Northern Ireland Assembly Flax Flower Logo


Present: Mr Danny Kennedy MLA (Chairperson)
Mrs Dolores Kelly MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Simon Hamilton MLA Mr Barry McElduff MLA
Mr Paul Maskey MLA
Mr Declan O’Loan MLA
Mr Mervyn Storey MLA
Mr Peter Weir MLA

In Attendance: Mr Trevor Reaney, Director General
Ms Nuala Dunwoody, Clerk Assistant
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
Mr Ian Paisley Jnr MLA
The Lord Morrow MLA
Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA
Mr Jim Wells MLA

The meeting opened at 12.36 p.m. in closed session

1. Chairperson’s introduction

The Chairperson welcomed members to the meeting.

2. Minutes of the meeting of 20 October 2009

The minutes of the meeting of 20 October 2009 were agreed.

3. Matters Arising from the meeting on 20 October 2009

Action plan arising from Members Survey

The Liaison Group noted the action plan prepared to address issues of dissatisfaction in relation to the committee meeting rooms arising from the Members Survey. Trevor Reaney, Director General, gave a brief overview of the action plan and outlined the proposed actions to improve the meeting rooms. The action plan would be subject to formal monitoring and an update on progress would be referred to the Liaison Group for consideration.

Agreed: Progress on the actions being taken to address the issues in relation to committee rooms would be monitored.

Mr Simon Hamilton joined the meeting at 12.39 p.m.
Ms Dolores Kelly joined the meeting at 12.43 p.m.

4. Information on committee spend April to September 2009

The Liaison Group considered detailed information on committee spend for 1 April 2009 to 30 September 2009 and a number of issues were clarified in relation to the cost of committee meetings held outside Parliament Buildings.

It was noted that, as predicted committee spend for the rest of the financial year was estimated to be considerably lower than the budget available, consideration was being given to the level of easements that should be declared in the December 2009 Monitoring Round.

Agreed: Further information on the committee budget easements identified as part of the December 2009 Monitoring Round should be provided for the next meeting.

Mr Peter Weir joined the meeting at 12.50 p.m.

5. Legislative Programme

The Liaison Group was briefed on the potential legislative programme for the next 12 to 18 months. Noting that there were 11 bills at various stages of passage through the Assembly and current indications were that more than 30 Executive bills could be introduced, together with a number of Private Members’ Bills, before the 2010 summer recess with the legislative burden likely to fall more significantly on some committees, possible methods to assist committees to effectively manage the programme were discussed.

Conducting pre-legislative scrutiny where possible to assist in identifying potential concerns with the policy on which a Bill was based at an early stage and liaison with the relevant department to discuss and agree handling arrangements were highlighted as effective approaches to adopt to assist management of a heavy legislative programme without reducing committee scrutiny. The Liaison Group was of the view that accelerated passage for a Bill should only be sought when absolutely necessary.

The Liaison Group was advised that, if a committee was considering the option of introducing a committee bill, the proposal needed to be agreed within the next few months to allow time to prepare the draft Bill – which could take up to six months – and introduce it before the 2010 summer recess to be sure of Royal Assent before dissolution.

6. Guidance note on the role of a chairperson

The Liaison Group noted guidance provided on the role of a committee chairperson. The guidance outlined the role of a committee chairperson as set out in the Standing Orders of the Assembly, and detailed some of the other roles and responsibilities of the chairperson, based on accepted and recognised good practice.

7. Commissioned research

The Liaison Group were advised that no bids for commissioned research had been received from committees, however the Clerk to the Committee for the Environment had indicated that that committee may wish to put forward a bid early in 2010 arising from the findings and recommendations of its inquiry into climate change. As the 2009/10 budget for commissioned research would not be spent by 31 March 2010, chairpersons were advised that it would be surrendered in the December 2009 Monitoring Round.

Agreed: Committee Office staff should give careful consideration to what bid for resources for commissioned research would be submitted for the next financial year taking account of the possible project by the Environment Committee and the likely focus of committees on legislation.

8. Information on committee visits/meetings held outside Parliament Buildings

The Liaison Group noted information provided on committee visits/meetings held outside Parliament Buildings. During the period 1 May 2009 to 31 October 2009, thirty visits had been undertaken by committees to a variety of locations within Northern Ireland and further afield. Nineteen committee meetings had taken place outside of Parliament Buildings, many in conjunction with a committee visit. The level of visits and meetings held outside Parliament Buildings was very similar to the previous six-month period. A further up-date would be provided in May 2010.

9. Letter from the Committee for Finance and Personnel regarding engagement of committees with the Banking Industry

The Liaison Group considered a letter from the Committee for Finance and Personnel in relation to the engagement of committees with the Banking Industry. Chairpersons noted that, given the strong business, economic and consumer aspects of banking, the Committee for Finance and Personnel was content for the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee to take the lead on any future engagement with bank representatives. This did not, however, preclude the possibility of a joint approach in the future if matters of joint concern arose.

10. Letter from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister regarding departmental performance on answering written questions

The Liaison Group considered correspondence from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister regarding the performance of departments on answering written questions and in particular the cost incurred.

The Chairperson advised members that the Committee on Procedures had recently requested information on the cost of answering written questions.

Agreed: The Clerk should write to the Committee on Procedures and request that the information on the cost of answering written questions should be provided to all statutory committees when it became available.

11. Draft 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.

12. Any other business

The Chairperson advised the Liaison Group that Ms Heather Maginness was leaving the Assembly to take up employment elsewhere. On behalf of the Liaison Group, the Chairperson thanked Heather for her hard work in her role as clerical supervisor and wished her well in her new job.

13. Date, time and venue of next meeting

The next meeting of the Liaison Group will take place on Tuesday 19 January 2010 at 12.30 p.m. in Room 21, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.59 p.m.

Mrs Dolores Kelly
19 January 2010

20 October 2009 / Menu