MEETING OF THE CHAIRPERSONS' LIAISON GROUP
TUESDAY 23 JUNE 2009
Mr Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Danny Kennedy MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Cathal Boylan MLA
Ms Carmel Hanna MLA
Mr Barry McElduff MLA
Mr Paul Maskey MLA
Mr Mervyn Storey MLA
Mr Treavor 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
Ms Heather Maginnis, Clerical Supervisor
Mr Oliver Bellew, Clerical Officer
Mr Fred Cobain MLA
Mr Mark Durkan MP MLA
Mr Patsy McGlone MLA
The Lord Morrow MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA
Ms Sue Ramsey MLA
Mrs Iris Robinson MP MLA
Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA
The meeting opened at 12.48 p.m. in closed session
1. Chairperson’s introduction
The Chairperson welcomed all present to the meeting and in particular Mr Oliver Bellew who had taken up post as the clerical officer to the Liaison Group.
The Chairperson advised members that Mr John Torney would be retiring in the near future after 10 years service to the Assembly and the Committee Office. On behalf of the Liaison Group, the Chairperson thanked Mr Torney for his hard work, support and expert advice to committees and wished him a long and happy retirement.
2. Minutes of the meeting of 26 May 2009
The minutes of the meeting of 26 May 2009 were agreed.
3. Matters Arising from the meeting on 26 May 2009
(i) Committee Office Monitoring Round Returns 2008/09
The chairpersons considered information on the amounts surrendered by the Committee Office as part of the 2008/09 monitoring rounds . It was noted that in identifying reduced requirements, account was taken of expenditure incurred, estimates of likely significant committee expenditure during the remaining spending period and, as far as possible, the aim in the Assembly Corporate Plan that actual expenditure should vary from budgeted expenditure by no more than 5%.
Ms Carmel Hanna joined the meeting at 12.53 p.m.
(ii) Provision of information to committees on issues considered by the Chairpersons’ Liaison Group
The chairpersons discussed proposals as to how matters considered by the Liaison Group could be reported back to committees .
Agreed: A short note of the issues discussed and decisions taken at meetings of the Chairpersons’ Liaison Group would be provided to committee clerks for circulation to committee members by way of correspondence.
Agreed: Committee members would be advised that if they wished to discuss or request further information on a particular issue they should contact the committee clerk who would advise the chairperson and action as appropriate.
4. Briefing on proposals for new front covers for committee reports
The Chairperson welcomed the Director of Engagement, Dr Gareth McGrath, to the meeting.
Dr McGrath explained that, as part of the work to up-date the corporate identity of the Assembly, proposals had been drawn up to change the front cover of committee reports. He briefed the Liaison Group on the proposals to have three different front covers from which a committee could select one each time it published a report and provided samples of the three designs.
The Chairperson thanked Dr McGrath for the briefing and he left the meeting.
The Liaison Group discussed whether it was preferable to have one standard front cover for all committee reports or three different covers. Consideration was also given to the three proposed designs.
Agreed: There should be one front cover that would be used for all committee reports.
Agreed: A sample of an actual committee report cover in each of the three designs should be prepared for consideration at the next meeting.
5. Briefing on proposals to improve committee meeting rooms
The Chairperson welcomed the Director of Properties, Mr Stephen Welch, and the Head of Estates, Mr David Lynn, to the meeting.
Mr Welch briefed the Liaison Group on plans to provide a committee meeting room with modern audio, visual and IT facilities and appropriate space for members of the public, media representatives etc. Room 30 had been identified as suitable and would be refurbished during the summer recess for use from September 2009. The project would be used as a pilot to inform consideration of how to take forward improvements to the current committee rooms. Once fully operational the new committee room would replace one of the existing meeting rooms.
The Liaison Group welcomed the development of a “fit for purpose” committee room that would enable future use of IT if committees so wished.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Welch and Mr Lynn and they left the meeting.
Agreed: The meeting of the Liaison Group scheduled for September 2009 should take place in the new committee room.
6. Response from the Director of Engagement to CLG letter on the Assembly Engagement Strategy
The chairpersons noted a response from the Director of Engagement to the comments and proposals of the Liaison Group on the Assembly Engagement Strategy. A further update would be provided at the next meeting of the Liaison Group.
7. Committee on Procedures Inquiry into Legislative Consent Motions
Information was provided to the chairpersons on the current procedures in relation to legislative consent motions and the proposal by the Committee on Procedures, arising from its inquiry, to include a provision in Standing Orders requiring the relevant committee to report to the Assembly on such a motion. The Liaison Group noted the form the report would take, that allowance would be made for exceptional circumstances and that the report would be a very useful method of providing information to those MLAs not on the relevant committee.
Agreed: The Liaison Group was content that a provision should be included in Standing Orders requiring the relevant committee to report to the Assembly on a legislative consent motion and the clerk should reply to the Committee on Procedures accordingly.
8. Publication of Hansard reports of committee meetings
The chairpersons considered a proposed new approach to the publication of Hansard reports of committee meetings. The new approach would transfer the responsibility for the publication of Official Reports of committee meetings from committee staff to Hansard and would enable reports to be published on the Assembly website within a matter of days of the meeting taking place. The main benefit of the new approach would be to improve the timeliness of the availability of Official Reports of committee proceedings.
Agreed: Responsibility for publishing the Official Reports of committee proceedings should transfer to Hansard.
Agreed: Hansard should arrange for Official Reports of committee proceedings to be published on the Assembly website as soon as possible after the report of the proceedings had been produced.
Agreed: Hansard should establish a system for receiving and considering suggested amendments, similar to that for the Hansard reports of plenary sittings.
9. Proposals for new photographs of committees
The chairpersons considered a proposal from the Head of Communications, Susie Brown, that arrangements should be made in September to take a number of photographs of each committee at work. The photographs would be used to promote the work of committees and the Assembly in print and online media.
Agreed: The Communications Office should liaise with committee clerks to arrange photo opportunities for each committee during September 2009.
10. Arrangements for chairing meetings of the Liaison Group
The Chairperson reminded members that it had been agreed at the first meeting of the Liaison Group that the positions of chairperson and deputy chairperson should be rotated annually on the basis of party strength. The positions were therefore due to be rotated at the beginning of July 2009.
Agreed: The Ulster Unionist Party should be invited to nominate a chairperson to assume the role from 1 July 2009. Mr Danny Kennedy was nominated.
Agreed: The SDLP should be invited to nominate a deputy chairperson. The clerk would be advised of the nomination.
11. Any other business
12. Date, time and venue of next meeting
The next meeting of the Liaison Group will take place on Tuesday 22 September 2009 at 12.30 p.m. in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.34 p.m.