Executive in bid to rush through legislative backlog

Parliament Buildings at Stormont in east Belfast
Parliament Buildings at Stormont in east Belfast

The First and Deputy First Ministers are to attempt to rush legislation to cut the number of Stormont departments through the Assembly under an emergency provision, as a torrent of Executive legislation comes before MLAs.

Stormont has been heavily criticised ever since the restoration of devolution in 2007 for the modest number of bills which the Executive brings to the legislative Assembly.

But that is all set to change over the coming months. As time runs out ahead of May’s Assembly election, the Executive is attempting to get numerous pieces of legislation onto the statute book.

Because of breaks for Christmas and Easter, there are now just 12 weeks in which the Assembly is scheduled to be sitting in plenary before dissolution on March 29.

The backlog in business was exacerbated by the weeks of ‘in-out’ DUP ministers which saw the Executive not even meeting for weeks.

There will be five bills debated on Monday alone.

One of them, the introduction of the Departments Bill which will reduce the number of Stormont departments from 12 to nine in line with last week’s ‘Fresh Start’ agreement, is to be rushed through the Assembly under ‘accelerated passage’, a measure which allows there to be less scrutiny of legislation if there is an emergency.

Monday will also see the first stage of the Addressing Bullying in Schools Bill and the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill as well as the further consideration stage of the Food Hygiene Rating Bill and the Public Services Ombudsperson Bill.

The following day, MLAs will debate the second stage of the Health and Personal Social Services (Amendment) Bill and consideration stage of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill, as well as the further consideration stage of the Environment: Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill.