In the short 2016 to 2017 mandate, before the unexpected, 'snap' election was called, only one Act had been passed, to set the budget for the year. Two other Bills were in the system - one Executive Bill concerning the licensing of pubs and clubs, which was well on its way to becoming law and one Private Member's Bill (PMB) which had been introduced at First Stage. Both fell due to dissolution.
Between May 2011 and March 2016, the Assembly passed a total of 67 Bills. Of these, 60 were Executive Bills introduced by Ministers and 5 were Private Member’s Bills (PMBs), introduced by individual MLAs. There was also a Committee Bill to establish a single office to deal with complaints about public services – the Public Service Ombudsman Bill (and a second, technical Bill on the same issue).
Bills which were introduced to the Assembly, but did not complete the legislative process, included 4 Executive Bills and 5 PMBs.
The Assembly made a total of 1,953 changes to Bills. The Executive Bill with the most amendments was the Reservoirs Bill, and Lord Morrow’s Human Trafficking Bill was passed with 200 amendments.
Some examples of laws passed between 2011 and 2016 are:
- Addressing Bullying in Schools Act (2016) – a legal definition of bullying and requirement on schools to have robust policies and keep records
- Road Traffic (Amendment) Act (2016) - changes the rules for learner and new drivers and reduces the amount of alcohol allowed when driving
- Food Hygiene Act (2016) - restaurants to display hygiene rating (1 to 5) in prominent position
- Shared Education Act (2016) - defines ‘shared education’ and requires Government to encourage, facilitate and promote it
- Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (2016) - young people who need extra support at school should be identified early, assessed quickly and given appropriate support
- Rural Needs Act (2016) - improves the rural proofing of government decisions (the needs of rural communities must be taken into account) and extends the duty to Councils
- Human Trafficking Act (2015) – to prevent human trafficking to NI and support victims (PMB, Lord Morrow MLA)
- Marine Act (2013) – conserves animal and plant life along our shorelines
- The Children Services Co-operation Act (2015) requires government departments to work together to improve lives of children and young people (PMB, Steven Agnew)
- The Carrier Bags Act (2014) - extended the 5p tax to all carrier bags under 20p, not just ‘single use’ 5p bags
- Pavement Café Act (2014) - allows Councils to enforce rules about placing furniture in public areas for consumption of food or drink.
- Local Government Act (2014) - reduced the number of city/district councils from 26 to 11 and gave them new powers and responsibilities
- Work and Families Act (2015) - allows entitlement to parental leave (eg maternity leave) to be shared with another person.
- Sunbeds Act (2011) – bans people under 18 from hiring or buying sunbeds
- Budget Acts - authorise spending by government departments (2 per year)
- Pension Acts - have increased age at which we can retire and amount we pay towards our pension.
- Houses of Multiple Occupation Act (2016) - ensures better protection for students when renting rooms in a house. For example, deposits paid will be held by independent body and landlords can’t keep them without proving that students have damaged the property.
- Assembly and Executive Reform (Opposition) Act (2016) – to provide rights for a party or parties to act as opposition to the Executive (Private Member's Bill - John McCallister MLA)
Go to www.niassembly.gov.uk to view the progress of Bills through the various stages of the legislative process. Follow the progress of a Bill. Did it pass all stages and become an Act? How long did it take to get through the legislative process? How many amendments were made to it along the way?
The 2007 – 2011 Mandate
Between May 2007 and March 2011, MLAs introduced 79 Bills to the Assembly and 69 of these Bills became Acts. Eleven MLAs introduced their own Private Member’s Bill. Three passed, including the Autism Bill.
One committee, in partnership with the Assembly Commission, introduced a Bill to allow for the independent review of MLAs’ salaries and expenses. The Bill also created the post of Assembly Ombudsman to handle complaints against MLAs.
The Planning Bill was the largest piece of legislation. It had most amendments made to it – 145. The Assembly passed the Debt Relief Bill with just one amendment.