COMMITTEE OF THE CENTRE
MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS:
WEDNESDAY 11 SEPTEMBER 2002
ROOM 144, PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS
Present: Mr Edwin Poots MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Oliver Gibson MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Roy Beggs Jnr MLA
Mrs Eileen Bell MLA
Dr Esmond Birnie MLA
Mr Duncan Shipley Dalton MLA
Mr David Ervine MLA
Ms Patricia Lewsley MLA
Dr Alasdair McDonnell MLA
Mr Eugene McMenamin MLA
Mr Pat McNamee MLA
Dr Dara O'Hagan MLA
Mr Ken Robinson MLA
Mr Jim Shannon MLA
Apologies: Mrs Annie Courtney MLA
Mr Danny Kennedy MLA
Mr Barry McElduff MLA
In Attendance: Ms Stella McArdle (Committee Clerk)
Mrs Gillian Lewis
Ms Pauline Innes
The meeting opened at 2.07pm in public session. The Deputy Chairperson in the Chair.
Apologies are listed above.
2. Chairperson's business
The information relating to the Committee of the Centre Commissioned Research is commercially sensitive. Members therefore agreed to consider the proposals in closed session.
The meeting went into closed session at 2.08pm.
(a) Committee of the Centre Commissioned Research
Mr McNamee joined the meeting at 2.09pm.
Members considered the report from the Evaluation Panel, and agreed that Deloitte & Touche should be asked to conduct the research into The Working Poor. Representatives of Deloitte & Touche will be asked to brief the Committee at a future meeting. No proposal on The Digital Divide met the evaluation criteria and the Committee will consider re-tendering for research on this subject at a later date.
Mr Robinson joined the meeting at 2.10pm.
The meeting opened into public session at 2.11pm.
Dr McDonnell joined the meeting at 2.13pm.
Mr Ervine joined the meeting at 2.14pm.
(b) Debate on Public Private Partnerships (PPP): Members agreed that the Chairperson should respond to the motion on PPPs in the Assembly as set out in the Committee response to OFMDFM on the consultation.
(c) Consideration of a Special Advisor for the Committee Stage of the Bill on the Reinvestment and Reform Initiative (RRI): Members considered and debated the proposal to appoint a Special Adviser to assist in the Committee Stage of the Bill on RRI. The Committee was aware of the difficulties both in identifying suitably experienced personnel and in meeting the time restraints of the Committee Stage of the Bill. Members, however, agreed to invite submissions from those individuals approved by the Chairperson. Members also agreed the Terms of Reference as presented at the meeting. If members wish to nominate someone to receive the Terms of Reference, they will forward the names to the Clerk.
Mr Shannon joined the meeting at 2.19pm.
3. Approval of draft minutes
The minutes from the previous meetings held on 4 September 2002 and 9 September 2002 were agreed and signed by the Chairperson.
4. Matters arising
(a) Draft Committee Work Programme and OFMDFM Forward Work Programme: Members agreed that, in order to complete scrutiny of the primary and subordinate legislation, they would meet in the Senate on Wednesday mornings starting at 11.00am, and reconvene the meeting, after a lunch break, at 2.00pm in Room 144. The Committee also agreed to give priority to the Review of Public Administration, the Northern Ireland response to the Future of Europe Debate and Convention, Review of Community Relations, draft Equality Bill consultation, and the Budget and Programme for Government. A number of other issues such as Public Service Agreements, e-Government, New TSN Action Plans, will be given a lower priority and the Committee will review its work programme towards the end of the autumn session.
(a) CBI Northern Ireland's response to the NI Executive's Position Report on the Programme for Government: Members noted the letter.
(b) Response from OFMDFM regarding request for audited financial accounts for Equality Commission for NI, NI Human Rights Commission, and the Civic Forum: Members noted audited accounts for the Equality Commission for NI and the NI Human Rights Commission. Members were informed that the accounts for the Civic Forum are included in the OFMDFM budget and cannot be released, as they are not yet audited. The accounts will be laid in the Assembly in November. Members also asked that the accounts be specifically identified within the OFMDFM budget.
(c) Response from OFMDFM for the names of the RRI Project Board members: Members noted the names of the RRI Project Board members.
