MEETING OF THE CHAIRPERSONS' LIAISON GROUP
TUESDAY 20 JANUARY 2009
Present: Mr Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Danny Kennedy MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mrs Carmel Hanna MLA
Mr Paul Maskey MLA
Mr Barry McElduff MLA
Ms Sue Ramsey, MLA
Mr David Simpson MP MLA
Mr Mervyn Storey MLA
In Attendance: Mr Trevor Reaney, Director General
Mr Hugh Widdis, Director of Legal Services (for item 4 only)
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
Apologies: Mr Fred Cobain MLA
Mr Patsy McGlone MLA
The Lord Morrow MLA
Mrs Iris Robinson MP MLA
Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA
Observer: Mr Philip Moutray
The meeting opened at 12.40 p.m. in closed session
1. Chairperson’s introduction
The Chairperson welcomed all present to the meeting.
2. Minutes of the meeting of 25 November 2008
The minutes of the meeting of 25 November 2008 were agreed.
3. Matters Arising from the meeting on 21 October 2008
Ms Carmel Hanna joined the meeting at 12.42 p.m.
Mr Barry McElduff joined the meeting at 12.43 p.m.
The Chairperson advised the Liaison Group that the selection process for clerical supervisors had been completed and the appointment of new staff would mean some changes to existing committee teams over the next few months. The situation would be monitored by the Clerk Assistants on an on-going basis and clerical supervisors would be allocated to committee teams taking account of the needs of all committees and making every effort to ensure that any disruption was kept to a minimum.
4. Briefing on Section 44 powers to call for persons and papers by the Assembly Director of Legal Services, Hugh Widdis
Mr Danny Kennedy joined the meeting at 12.54 p.m.
The Chairperson welcomed Mr Widdis, Director of Legal Services, to the meeting.
Mr Widdis briefed the Liaison Group on the power available to committees under Section 44 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and Assembly Standing Orders to call for persons and papers. Mr Widdis outlined the circumstances under which committees may exercise Section 44 powers; the restrictions and constraints imposed by Section 44; and, the procedures that apply if exercising the powers.
The briefing was followed by a detailed question and answer session.
Mr Barry McElduff left the meeting at 12.59 p.m.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Widdis for a very informative briefing and he left the meeting.
5. Consideration of the draft Assembly Engagement Strategy
The chairpersons considered a briefing paper on the draft Assembly Engagement Strategy. A detailed discussion took place on the key proposals relating to committees; other proposals which would impact on committees; and, suggestions for additional proposals that could be included in the draft strategy.
Agreed: A draft response, based on the discussion, should be prepared for consideration at the next meeting.
6. Information on committee spend
The chairpersons considered detailed information on committee spend for the period 1 April 2008 to 30 November 2008. It was noted that spend was well within the committee budget and easements had been declared in the December monitoring round.
7. Forward work programme
The chairpersons noted the work programme for the period January to March 2009.
Agreed: Chairpersons would advise the clerk of any other items for inclusion in the work programme.
8. Any other business
Mr Danny Kennedy inquired regarding the availability of procurement cards for committee clerks. The chairpersons were advised that committee clerks were entitled to an Assembly procurement card to meet subsistence expenses for committee members and staff travelling on Assembly business and for unexpected costs.
Agreed: Further information would be provided to committee clerks regarding the length of time it took to process an application for an Assembly procurement card.
Provision of information/evidence to committees by departments
Mr Mervyn Storey advised the Liaison Group that the Education Committee continued to experience delays in the receipt of information and responses from the Department of Education. Ms Sue Ramsey also indicated that the Health Committee had recently experienced delays in receiving responses from the Department of Health to correspondence. The chairpersons noted that consideration would be given to draft guidance on timescales for the provision of information and evidence by departments to Assembly committees at the next meeting.
9. Date, time and venue of next meeting
The next meeting of the Liaison Group will take place on Tuesday 17 February 2009 at 12.30 p.m. in Room 21, Parliament Buildings.The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.34 p.m.