Mr Danny Kennedy MLA (Chairperson)
Mrs Dolores Kelly MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Simon Hamilton MLA
Mr Barry McElduff MLA
Mr Declan O’Loan MLA
Mr Mervyn Storey MLA
Mr Peter Weir MLA Mr Jim Wells MLA
Mr John Stewart, Director of Clerking and Reporting
Mr Stephen Welch, Director of Facilities (for item 4 only)
Ms Nuala Dunwoody, Clerk Assistant
Mr Damien Martin, Clerk Assistant
Mr Hugh Farren, Clerk to the Liaison Group
Mr David Lynn, Building Services Manager (for item 4 only)
Ms Marie Austin, Assistant Clerk
Mr George McClelland, Clerical Supervisor
Mr Oliver Bellew, Clerical Officer
Mr Cathal Boylan MLA
The Lord Browne MLA
Mr Fred Cobain MLA
Mr Paul Maskey MLA
The Lord Morrow MLA
12.33 p.m. The meeting opened in closed session
1. Chairperson’s introduction
The Chairperson welcomed all to the meeting and informed the group that Mr Cathal Boylan, Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment and The Lord Browne, Chairperson of the Committee on Procedures had joined the Liaison Group.
2. Minutes of the meeting of 23 March 2010
The minutes of the meeting of 23 March 2010 were agreed.
3. Matters arising
Departmental performance on answering Assembly Written Questions.
The Chairperson advised the Liaison Group that in estimating the cost of Assembly Written Questions, d epartments had agreed revised procedures. Where it is assessed that a question would be very costly to answer in the terms asked, and where it is not possible to provide the information relevant to the request which was readily available, an estimate of the likely cost, based on the FOI figure of £25/hr would be made and the current £700 threshold applied if it was considered appropriate. The Liaison Group noted that the Committee on Procedures would keep this matter under review.
4. Briefing on proposed improvements to committee meeting rooms
12.35 p.m. Mr Mervyn Storey joined the meeting
12.40 p.m. Mr Barry McElduff joined the meeting
12.43 p.m. Mr Peter Weir joined the meeting
Mr Stephen Welch, Director of Facilities, and Mr David Lynn, Building Services Manager briefed the Liaison Group on proposed improvements to committee meeting rooms. Proposed improvements are:
- Rooms 28 and 29 (the Commonwealth Room) to be converted to create a committee room equivalent to Room 30;
- Room 21 to be upgraded to the same standard as Room 30;
- Senate Chamber to be upgraded to improve facilities for committee meetings (subject to agreement by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency);
- Room 54 to be converted for use as an additional education resource room to supplement Room 55;
- The existing mini-kitchen adjacent to the Assembly Chamber to be converted to a ‘unisex’ disabled toilet facility;
- The ladies toilet adjacent to the Assembly Chamber to be modified to provide a ladies toilet facility and an additional office; and,
- The gents toilet adjacent to the Assembly Chamber to be modified to provide a gents toilet and an additional office.
Members raised a number of issues regarding the destruction/maintenance of the heritage of the building and the loss of suitable informal meeting spaces for committees, in particular, Room 29 - the Commonwealth Room. Following a discussion, Mr Welch agreed to consider the views expressed by the Liaison Group and to review the camera fittings used in the Senate Chamber and consider ways to remove TV screens from the Senate Chamber when not required.
The Chairperson advised the Liaison Group that the Assembly Commission had agreed to the alterations to accommodation and that members should raise any issues with their Commission representative.
The position on the procurement of a video link/video conferencing facility was also raised.
Agreed: The Liaison Group agreed that an update on the procurement of video link/video conferencing facilities should be arranged for the next meeting.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Welch and Mr Lynn for the briefing.
1.05 p.m. Mrs Dolores Kelly left the meeting
1.05 p.m. Mr Peter Weir left the meeting
1.07 p.m. Mr Mervyn Storey left the meeting
1.10 p.m. Mr. Welch and Mr. Lynn left the meeting
5. Committee spend 2009/10 and Budget for 2010/11
The chairpersons considered detailed information on committee spend for 2009/2010 and the committee budget for 2010/2011. The total expenditure for committees for 09/10 was just under £280k. The budget for 10/11 for the committee office was just over £551k with the key budget areas being committee travel, consultancy support and public notices in connection with committee work.
Agreed: The Liaison Group agreed that an update on committee spend and budget would be provided in six-months time.
6. Committee visits/meetings held outside Parliament Buildings
The chairpersons noted information provided on committee visits/meetings held outside Parliament Buildings. During the period 1 November 2009 to 30 April 2010, thirty visits had been undertaken by committees to a variety of locations within Northern Ireland and further afield. Twenty-one 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 November 2010.
Agreed: The Liaison Group agreed that an update on committee visits/meetings held outside Parliament Buildings would be provided in six-months time.
7. Timing of the publication of committee ‘end of session’ reports
Chairpersons considered the timing of the publication of committee ‘end of session’ reports.
Agreed: The Group agreed that committee end of session reports for 09/10 would be published at the beginning of the 10/11 session when expenditure details for the relevant period became available.
8. Legislative programme
The Liaison Group noted that since November 2009, 13 Executive Bills and 2 Private Member’s Bills had been introduced. However, it was likely that a further 20-25 Executive Bills and a number of Private Member’s and Committee Bills would be introduced before the end of the mandate.
Chairpersons considered the issues associated with the management of the Committee Stage of bills including: agreeing with the department which bills should be given priority by the committee, as opposed to considering bills in the order in which they were introduced; and, ensuring that departments took proper account of the legislative programme when considering the timing of other matters that needed to be brought before the committee.
It was highlighted that committees needed to leave sufficient time for clause-by-clause scrutiny of a bill and for publication of the committee’s report, so that it was available in good time to all Assembly Members. Members noted that it may also be necessary to consider options for ensuring that optimum use was made of the summer recess for the purposes of gathering and analysing evidence. In the meantime, the clerk assistants would continue to monitor the programme to ensure that best use was made of the resources available to the Directorate.
Agreed: It was agreed that a more detailed update on the legislative programme be provided at the next meeting. This will require committee clerks to seek details from their respective departments of the bills that are likely to be introduced during the remainder of this mandate, including: the title and purpose of the Bill; the current position; and, the approximate date of introduction.
The Liaison Group noted correspondence from the Clerk to the Committee for Finance and Personnel to all statutory committee clerks. Statutory committees were asked to enquire if their department had considered employing the services of the Performance and Efficiency Delivery Unit (PEDU) and if there would be a willingness to do so.
10. Role and functions of Departmental Assembly Liaison Officers
The Liaison Group noted information received from the Executive Division of the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister, on the principal roles and responsibilities of Departmental Assembly Liaison Officers (DALOs).
11. 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
13. Date, time and venue of next meeting
The next meeting of the Liaison Group will take place on Tuesday 22 June 2010 at 12.30 p.m. in Room 21, Parliament Buildings.
1.26p.m. The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.
Mr Danny Kennedy, Chairperson
22 June 2010