(d) Information found on The Odysseus Trust website regarding and Equality Bill: Members considered the correspondence and agreed to request further information from OFMDFM about the organisations which attended the launch of the proposed Bill, copies of any responses from organisations such as the Equality Commission for NI about the Bill, and how the draft Bill may impact on Northern Ireland and the proposed Single Equality Bill. Members also asked for a copy of any response to the Bill from the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.
(e) Letter from the Employment and Learning Committee about the draft Report and Action Plan re: Taskforce on Employability and Long-term Unemployment: Members considered the report and agreed to respond to the Employment and Learning Committee stating that they has no views to express at this time.
(f) Bridging the Digital Divide in Northern Ireland: Public Consultation Paper: Members noted the consultation paper and agreed to ask OFMDFM for a written briefing on the outcome of the consultation process.
(g) Response from the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment regarding the Commissioner for Children and Young People Bill: Members noted the response and agreed to include it as part of the report on the Committee Stage of the Bill.
(h) Information on EU issues: Members noted the agenda for the Scottish Parliament European Committee meeting held on 10 September 2002.
(i) Letter from Regional Development Committee about the Strategic Planning Bill: Members noted the letter and agreed to inform the Regional Development Committee that they had no comments to make on the Strategic Planning Bill at this time.
6. Committee Stage of Commissioner for Children and Young People Bill
(a) Evidence from Children's Law Centre and Include Youth
The evidence session began at 2.35pm. Evidence on the Commissioner for Children and Young People Bill was taken from Ms Paddy Kelly, Children's Law Centre, and Ms Koulla Yiasouma and Ms Edel Quinn, Include Youth. The minutes of evidence will appear in the Committee's report.
Mrs Bell joined the meeting at 2.37pm.
Mr Beggs joined the meeting at 2.49pm.
The Chairperson joined the meeting at 2.54pm and took the Chair at 2.58pm.
Mr Gibson left the meeting at 2.58pm.
Dr McDonnell left the meeting at 2.59pm.
Dr Birnie joined the meeting at 3.02pm.
Dr Birnie left the meeting at 3.45pm.
The representatives left the meeting at 3.46pm.
Members agreed that the Assembly Research and Library Services research paper relating to the Commissioner for Children and Young People Bill should be placed on the Assembly Intranet.
(b) Evidence from Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission
The evidence session began at 3.47pm.
Mr McMenamin left the meeting at 3.48pm.
Dr O'Hagan left the meeting at 3.48pm.
Evidence on the Commissioner for Children and Young People Bill was taken from Professor Brice Dickson, Chief Commissioner, and Ms Denise McGill, Research Worker from the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. The minutes of evidence will appear in the Committee's report.
Mr Shannon left the meeting at 3.55pm.
Mrs Bell left the meeting at 4.13pm.
Mr Beggs left the meeting at 4.16pm.
Mr Robinson left the meeting at 4.25pm.
The representatives left the meeting at 4.29pm.
Members considered the issues raised in the evidence sessions and agreed that Mr Des Browne MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office, or his officials should be asked to give evidence to the Committee as soon as possible on the non-devolved matters within the provisions of the Bill.
7. Review of Public Administration - suggested witnesses
Members considered and discussed a paper by the Clerk and Assembly Research and Library Services concerning potential oral and written evidence in relation to the Committee's consideration of the Review of Public Administration. Members agreed to ask for written evidence, through the appropriate Assembly Committee, from SOLACE, Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE), Education and Library Boards, Health and Social Services Boards and Councils, Trades Unions, and Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA). It was also agreed to invite written submissions from the Northern Ireland Economic Council, Northern Ireland Economic Research Council, Planning Appeals Commission, Water Appeals Commission, and Statute Law Committee. Members noted that there had been recent initiatives in the UK in relation to public administration and agreed to invite representatives involved in the following initiatives to give oral evidence:
- The Cabinet Office Review of Policy Towards Executive Agencies;
- Review of Public Bodies in Scotland;
- Commission on Local Government and the Scottish Parliament; and
- Strategic Management Initiative.
8. Any other business
The Chairperson updated members in relation to the Committee office staff changes and informed members that he intended to write to the Chairperson of the Assembly Commission to put forward the Committee's concerns on this issue. The Committee agreed this course of action.
9. Date and time of next meeting
The next meeting of the Committee will be held on Wednesday, 18 September 2002 at 2.00pm in Room 144, Parliament Buildings.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 4.32pm.
COUNCILLOR EDWIN POOTS MLA
Chairperson, Committee of the Centre
18 September 2002