Northern Ireland news

Jim Allister's governance bill emerges 'relatively unscathed' from the marathon assembly debate

TUV leader Jim Allister

JIM Allister remains confident his efforts to tighten Stormont governance in the wake of the RHI scandal will succeed but the TUV leader has conceded his private members bill may be diluted before it becomes law.

The North Antrim MLA was speaking after the assembly sat into the early hours of yesterday morning debating and voting on amendments to his Functioning of Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.

The bill seeks to increase accountability around the recruitment and conduct of special advisers, while also subjecting ministers to the assembly's standards watchdog's complaints procedure for the first time.

However, MLAs rejected his bid to include a requirement that all ministerial meetings are minuted and a record is kept of ministers' meetings with lobbyists.

The amended bill has provisional support from the DUP, SDLP, Ulster Unionists, the Greens and People Before Profit but is opposed by Sinn Féin and Alliance.

Mr Allister said yesterday his proposed legislation had "emerged relatively unscathed" from the marathon debate and will now move to the further consideration stage.

"It was always going to be necessary to take the concerns of others on-board and seek to build as wide a consensus as possible and I am grateful that members from all sides of the chamber, apart from Sinn Féin, have found merit in at least some of my proposals," he said.

He said he will work with the SDLP and others to address their concerns with elements his proposals.

"There is undoubtedly acknowledgement across the chamber that the people of Northern Ireland, whether unionist, nationalist or other, are distinctly unimpressed with what has gone on in Stormont in recent years with not even basic matters such as the keeping of minutes of meetings being addressed," he said.

SDLP finance spokesman Matthew O'Toole said the bill had "merit" and reflected a "clear public demand for action on overhauling transparency and accountability".

"But there are also outstanding issues that cause us some concern and we need to work to resolve them in the remaining stages," he said.

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