MEETING OF THE CHAIRPERSONS' LIAISON GROUP
MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS
TUESDAY 20 NOVEMBER 2007
Mr Sammy Wilson MP MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Gregory Campbell MP MLA
Mr Jeffrey Donaldson MP MLA
Mr Mark Durkan MP MLA
Ms Carmel Hanna MLA
Mr Barry McElduff MLA
Mr John O’Dowd MLA
Ms Sue Ramsey MLA
Ms Carol Devon Interim Clerk/Director–General (items 1 to 3)
Ms Nuala Dunwoody, Clerk Assistant
Mrs Debbie Pritchard, Principal Clerk
Mrs Christine Darrah, Clerk to the Liaison Group
Mrs Mary Curran, Assistant Clerk
Mr Paul Breen, Clerical Supervisor
Mr Jonathan Young, Clerical Officer
Mr Danny Kennedy MLA
Mr Patsy McGlone MLA
The Lord Morrow MLA
Robin Newton MLA
The meeting opened at 12.38 p.m. in closed session
The Chairperson welcomed all present to the meeting and informed the Group that the principal clerk, John Torney, was currently on sick leave. Members wished Mr Torney a speedy recovery.
The Chairperson introduced Mrs Carol Devon, the Interim Clerk/Director-General, and invited her to outline her role in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Minutes of the meeting of 16 October 2007
The minutes of the meeting of 16 October 2007 were agreed.
Mrs Carmel Hanna joined the meeting at 12.40 p.m.
Mr Mark Durkan joined the meeting at 12.41 p.m.
Mr Barry McElduff joined the meeting at 12.43 p.m.
Improvements to Committee Rooms
The Chairperson advised members that arrangements were being taken forward, in accordance with procurement guidelines, to enable the improvements to the committee rooms to be progressed as soon as possible.
Communication between Committees and Departments – Access to Ministers
The Chairperson informed members that, as agreed, the issues raised with regard to access to Ministers by committee chairpersons and the availability of Ministers to attend committee meetings when requested to do so had been raised by officials at the Assembly Liaison Group and brought to the attention of Ministers.
The Group gave further consideration to whether a formal protocol on this matter should be developed.
Agreed: The Chairperson would write to the First Minister and deputy First Minister regarding arrangements for the handling of any contacts from a committee chairperson by the relevant Private Office.
Agreed: Research should be undertaken into what protocols, if any, exist in other Parliaments.
Agreed: The matter would be kept under review.
Carol Devon left the meeting at 12.56 p.m.
Sue Ramsey left the meeting at 12.57 p.m.
John O’Dowd left the meeting at 12.59 p.m.
Availability of Hansard services for committee meetings
The Chairperson advised members that the Speaker had asked for the views of CLG on a request from the Chairperson of the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure that additional resources be made available to enable Hansard reports of all committee meetings to be produced and published.
Before considering the matter the Chairperson invited the Editor of Debates, Simon Burrowes, and the Deputy Editor, Aoibhinn Treanor, to brief members on the Hansard services currently provided to committees. The briefing covered the services provided since May 2007 and the resource implications of possible changes to the service. Following the briefing chairpersons placed on record their appreciation of the service being provided.
Mr Burrowes and Ms Trainor left the meeting.
Members discussed the Hansard service to committees and the current protocol that was in place.
Agreed: The Chairpersons’ Liaison Group, noting the flexibility shown by Hansard in the reporting of committee business, particularly in relation to circumstances where significant presentations were made to committees and/or Ministers appeared at committee, was content with the current arrangements and the Chairperson would write to the Speaker accordingly.
Agreed: The Hansard services provided to committees should be reviewed again after 12 months.
Review Report – NI Assembly Secretariat
The Chairperson invited Ms Nuala Dunwoody, the Clerk Assistant, to brief members on the impact the recommendations of the review of the NI Assembly Secretariat would have in relation to the Clerk Assistant’s Directorate and, in particular, the committee side.
Following the briefing members discussed a number of issues including the removal of the principal clerk level and the likely sizeable turnover of staff following the recruitment competitions.
Gregory Campbell left the meeting at 12.28 p.m.
Agreed: The Chairperson would write to the Director of Implementation regarding the decision to remove the principal clerk level.
Carmel Hanna left the meeting at 1.32 p.m.
Date and time of next meeting.
The next meeting of the Group will be held on Tuesday 22 January 2008 at 12.30 p.m. in Room 21.
The chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.32 p.m.
Mr Sammy Wilson,
22 January 2008