MEETING OF THE CHAIRPERSONS’ LIAISON GROUP
TUESDAY 21 SEPTEMBER 2010
Mrs Dolores Kelly MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Jim Wells MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
The Lord Browne MLA
Mr Simon Hamilton MLA
Mr Danny Kennedy MLA
Mr Alex Maskey MLA
Ms Jennifer McCann MLA
Mr Declan O’Loan MLA
Mr Mervyn Storey MLA
Ms Nuala Dunwoody, Clerk Assistant
Mr Damien Martin, Clerk Assistant
Ms Stella McArdle, Clerk to the Liaison Group
Mr Shane McAteer, Clerk to the Finance and Personnel Committee (for item 6 only)
Ms Marie Austin, Assistant Clerk
Mr George McClelland, Clerical Supervisor
Mr Oliver Bellew, Clerical Officer
Mr Fred Cobain MLA
Mr Alban Maginness MLA
Mr Barry McElduff MLA
The Lord Morrow MLA
Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA
12.36 p.m. The meeting opened in closed session
1. Chairperson’s introduction
Mrs Dolores Kelly welcomed members to the meeting and informed chairpersons that she had been appointed as Chairperson to the Liaison Group for the remainder of the mandate and that Mr Jim Wells had been appointed as Deputy Chairperson.
2. Minutes of the meeting of 22 June 2010
The minutes of the meeting of 22 June 2010 were agreed.
3. Matters arising
12.39 p.m. Mr Simon Hamilton joined the meeting
12.39 p.m. Ms Jennifer McCann joined the meeting
12.39 p.m. Mr Danny Kennedy joined the meeting
Statutory period for the completion of the Committee Stage of bills
At the last meeting, chairpersons had considered the statutory period for completing the Committee Stage of bills and had agreed to seek information on how many bills in the Assembly were subject to an extension and how the Assembly’s procedures compared to other legislatures.
Members considered the information that had been provided by the Committee on Procedures and noted that the statutory period for the Committee Stage of bills was on its Forward Work Programme. It is likely that preparatory work only would be carried out during this mandate. However, the Chairpersons’ Liaison Group would be kept informed of progress.
4. Legislative programme
Mr Damien Martin updated chairpersons on the legislative programme including:
- bills that were currently before the Assembly;
- bills that were anticipated before the end of the mandate;
- potential non-Executive bills that were likely to be introduced; and
- the effect the absence of legislation relevant to the Review of Public Administration (RPA) would have on the legislative programme.
Agreed : It was agreed that information should be sought on bills that were required to complete their passage within a given time frame to meet with EU regulations.
Agreed : It was agreed that information should be sought on bills that were likely to be introduced by accelerated passage.
Agreed : It was agreed that information should be sought from the Executive on its priorities in relation to the legislative programme.
5. Guidance on timescales for the provision of information and evidence to committees by departments
The Liaison Group considered the revised draft guidance on timescales for the provision of information and evidence to committees by departments and, further amendments that had been suggested by officials from the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister. Members also discussed recommendations made to the Executive in committee reports.
Agreed: The Liaison Group agreed the draft guidance subject to a number of amendments.
Agreed : It was agreed that the revised draft guidance should be forwarded to the Executive for consideration.
Agreed : It was agreed that the guidance should be reviewed six-months after its implementation.
Agreed : It was agreed that information should be sought from the Business Office on the frequency of non-compliance with Standing Orders in relation to Ministerial statements.
1.02 p.m. Mr Alex Maskey left the meeting
6. Budget process and scrutiny
Ms Jennifer McCann, Chairperson of the Committee for Finance and Personnel outlined the key points of the Committee for Finance and Personnel’s Second Report on its Inquiry into the Role of the Northern Ireland Assembly in Scrutinising the Executive’s Budget and Expenditure.
Ms McCann highlighted the need to enhance the financial oversight role of the Assembly and its committees if public money was to be spent effectively and efficiently in extremely tight budgetary conditions. Two possible ways forward had been identified to improve financial and performance scrutiny arrangements:
- The Department for Finance and Personnel could develop specific guidance and protocols, in consultation with Assembly committees, which set out minimum standards for the level and timing of information provided by departments
- The Committee for Finance and Personnel could liaise with the Committee on Procedures to establish whether the Assembly’s financial scrutiny role might be underpinned in Standing Orders.
Ms McCann advised members that the Liaison Group and statutory committees would be fully consulted on both measures identified.
A number of chairpersons expressed concern about the lack of Assembly researchers with financial expertise. It was understood that the recent recruitment process would result in the appointment of an adequate number of such researchers. However, this had not materialised.
Agreed : It was agreed that information should be sought from Research and Library Services on the availability of Assembly researchers with financial expertise and the specifics of the service they provided. It was also agreed that clarification should be sought on the recruitment of further researchers with financial expertise.
Chairpersons raised the issue of how the development of the new Programme for Government would be integrated with the forthcoming Budget.
Agreed : It was agreed that a timetable for the development of the new Programme for Government should be sought from the Executive.
1.19 p.m. Mr Simon Hamilton left the meeting
7. Use of committee meeting rooms
The Liaison Group considered the recent changes/renovations to committee meeting rooms, including the Senate Chamber. The Chairperson informed members that the main aim of improving committee meeting space was to have as many committee meetings broadcast as possible. Therefore, consideration should be given to better use of the Senate as a meeting room. Members noted that there were a number of free meeting slots in the Senate.
Agreed : It was agreed that the chairpersons of committees who meet in rooms that do not have broadcasting facilities should liaise with each other to come to a suitable arrangement regarding use of the Senate.
8. Forward work programme
The Liaison Group considered a draft forward work programme for the period October 2010 to November 2010.
Agreed : Chairpersons were content with the proposed work programme subject to the addition of Election Planning.
Agreed: Chairpersons would advise the clerk of any other items for inclusion in the work programme.
1.25 p.m . Mr Mervyn Storey left the meeting
1.25 p.m . Mr Declan O’Loan left the meeting
9. Any other business
10. Date, time and venue of next meeting
The next meeting of the Liaison Group will take place on Tuesday 19 October 2010 at
12.30 p.m. in Room 21, Parliament Buildings.
1.26 p.m. The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.
Mrs Dolores Kelly, Chairperson
16 November 2010
18 May 2010 / Menu