Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister
End of Session Report 2010-11
Remit and Powers
The Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister is a Statutory Committee established in accordance with paragraphs 8 and 9 of the Belfast Agreement, Section 29 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and under Assembly Standing Order 48. The Committee has a scrutiny, policy development and consultation role with respect to the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister and has a role in the initiation of legislation.
The Committee has power to:
- Consider and advise on Departmental Budgets and Annual Plans in the context of the overall budget allocation;
- Approve relevant secondary legislation and take the Committee stage of relevant primary legislation;
- Call for persons and papers;
- Initiate inquiries and make reports; and
- Consider and advise on matters brought to the Committee by the First Minister and deputy First Minister.
Chairperson Mr Tom Elliott 4
Deputy Chairperson Dr Stephen Farry
Ms Martina Anderson
Mr Alan Bresland 2
Mr William Humphrey 1,3
Mr Danny Kinahan 5
Mrs Dolores Kelly
Mr Barry McElduff
Mr Francie Molloy
Mr George Robinson
Mr Jimmy Spratt
1 with effect from 13th September 2010 Mr Trevor Clarke replaced Mr Stephen Moutray.
2 with effect from 13th September 2010 Mr Allan Bresland was appointed as a member of the Committee.
3 with effect from 4th October 2010 Mr William Humphrey replaced Mr Trevor Clarke.
4 with effect from 27 th October 2010 Mr Tom Elliott replaced Mr Danny Kennedy as Chairperson; Mr Kennedy resigned from the Committee.
5 with effect from 8 th November 2010 Mr Danny Kinahan was appointed as a member of the Committee.
Over the 2010-11 Session the Committee held a total of 25 Committee meetings.
The main work of the Committee this year has been centred on the Committee’s scrutiny of legislation, including the Commissioner for Older People Bill and the Armed Forces and Veterans Bill.
The Committee also commenced its consideration of proposals for legislation to update and reform the Office of the Northern Ireland Ombudsman. The Committee agreed to take this issue forward following evidence sessions with the Northern Ireland Ombudsman and Commissioner for Complaints on his roles. The Committee prepared a consultation document, which went out for public consultation in September 2010. The Committee received a total of 35 responses to its public consultation. The Committee considered the responses to the consultation and considered a number of issues that were raised during the consultation with the Assembly’s Research and Library Service and with the Office of the Ombudsman.
The Committee also continued with its scrutiny of European issues and considered the European Commission’s Work Programme for 2011. The Committee took evidence from a number of key stakeholders including Mrs Jane Morrice and Mr Mike Smyth, Members of the European Economic and Social Committee and Mr Maurice Maxwell, Head of the European Commission Office in Northern Ireland. The Committee were also briefed by our local MEPs, Ms Bairbre de Brún, Mrs Diane Dodds and Mr Jim Nicholson. The Committee were briefed by Northern Ireland’s Representatives on the Committee of the Regions, Mr Jonathan Bell MLA and Mr Francie Molloy MLA. The Committee completed a report highlighting statutory committee’s involvement and work on European issues and led a take note debate on 7 March 2011 on the Report and committees engagement in Europe.
The Committee continued with its scrutiny of the Commissioner for Older People Bill in September. The Committee considered the Bill at 3 meetings in September and had a number of discussions with the Department concerning the role and remit of the Commissioner, specifically the investigative powers the Bill would provide a Commissioner and the possible overlap with other investigative bodies. The Committee was content that the powers contained in the Bill were appropriate. The Committee also agreed a number of amendments to the Bill which were taken forward by the Department. The Committee agreed its Bill report on 29 September 2010 and Consideration Stage of the Bill was on 16 November 2010. The Bill passed its final stage on 7 December 2010.
The Committee undertook the Committee Stage of the Armed Forces and Veterans Bill. This followed correspondence from the Speaker to the Chairpersons of this Committee and the Committee for Finance and Personnel, requesting that they consider the issue of committee scrutiny as a matter of joint concern under Standing order 60. The Chairpersons agreed that the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister would take forward the Committee Stage of the Bill. The Committee considered the Bill on a number of occasions and took evidence from the Sponsor of the Bill, Mr David McNarry MLA and from the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland. The Committee agreed, on division, to a number of amendments proposed by the sponsor of the Bill. The Committee completed its scrutiny of the Bill on 26 January 2011.
The Committee considered and agreed a number of statutory rules including the Strategic Investment and Regeneration of Sites (Maze Long Kesh Development Corporation) Order (Northern Ireland) 2010 and three Departments (Transfer of Function) Orders.
The Committee scrutinises in detail and advises on the Department’s budget in relation to allocation, expenditure and reductions. The Department also consults the Committee whenever their quarterly monitoring rounds are completed. The Committee closely examined budget readjustments and reclassifications that were proposed by the Department.
The Committee also considered the Department’s draft Budget 2011-15 proposals. The First Minister and deputy first Minister briefed the Committee on the Department’s draft Budget proposals and savings plans on 19 January 2011. Following its consideration the Committee responded to the Committee for Finance and Personnel on the Department’s Budget 2011-15 proposals and took part in the “Take Note” debate on 31 January 2011. Departmental officials briefed the Committee on the detailed savings plans 2011-15 on 9 February 2011.
The Committee considered the draft Child Poverty Strategy on a number of occasions and the Committee was briefed by junior Ministers on the draft strategy and work of the Department and the Executive in relation to child poverty and the work of the Executive Sub-Committee on poverty and social inclusion. The Committee submitted a formal response to junior Ministers on the draft Child Poverty Strategy on 19 January 2011. The Committee was briefed by the Department on the Strategy at its meetings of 9 and 16 of March 2011.
The Committee also considered the draft Play and Leisure Implementation Plan, which went out for consultation in November. The Committee sought the views of all statutory committees on the implementation plan. The Committee submitted its formal response to the junior Ministers on 19 January 2011. The Committee was briefed at its meeting of the 16 March 2011 on the responses to the consultation and on the Implementation Plan.
The Committee continued its scrutiny of Sustainable Development Policy and was briefed by Departmental officials on 26 January 2011 on the final consultation report on the draft Sustainable Development Implementation Plan. The Committee wrote to all statutory committees to seek their views on the implementation plan.
The Committee considered in detail, the draft Programme for Cohesion, Sharing and Integration. The Committee took evidence from a number of organisations including, the Rainbow Project, LASI, Disability Action and the Women’s Aid Federation on the draft Programme.
The Committee met with the Victims and Survivors Commissioners regarding their paper on dealing with the past. The Committee sees the development of the proposed Victims and Survivors Service as a key priority and the Committee awaits the outcome of the work of the Steering Group and Working Groups set up by the Department to take forward victims and survivors issues.
The Committee considered the Department’s regeneration of the sites it is responsible for on a number of occasions and received regular updates from the Department on progress at Maze/Long Kesh. The Committee were also briefed by the Ilex Urban Regeneration Company on the progress of the regeneration of Ebrington Barracks.
The Committee, over the 2010/11 session met with a number of groups informally including, Construction Employers Federation, NICVA, NI Child Minders Association, the Victims and Survivors Commissioners, Investors NI and Barnardo’s. The Committee also visited the Grove Wellbeing Centre to look at collaborative work in the Centre, particularly in relation to older people and children and young people.