Debates

Debates

Debates take place during plenary meetings in the Assembly Chamber on Mondays and Tuesdays. They are chaired by the Speaker.

MLAs debate motions that propose a course of action and/or seek an Assembly decision, on a particular issue. They are listed on the Order Paper.

When speaking in debates, MLAs try to represent their constituents’ views on the issue under consideration. They will use examples from their constituency as evidence to support the points they are making either in favour of or against the motion. Ministers are usually present for debates on issues in their area of responsibility and are expected to respond. By proposing or speaking on a motion, an MLA tries to make the Minister aware of constituents’ concerns and put pressure on the Minister to act. MLAs may also make speeches on behalf of a Committee. MLAs who belong to a political party represent that party. They usually speak and vote in line with party policy.

Find out what motions have been debated by the Assembly at: www.niassembly.gov.uk/assembly-business/order-papers/session-2016-2017/

For a full record of speeches and results of votes, go to: http://aims.niassembly.gov.uk/officialreport/officialreport.aspx

To search for debates on particular issues, you can search at http://aims.niassembly.gov.uk/plenary/search.aspx

Legislation

Debates on Legislation

MLAs debate Bills at several stages during the law-making process. At the Second Stage they debate the general principles of the Bill. Is it a good idea? Is it a proposal that the Assembly thinks should be considered further?

If the Assembly votes in support of the Bill, it progresses to Committee Stage. After detailed scrutiny and consultation with experts and the public, the Committee produces a report on Bill. This is debated at Consideration Stage, including any amendments proposed by the Committee, the Minister or individual MLAs. There is another debate and chance to make changes to the Bill at the next stage of the process, the Further Consideration Stage. The Final Stage debate provides an opportunity for comment on the final draft of the Bill and the Bill's sponsor (Minister, Committee Chair, MLA) will usually thank all those involved in getting the Bill to this stage. The Assembly then votes on whether to pass the Bill.

Private Members’ Motions

Debates on Private Members’ Motions

Individual MLAs can table a motion for debate on any subject of their choice.

MLAs use Private Members’ Motions to raise matters that concern their constituents. The list of Private Members’ motions goes on a ‘No Day Named List’ (no date for debate has been agreed). The Business Committee decides which motions to select for debate in plenary meetings. The number of motions that a party may propose is governed by d'Hondt, so it is difficult for smaller parties to get their motions onto the Order Paper.

Adjournment

Adjournment Debates

This type of debate usually takes place on a Tuesday, as the last item of business on the Order Paper, just before the meeting is adjourned. MLAs can request an adjournment debate about an issue that concerns their constituency, such as the proposed closure of a school or the future of hospital services.

The Minister responsible for the issue is present and responds to issues raised at the end of the debate. No vote is taken, so the Assembly does not resolve to do anything about the issue. The Minister is not obliged to act. However, the adjournment debate is an effective way for an MLA to raise constituents’ concerns in a very public way.