End of Session Report 09-10
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 Danny Kennedy
Deputy Chairperson Dr Stephen Farry***
Ms Martina Anderson
Mr Tom Elliott
Mrs Dolores Kelly**
Mr Barry McElduff
Mr Francie Molloy
Mr Stephen Moutray
Mr George Robinson*
Mr Jim Shannon
Mr Jimmy Spratt
*with effect from 14 September 2009 Mr George Robinson replaced Mr Ian McCrea
**with effect from 24 May 2010 Mrs Dolores Kelly replaced Mr Alex Attwood.
***with effect from 29 June 2010 Dr Stephen Farry replaced Mrs Naomi Long.
Over the 2009-10 Session the Committee held a total of 31 Committee meetings.
The main work of the Committee this year has been centred on the Committee’s “Consideration of European Issues” Inquiry . The Report, which was produced and agreed by the Assembly in January 2010 made a number of recommendations to the Assembly Commission and to the First Minister and deputy First Minister. The Report also contained a number of actions for the Committee and other statutory committees in order to improve scrutiny of European issues.
The Committee followed up on the recommendations within the report and took evidence from a number of key stakeholders including Mrs Jane Morrice and Mr Mike Smyth, Members of the European Economic and Social Committee. They were also briefed by Mr Maurice Maxwell, Head of the European Commission Office in Northern Ireland and Mr Francie Molloy, in his role as a Member of the Committee of the Regions in Europe. The Committee were also briefed by two of our local MEPs, Ms Bairbre de Brún and Mrs Diane Dodds. The Committee also took evidence from junior Ministers on the First Minister and deputy First Minister’s response to the Report.
In order to further develop understanding of the role of the European Institutions and the impact and influence of the institutions on Northern Ireland , the Committee agreed to undertake a joint visit to Brussels with the Assembly Commission. A formal committee meeting was held in a meeting room in the Committee of the Regions during which representatives of the Spanish Government (who held EU Presidency from January - June 2010), representatives of the Belgian Government (who are holding EU Presidency from July - December 2010) and representatives from the Hungarian Government (who are holding the EU Presidency from January - July 2011) gave evidence. During the visit the Committee also met with a number of key stakeholders in Europe and met with a number of other regional parliaments in Europe, including the Delegation of the Basque Region and the Representation of the Free State of Bavaria.
The Committee took evidence from the Spanish, Belgian and Hungarian Governments on their priorities for their Presidency of the Council of the European Union, in a meeting room in the Committee of the Regions Building in Brussels.
The Committee and the Assembly Commission met with the 3 MEPs in the Office of the Northern Ireland Executive in Brussels.
The Committee scrutinised the Department of Justice Bill and following consultation, produced its report on 21 October 2009. The Bill paved the way for devolution of justice on 12 April 2010.
The second stage of The Commissioner for Older People Bill was debated in the Chamber and the Committee stage of the Bill commenced on 8 June 2010. The Committee commenced oral evidence in June and will continue with its scrutiny of the Bill in the new session, and hopes to report in October 2010.
The Committee considered and agreed a number of statutory rules including the Salaries (Assembly Ombudsman and Commissioner for Complaints) Order (NI) 2009, the Fair Employment (Specification of Public Authorities) (Amendment) Order, the Race Relations Order (Amendment) Regulations ( Northern Ireland) 2009 and the Employment Equality (Age) (Amendment) Regulations ( Northern Ireland) 2009 and the Census Order 2010 . The Committee also considered the Disability Discrimination (Transport Vehicles) Regulations and agreed in principle with the Regulations.
The Committee played a significant role in scrutinising the amendments to the UK Child Poverty Bill and agreed that it was content for the Legislative Consent Motion to proceed. The Committee also provided a detailed information pack for all Members of the Assembly for the Legislative Consent Motion.
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 continued with its review of the Gender Equality Strategy and the accompanying Strategy Actions Plans. The Committee received oral evidence from representatives of the Gender Advisory Panel and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland. Following this the Committee agreed that it was content for the Department to Publish the Departmental Action Plans for the Gender Equality Strategy.
Following on from the Committee’s Report on Child poverty, the Committee was briefed by junior Ministers on the 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 was also briefed by The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People on its work in relation to Child Poverty.
The Committee met with the Victims and Survivors Commissioners regarding the draft strategy and proposals for a Victims and Survivors Forum and Victims and Survivors Service and met a number of times with the Department concerning the proposed Victims and Survivors Service. The consultation and development of the proposed Victims and Survivors Service was a key priority for the Committee in this session and the Committee awaits the outcome of the work of the Steering Group and Working Groups set up by the Department to establish the Victims and Survivors Service.
The Committee also met with the Older Peoples Advocate and departmental officials regarding legislative proposals for a Commissioner for Older People.
The Committee also considered the detention of illegal immigrants and their families. The Committee visited Dungavel House Immigration Removal Centre in Scotland and the new Headquarters of the UK Borders Agency in Belfast. The committee were impressed with the new Headquarters in Belfast.
The committee will continue with its scrutiny of the Commissioner for Older People Bill and will produce its report on the Bill when completed.
It is expected that the Committee will commence the Committee Stage of the Victims and Survivors Service Bill in the next session.
The Committee will also be considering responses to the Department’s consultation on the Programme for Cohesion, Sharing and Integration and playing an active role in the development of the Programme.
The Committee will continue with its scrutiny of the Department’s work in relation to children and young people and in particular in relation to the development of a child poverty strategy stemming from the UK Child Poverty Bill.
The Committee remains committed to improving its interaction in Europe and ensuring that there is an early opportunity for the Committee to influence European policy and legislation that is relevant to Northern Ireland. The Committee will continue to improve its engagement with the European Institutions and Northern Ireland’s representatives in Europe and other key stakeholders.
The Committee will continue its scrutiny of the Department’s work in relation to Sustainable Development and will be considering the Sustainable Development Implementation Plan following the Department’s consultation on the Plan.
Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister – Expenditure for the period 1 September 2009 – 31 August 2010
|Committee Travel - committee members and staff travel and subsistence in relation to visits and meetings outside Parliament Buildings|| Includes the cost of committee visits to:
|Printing of committee reports|| Includes the cost of committee reports on:
|Advertising – the cost of public notices relating to committee inquiries, the committee stage of bills and meetings held outside Parliament Buildings|| Includes the cost of public notices in relation to:
|General expenses||Cost of refreshments for committee meetings, working lunches, seminars, room hire and witness expenses||£2225.18|