Northern Ireland Assembly Flax Flower Logo



Mr Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Danny Kennedy MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Cathal Boylan MLA
Mr Paul Maskey MLA
Mr Mervyn Storey MLA

In Attendance:
Mr Trevor Reaney, Clerk/Director-General
Ms Nuala Dunwoody, Clerk Assistant
Mr Damien Martin, Clerk Assistant
Mr John Torney, Principal Clerk
Mrs Christine Darrah, Clerk to the Liaison Group
Ms Marie Austin, Assistant Clerk
Mr Paul Breen, Clerical Supervisor
Mr Jonathan Young, Clerical Officer

Mr Fred Cobain MLA
Mr Mark Durkan MP MLA
Mrs Carmel Hanna MLA
Mr Barry McElduff MLA
Mr Patsy McGlone MLA
The Lord Morrow MLA
Ms Sue Ramsey, MLA
Mrs Iris Robinson MP MLA
Mr David Simpson MP MLA
Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA

The meeting opened at 12.41 p.m. in closed session

1. Chairperson’s introduction

The Chairperson welcomed all present to the meeting and in particular Ms Marie Austin who had taken up post as the assistant clerk to the Liaison Group.

2. Introduction of new Clerk/Director-General

The Chairperson welcomed the new Clerk/Director-General, Mr Trevor Reaney, to the Liaison Group meeting. Mr Reaney expressed his pleasure at taking up the post of Clerk/Director- General and informed chairpersons that, in his short time in the post, he had attended a number of committee meetings and had been very impressed with the high quality work being carried out. Mr Reaney also offered his assistance and support to the work of the Chairpersons’ Liaison Group.

3. Minutes of the meeting of 23 September 2008

The minutes of the meeting of 23 September 2008 were agreed.

4. Matters Arising from the meeting on 23 September 2008
Publication of members’ attendance at committee meetings

The Chairperson advised the Liaison Group that the information on attendance at committee meetings had been circulated to committee members and Party Whips. Once it had been verified the information would be published on the committee web pages. Members and Party Whips would be advised in advance of the date of publication.

5. Interaction between committees and departments

The chairpersons discussed the range of difficulties being experienced by committees including the late receipt of papers and late responses to correspondence from departments. A response from officials in the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister on action that had been taken and proposed action to help alleviate the problems was considered.

Agreed: Chairpersons would continue to monitor the situation and advise the Liaison Group of any continuing difficulties experienced by their committees.

6. Departmental guidance on the provision of information and evidence to committees

The chairpersons noted that Committee Office staff were currently working with officials from the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) to review and update the guidance for departments on Assembly committees. The guidance provided the basis for the operational relationship between the Executive, Government departments and Assembly committees and included timescales for the provision of papers and responses to correspondence. The final draft guidance would be presented to the Executive and the Chairpersons’ Liaison Group for consideration and approval in due course.

Agreed: Given the need for greater clarity and focus on the timescales for the provision of information and evidence to committees, the review of those parts of the guidance that cover timescales should be completed as quickly as possible.

7. Commissioned research

The chairpersons considered the guidelines on commissioned research that were agreed by the Liaison Group during the last mandate, including the criteria for evaluating commissioned research bids.

Agreed: The existing procedures for commissioned research, including the criteria for evaluating research bids and the role of the Chairpersons’ Liaison Group in the process, were appropriate.

Agreed: The Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson would represent the Chairpersons’ Liaison Group on the Commissioned Research Management Board.

Agreed: The first phase of bids should be requested from committees.

8. Up-date on Committee Office use of IT

The work being undertaken by Committee Office staff and Assembly IT staff to increase/improve the use of IT by committees was noted and the chairpersons discussed the options being considered to introduce IT into the committee rooms, improve the electronic distribution of committee papers and the possibility of a web based text messaging service for committee use.

Agreed: The provision of a web based text messaging service for committee use should be taken forward.

Agreed: Further work should be undertaken by Committee Office and Assembly IT staff on IT options and the findings reported to the Liaison Group for consideration.

9. Any other business

The Chairperson advised the Liaison Group that a lectern should only be requested in Plenary when a chairperson was speaking on behalf of their committee.

10. Date, Time and Venue of Next Meeting

The next meeting of the Liaison Group will take place on Tuesday 25 November 2008 at 12.30 p.m. in Room 21, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.13 p.m.

Mr Mitchel McLaughlin
23 November 2008

23 September 2008 / Menu