Election Diary: King of the private member’s bill has more ideas for laws

John McCallister opposition bill''Assembly Broadcasting
John McCallister opposition bill''Assembly Broadcasting

Stormont’s most legislatively prolific backbench MLA has published an unusual list – his priorities for new laws in the next Assembly.

South Down independent John McCallister, who is battling to retain his seat in the first election which he has fought as an independent, set out proposals in five areas.

Six years ago Mr McCallister became the first MLA since 1931 to secure the passage of a private member’s bill through the Assembly when the Caravans Act became law.

And less than two months ago Mr McCallister saw his Assembly and Executive Reform Bill – which for the first time since 1972 allows for the creation of an Official Opposition at Stormont – pass its final stage in the Assembly and receive Royal Assent.

Setting out his proposals for future legislation if he is re-elected, Mr McCallister said that through private member’s bills backbench MLAs could make “small but significant policy changes” in areas “that the Executive has refused to deal with or is incapable of doing themselves”.

The former Ulster Unionist deputy leader set out five proposals for legislation (though realistically he could at best probably see two of them passed during a five-year term).

He proposed: reform of the adoption laws, the introduction of a derelict land tax and reform of the conacre system, a cap on care costs for social care, a law to protect women breastfeeding in public and the introduction of free public transport for those with all those on Translink’s disability list – not just those who are blind.

Common Sense cycling

The leader of the new ‘Common Sense Party NI’ has called on Stormont to clamp down on the some cyclists’ “flagrant disregard for the Highway Code”.

Former driving instructor Tom Burns, the party’s founder and sole candidate in North Belfast, said that on a “daily basis” he sees cyclists “committing road traffic violations”.

Mr Burns – who, due to late paperwork will appear on ballot papers as an independent – proposed that adult cyclists riding on public roads should have to undergo compulsory training and that they should face the same fines as motorists if they break the highway code, saying that such an approach was “common sense”.

He went on: “It would also be common sense to have some sort of identification for cyclists”, so that police can identify cyclists “flaunting road traffic laws”.

He said that “Jumping red lights is a regular occurrence, but the most dangerous is the riding two, sometimes even four abreast on busy roads, narrow roads, bendy roads and roads temporarily narrowed with obstructions such as cones”.

He added: “I have pointed out this offence to cyclists over nearly twenty years of instructing but in their ignorance they are adamant they are allowed ride two abreast”.

Peddling politics

Fermanagh-South Tyrone Green Party candidate Tanya Jones is pedalling her way round the large rural constituency.

From Monday, Ms Jones said she thought it was “the best way to meet as many people as possible”.

Upcoming hustings

lLagan Valley: Vineyard Church (Altona Business Park), April 26, 7.30pm. (Organised by Evangelical Alliance/CARE).

lNorth Antrim: The Braid, April 27, Ballymena, 7.30pm (Organised by trade union Unite, focused on employment).

lSouth Belfast: Agape Centre (238 Lisburn Road), April 27, 7.30pm. (Organised by ‘Challenges’, chaired by William Crawley).

lNorth Down: Kings Church Bangor (Seacliff Road), April 28, 7pm.

Send hustings details to sam.mcbride@newsletter.co.uk