Northern Ireland Assembly Flax Flower Logo


Mr Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Cathal Boylan MLA
Mr Mark Durkan MLA
Mrs Carmel Hanna MLA
Dr William McCrea MP MLA
Mr David NcNarry MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA
Ms Sue Ramsey MLA
Mr David Simpson MP MLA

In Attendance:
Mr John Stewart, Director of Clerking and Reporting
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 Danny Kennedy MLA
Mr Paul Maskey MLA
Mr Barry McElduff MLA
Mr Patsy McGlone MLA
The Lord Morrow MLA
Mrs Iris Robinson MP MLA
Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA
Mr Mervyn Storey MLA

The meeting opened at 12.35 p.m. in closed session

1. Chairperson’s introduction

The Chairperson welcomed all present to the meeting.

2. Minutes of the meeting of 3 March 2009

The minutes of the meeting of 3 March 2009 were agreed.

3. Matters Arising from the meeting on 3 March 2009

(i) Commissioned research bid from the Committee for Finance and Personnel

The Chairperson informed the Liaison Group that Finance and Personnel Committee staff, in conjunction with staff from Assembly Research and Procurement offices were taking forward arrangements to enable the approved bid for commissioned research into “Public Procurement in Northern Ireland: involvement of SMEs/SEEs and the use of social clauses” to commence as soon as possible.

(ii) Draft guidance on timescales for the provision of information and evidence to committees by departments

The Chairperson advised the Liaison Group that committee clerks had been consulted on the draft guidance on timescales for the provision of information and evidence to committees by departments. Committee Office staff were currently liaising with staff from the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister regarding the changes agreed by the Liaison Group and other minor amendments. The finalised guidance would be presented to the Liaison Group for approval.

(iii) Provision of a web-based text messaging service for committees

The Chairperson up-dated the Liaison Group on progress with regard to the purchase of a web-based text messaging system to meet the requirements agreed at the meeting in March.

Mr David Mc Narry joined the meeting at 12.37 p.m.
Mr Cahal Boylan joined the meeting at 12.37 p.m.

(iv) Trial filming of a committee meeting in Room 135

The chairperson informed the Group that arrangements had been made for the Health Committee meeting due to take place on 7 May 2009 in Room 135 to be filmed. Feedback from the trial would inform the development of broadcasting facilities in all committee rooms and the Liaison Group would receive regular up-dates on progress.

Ms Sue Ramsey left the meeting at 12.38 p.m.

4. Up-date on staffing matters

Mr Damien Martin, Clerk Assistant, briefed the Liaison Group on progress in relation to the recruitment competitions for assistant clerks, clerical supervisors and clerical officers. He provided details of the arrangements in place for hand-over periods, training and support for newly appointed staff and indicated that all committee teams would experience staffing changes over the coming weeks.

The chairpersons noted that the majority of new clerical supervisors were in place, clerical officers were currently being appointed and the competition for assistant clerks had been completed with new staff at that grade expected to take up post in May and June 2009.

Ms Carmel Hanna joined the meeting at 12.41 p.m.

5. NI Assembly Protective Marking Policy and Procedures

Ms Nuala Dunwoody, Clerk Assistant, briefed chairpersons on the new Northern Ireland Assembly Protective Marking Policy and Procedures.

Chairpersons noted that the Assembly Commission had agreed to the introduction of a protective marking scheme for Assembly documents in conjunction with a clear desk and clear computer screen policy. Ms Dunwoody highlighted that the introduction of the policy, which would apply to secretariat staff only, did not change the procedures already in use by committee teams in relation to the photocopying, transmitting, posting, storing and disposing of classified or sensitive documents. Secretariat staff would be developing an implementation plan in relation to the new policy and procedures and chairpersons noted that the Liaison Group would be kept informed of any likely impact on committee operations.

6. Proposals for Committee ‘End of Session’ Reports

The chairpersons considered proposals for the format, content and publication of committee ‘end of session’ reports.

Agreed: Committee ‘end of session’ reports should be relatively short documents that summarise the key activities, outputs and achievements of a committee during a particular session.

Agreed: Areas to be covered in the ‘end of session’ reports should include Primary Legislation, Subordinate Legislation, Inquiries, budget scrutiny, policy scrutiny, informal meetings/events and likely key priorities for the next session.

Agreed: ‘End of session’ reports would be published on each committee webpage rather than in hard copy.

Agreed: Information on committee expenditure should be included in ‘end of session’ reports. Further consideration would be given to the format and categories of expenditure to be covered at the next meeting.

Agreed: Reports for the 2008-2009 session should be published in September 2009. Thereafter ‘end of session’ reports should be published at the end of the relevant session i.e. end of June/early July each year.

Mr Mark Durkan joined the meeting at 12.53 p.m.
Ms Carmel Hanna left the meeting at 12.55 p.m.

7. Up-dated Forward Work Programme

The chairpersons noted the up-dated forward work programme.

Agreed: Chairpersons should advise the clerk of any other items for inclusion in the work programme.

8. Any other business


9. Date, time and venue of next meeting

The next meeting of the Liaison Group will take place on Tuesday 26 May 2009 at 12.30 p.m. in Room 21, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.57 p.m.

Mr Mitchel McLaughlin
26 May 2009

03 April 2009 / Menu