MEETING OF THE CHAIRPERSONS' LIAISON GROUP
TUESDAY 22 SEPTEMBER 2009
Present: Mr Danny Kennedy MLA (Chairperson) Mrs Dolores Kelly MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Simon Hamilton MLA Ms Jennifer McCann MLA
Mr Barry McElduff MLA Mr Alban Maginness MLA
Mr Paul Maskey MLA
Mr Ian Paisley Jnr MLA
Ms Sue Ramsey MLA
Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA
Mr Peter Weir MLA
Mr Jim Wells MLA
In Attendance: Mr Trevor Reaney, Director General
Mr Damien Martin, Clerk Assistant
Mrs Christine Darrah, Clerk to the Liaison Group
Ms Marie Austin, Assistant Clerk
Ms Heather Maginnis, Clerical Supervisor
Mr Oliver Bellew, Clerical Officer
Apologies: Mr Fred Cobain MLA
The Lord Morrow MLA
Mr Declan O’Loan MLA
The meeting opened at 12.33 p.m. in closed session
1. Chairperson’s introduction
The Chairperson welcomed members to the meeting and in particular the new Deputy Chairperson, Mrs Dolores Kelly, and other recently appointed chairpersons.
2. Minutes of the meeting of 23 June 2009
The minutes of the meeting of 23 June 2009 were agreed.
3. Matters Arising from the meeting on 23 June 2009
(i) Update on new committee room 30 and future use
The Chairperson advised members that the refurbishment of new committee room 30 was almost complete and following testing of the systems it would be available as a committee room with full audio and video broadcasting facilities from Monday 5 October 2009. The Liaison Group noted that new chairs to replace the existing ones around the committee table and in the public gallery had been ordered and video conferencing facilities would be procured early in 2010. In the meantime, plasma screens would be placed on stands to assess the options with regard to where they should be permanently placed. The necessary wiring had also been installed to enable committees to avail of IT facilities in the future if they wished to do so.
The chairpersons considered a schedule, which focused on the statutory committees using the room due to the level of public interest and attendance they attract, for the main committee meeting days of Wednesday and Thursday.
Agreed: The proposed schedule was appropriate and chairpersons would finalise arrangements with the Central Committee Office.
Agreed: If necessary, the schedule would be reviewed after six months.
The chairpersons also noted that other committees could use the room outside of Wednesdays and Thursdays and the Senate Chamber was also available for committee meetings likely to attract a large degree of public interest.
4. Up-date on the Assembly Engagement Strategy
12.37 p.m. Mr Maginness joined the meeting
12.41 p.m. Mrs Kelly joined the meeting
12.42 p.m. Mr McEIduff joined the meeting
The Chairperson welcomed the Director of Engagement, Dr Gareth McGrath, to the meeting.
Dr McGrath updated the chairpersons on progress with the implementation of the Assembly Engagement Strategy. Issues covered included:
- The next set of Assembly Road Shows due to take place during autumn 2009;
- Progress with regard to the redevelopment of the Assembly website;
- The support available for committees for outreach work;
- The Education Programme and proposals for a school transport subsidy scheme;
- The Assembly Bursary Programme which had just started;
- Proposals for a Youth Assembly;
- The Strategic Accommodation Review;
- The development of the Corporate Identity Guidelines;
- The development of a communications strategy; and
- The establishment of a Continuous Professional Development Programme.
Following a question and answer session during which the chairpersons commended the work on engagement and welcomed the commitment to engage with children and young people the Chairperson thanked Dr McGrath for the briefing and he left the meeting.
12.44 p.m. Mr Hamilton left the meeting
5. Proposed new front covers for committee reports
Following the decision at the last meeting that there should be one new standard front cover for all committee reports the chairpersons considered three different designs for the front cover.
Agreed: The preferred design was the report cover displaying a photograph of the Assembly in Plenary session.
The chairpersons noted that the new committee report cover would be introduced once the Commission had agreed the final guidelines on the Assembly corporate identity.
6. Pandemic Planning – matters relating to committees
12.56 p.m. Mr Weir joined the meeting
Information was provided to the chairpersons on preparations being made by the Secretariat to deal with the impact across the Assembly of a serious outbreak of swine flu. The Liaison Group noted the actions relating to committee meeting arrangements and committee work that may need to be implemented in the event of a serious outbreak.
Agreed: Chairpersons were content with the actions outlined in relation to committees that may need to be implemented, depending on the gravity of the outbreak.
Agreed: The Pandemic Planning Group should be asked to give further consideration to now installing antiseptic gel dispensers in strategic points throughout Parliament Buildings, particularly at entry points, taking account of current advice /guidance available from the Department of Health.
Agreed: The Liaison Group would be advised if there was any necessity to implement all or part of the pandemic plan.
12.58 p.m. Ms Ramsey left the meeting
7. Commissioned Research
The chairpersons were up-dated on the position with regard to the first round of bids for commissioned research and consideration was given to whether or not further bids for commissioned research should be invited from committees.
Agreed: As committees were currently considering forward work programmes it would be an opportune time and committees should be invited to submit bids for commissioned research.
8. Correspondence relating to a letter from the British Bankers’ Association
The chairpersons considered letters from the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development and the Committee for Finance and Personnel in relation to correspondence between the British Bankers’ Association and the Speaker. The chairpersons discussed the request from the British Bankers’ Association that consideration be given to the establishment of a single committee to engage with the banks and noted the provisions in Standing Orders for a number of procedural options for committees to deal with matters of joint concern.
Agreed: It was entirely a matter for the committees concerned as to whether or not the adoption of a joint approach was appropriate in the circumstances.
1.05 p.m. Mr Spratt left the meeting
9. Update on staffing matters
The chairpersons were advised that, after 12 months, the extensive recruitment exercise by the Committee Office was almost complete. Committee teams were now largely in place and a comprehensive training programme was coming to an end. The Liaison Group noted that consideration was being given to a further recruitment competition for committee clerks.
10. Draft Forward Work Programme
The chairpersons considered a draft forward work programme for the period September 2009 to early 2010.
Agreed: Chairpersons were content with the proposed work programme.
Agreed: Chairpersons would advise the clerk of any other items for inclusion in the work programme.
11. Any other business
The chairpersons considered a letter from the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety regarding plans by the All Party Assembly Group on Autism to introduce legislation on autism by way of a private members bill. The bill would be cross-cutting in nature and would cover responsibilities in the Department of Health, the Department of Education, the Department of Employment and Learning, the Department of Social Development, the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister and the criminal justice system.
Mr Jim Wells, the Chairperson of the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, outlined concerns regarding how such a cross-cutting piece of legislation would be handled.
Agreed: Senior Assembly officials should consider the procedural issues involved and provide advice to the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety.
12. Date, time and venue of next meeting
The next meeting of the Liaison Group will take place on Tuesday 20 October 2009 at 12.30 p.m. in Room 21, Parliament Buildings.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.15 p.m.