless stories of abusers using control'

    Sinéad Bradley says she’s “relieved” the bill has been moved to its further consideration stage today.

    The SDLP MLA runs through the amendments.

    She says “during the many deliberations” with stakeholders, her party heard “relentless stories of abusers” using financial power to control victims.

    As a result, Ms McLaughlin says supporting “working poor victims” is essential to ensure they are empowered.

    She adds that the SDLP will be supporting the minister’s amendment regarding legal aid.

    Sinéad McLaughlin

    The South Down representative says “there is an unambiguous legal duty for the minister to commence on this bill”.

    She adds that it remains the SDLP’s “preference that commencement of legal aid would be stipulated on the face of the bill” but the dilemma was “could we stand by in good consciousness and watch the bill not be moved?”

    Ms McLauglin says she and her party are confident the commencement on legal aid “will be realised”.