Mr Danny Kennedy MLA (Chairperson)
Ms Jennifer McCann MLA
Mr Paul Maskey MLA
Mr Declan O’Loan MLA
Mr Ian Paisley Jnr MLA
Ms Sue Ramsey MLA
Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA
Mr Mervyn Storey MLA
Mr Jim Wells MLA
Mr John Stewart, Director of Clerking and Reporting
Ms Nuala Dunwoody, Clerk Assistant
Mr Damien Martin, Clerk Assistant
Mrs Christine Darrah, Clerk to the Liaison Group
Mr Paul Gill, Clerk of Standards (for item 5 only)
Ms Marie Austin, Assistant Clerk
Ms Heather Maginnis, Clerical Supervisor
Mr Oliver Bellew, Clerical Officer
Mrs Dolores Kelly MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Fred Cobain MLA
Mr Simon Hamilton MLA
Mr Barry McElduff MLA
The Lord Morrow MLA
The meeting opened at 12.35 p.m. in closed session
1. Chairperson’s introduction
The Chairperson welcomed members to the meeting.
2. Minutes of the meeting of 22 September 2009
The minutes of the meeting of 22 September 2009 were agreed.
3. Matters Arising from the meeting on 22 September 2009
(i) Pandemic planning
The chairperson advised members that h and sanitisers had been placed at all the main entrances to Parliament Buildings.
4. Briefing on the provision of research services to committees by Mr Tony Marken, Senior Assembly Researcher
12.37 p.m. Mr Wells joined the meeting
The Chairperson welcomed Tony Marken, Senior Assembly Researcher, to the meeting.
Mr Marken briefed the Liaison Group on the provision of research services to committees. Issues covered included:
- The range of products provided by Research and Library Services including subject specific research, scoping of proposals, lines of questioning and evidence appraisal;
- The level of demand for such services by committees;
- Other assistance available to committees in relation to the appointment of specialist advisers and bids for external research;
- Research and Library Services staffing and structure; and
- Current staffing shortages and the forthcoming recruitment programme.
12.45 p.m. Mr Paisley Jnr left the meeting
12.50 p.m. Mr Spratt joined the meeting
Following a brief question and answer session, the Chairperson acknowledged the work of Research and Library Services and thanked Mr Marken for the briefing. Mr Marken left the meeting.
5. New Code of Conduct and Guide to the Rules relating to Members: Advice for Chairpersons
The Liaison Group was briefed on the new Code of Conduct for Members and the Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members, which came into effect on Monday 12 October 2009, in relation to the provisions that had particular significance for chairpersons including:
- The requirement for office holders, including chairpersons, to register gifts, benefits and hospitality etc received in that capacity of a value more than £217 (0.5% of the salary of an Assembly Member);
- The need for a chairperson to consider whether he/she should stand aside from a committee proceeding when he/she had a financial or other interest which was directly affected by a particular inquiry or when he/she considered that a personal interest may reflect upon the work of the committee or its subsequent report; and
- The duty of Members in respect of declaration of interests and the advocacy rule which applied in committees. While it was not the role of chairpersons to ensure that other committee members declared interests or did not breach the advocacy rule there were occasions when, depending on the subject matter, it would be appropriate for chairpersons to seek to elicit the declaration of interests from committee members by inviting members to declare any interests at the start of a meeting.
The Liaison Group noted that the new Code and Guide did not introduce any significant new requirements in relation to the role of chairperson of a committee.
Agreed: Further guidance should be provided on the retention and storage of gifts received by committee chairpersons.
12.58 p.m. Mr Wells left the meeting
6. Results of the 2009 Members Survey relating to committees and committee work
The chairpersons were briefed on the results of the 2009 Members Survey and, in particular, the findings that related to committees and committee work.
The Liaison Group noted that overall there was a high level of satisfaction with the support and services provided to committees by the Committee Office, Research and Library Services and the Office of the Official Report (Hansard) and the results were very positive. The one area of dissatisfaction that related to committees (an overall dissatisfaction level of 16.5%) was with the standard of the committee meeting rooms. Since the responses to the survey were received and analysed, Room 30 had been converted into a new committee room which provided more space in the public gallery and had full audio and broadcasting facilities.
Some concern was expressed in relation to outside noise levels being experienced in some of the committee rooms and also the audio system in Room 30.
Agreed: The action plan prepared to address the areas of dissatisfaction arising from the 2009 Members Survey should be provided to the Liaison Group for information.
Agreed: The issues raised in relation to noise and the audio system in Room 30 should be referred to the relevant Directorates.
7. Up-date on the guidance on timescales for the provision of information and evidence to committees by departments
1.20 p.m. Mr Wells joined the meeting
The chairpersons were up-dated on the current position with regard to the draft guidance on timescales for the provision of information and evidence to committees by departments.
The Liaison Group noted that committee staff were working with OFMdFM officials to resolve a small number of outstanding issues. The draft guidance in final form would be presented to the Liaison Group for approval in due course.
8. Any other business
9. Date, time and venue of next meeting
The next meeting of the Liaison Group will take place on Tuesday 24 November 2009 at 12.30 p.m. in Room 21, Parliament Buildings.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.23 p.m.