Official Report (Hansard)

Session: 2007/2008

Date: 24 January 2008

Libraries Bill

24 January 2008

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:
Mr Dominic Bradley (Acting Chairperson)
Mr Francie Brolly
Lord Browne
Mr Kieran McCarthy
Mr Nelson McCausland
Mr Ken Robinson
Mr Jim Shannon

The Acting Chairperson (Mr D Bradley):
A letter from the Minister has been received, headed ‘Clause 2: duty to provide library services’, and the Principal Clerk of Bills will advise us on that.

The Principal Clerk of Bills:
Members may recall that last week we signed off on the Libraries Bill. However, two points were outstanding. One of the points was minor, and the other was more substantive. The substantive point is covered in the Minister’s letter, and it relates to the Committee’s suggestion — Mr McCausland raised the matter — that there should be a statutory duty to maintain a collection of library materials. That amendment is dealt with in the attachment to the Minister’s letter.

The Office of the Legislative Counsel proposes that the following words should be inserted at the end of clause 2(2)(b)(iii):

“maintaining a collection of library materials relevant to the cultural heritage of Northern Ireland;”

The Acting Chairperson:
Is that the form of words that Noel Kelly used last week?

The Principal Clerk of Bills:
He may not have used those exact words. Although Noel is a lawyer, the representatives from the Office of the Legislative Counsel are the real experts, and those are their proposed words. It is a matter of simply confirming that everyone is content with the suggested amendment.

The Acting Chairperson:
Are members content with the amendment as suggested?

Members indicated assent.

The Principal Clerk of Bills:
The Committee earlier indicated that it preferred the removal of paragraph 6 of schedule 1, concerning secondments, and the suggested amendment is precisely what the Committee requested. Therefore, if the Committee is content, its work on the Libraries Bill is completed. The Committee Clerk will compile a final report for members’ consideration and forwarding to the Assembly.

The amendments must now be formally adopted. That is done at Consideration Stage in plenary session. Members will consider all the amendments and then the Speaker will call for a vote on each of them. Obviously, the Committee wants those amendments to be agreed, as we have signed them off, and the Department and the Minister are content with them.

Everyone wants the amendments to be signed off. The Speaker will ask that the amendment be made. Hopefully, we will get an “Aye”, and the Speaker will call for the vote on the clause, as amended.

I suggest that we break the process into four parts, and take the first two amendments together. They are at lines 1 and 16 of clause 2 and relate to the duty to be placed on the library authority. I suggest that there will be a short debate, following which the Speaker will call the amendments consecutively.

There is a further batch of amendments: at schedule 1, page 8, leave out line 15 and insert

‘(b) not more than 18 other members,’;

at schedule 1, page 8, line 18, after ‘secure’ insert

‘(a) that at any time a majority of members are councillors (within the meaning of the Local Government Act ( Northern Ireland) 1972; and (b)’;

at schedule 1, page 8, line 19, at end insert

‘(3) The Department may by order subject to negative resolution amend sub-paragraph (1)(b) by substituting for the number specified there such other number as may be specified in the order.’

That brings in the ability to make a statutory rule to amend the number of people on the authority. Those all relate to membership, and I suggest that they be debated as a single group.

The Acting Chairperson:
The next amendment also refers to membership.

The Principal Clerk of Bills:
No, the next amendment is for the removal of schedule 1(6), which relates to secondment to the library authority. It should be dealt with on its own. That paragraph will disappear. The first three references to schedule 1 will be taken together, because they relate to secondments to the library authority. There will be a short debate on that, and it will be treated as one amendment.

Finally, the technical amendments relate to making minor alterations to other pieces of legislation. If the Committee is content, I suggest that the amendments be called in four groups. There will be four short debates during the Consideration Stage, and, at the end of each debate, the Speaker will deal with the amendments that have been discussed. If members are content with those groupings, I will recommend them.

The Acting Chairperson:
Are members content with that grouping?

Members indicated assent.

The Principal Clerk of Bills:
Chairman, your work on the Libraries Bill is finished. You have merely to sign off the report, which the Clerk will bring to you in the next week or so, and the next event will be the Bill’s Consideration Stage.

Mr Shannon:
How long will it take between the Consideration Stage and the Bill leaving the Assembly? Will it be three months?

The Principal Clerk of Bills:
The Department will have to take the amendments to the Executive Committee to have them signed off. That might take two to three weeks. From the moment that our report goes to the Business Office until the point at which the Minister will be in a position to call the Consideration Stage could take three weeks, possibly one month.

Following the Consideration Stage, things will move quickly to the Further Consideration Stage, at which there might be some need for minor tweaks to the Bill. The Office of the Legislative Counsel might want to tweak the wording of the Bill to make it work better. Many Further Consideration Stages do not have any amendments and take only a few seconds. Following that is the Final Stage — the last opportunity to debate the Bill before the Assembly votes to pass it. At the end of the Final Stage the Speaker asks that the Bill passes its Final Stage. With an “Aye” vote, the Bill is out of the Assembly and it goes for Royal Assent.

The Acting Chairperson:
Are members agreed that the Clerk should prepare the report on the Committee Stage and lodge that with the Business Office?

The Principal Clerk of Bills:
It has to be signed off.

The Acting Chairperson:
We shall sign it off and it will be lodged with the Business Office. I thank Committee members for their scrutiny of the Libraries Bill.

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