MINUTES OF THE
THE ASSEMBLY COMMISSION
THURSDAY 24 APRIL
AT 10:00AM IN ROOM 106
Mr Stephen Moutray
Rev Robert Coulter
Mr Alban Maginness
Mr Sean Neeson
Mr Paul Butler
Mrs C Devon, Mr T Logue, Mr R Good, Ms C McGowan and Ms C Foster. Rt Hon G Reid and Mr J Hunter were in attendance for items 3-5. Mr W Widdis was in attendance for items 1-7. Mr M Rickard was in attendance for items 6-7. Mr J Gibson was in attendance for item 6. Ms McClelland was in attendance for items 8-9. Mr F Duffy was in attendance for items 9-10.
1. MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING
Members agreed the minutes of the last meeting held on 17 April 2008 with one revision - Mr Moutray asked that his concerns in relation to Capita’s performance be included in point 3, para 3.
2. PRESENTATION FROM RT HON GEORGE REID AND MR JOHN HUNTER
The Speaker welcomed the Rt Hon George Reid (the Chairman of the Steering Group) and Mr John Hunter (the Review Director) to the meeting. Mr Hunter informed the Commission that the purpose of their presentation was to provide a 6-monthly progress report on the implementation of the Review’s recommendations.
Mr Hunter confirmed that his paper was a commentary on the progress of the recommendations made within the Review and was structured in line with the Clerk’s monthly report. He provided Members with an update in relation to:
- Purpose, aims and Objectives;
- Strategic Projects;
- Functions and responsibilities of the Commission;
- Corporate Governance;
- Organisational Structures; and
- HR Recommendations.
Mr Hunter also provided the Commission with an update in relation to a recent meeting he and Mr Reid had attended with Trade Union Side.
He concluded with a tribute to the Assembly Commission, the Interim Clerk and the Interim Management Board for taking forward the recommendations from the Review and acknowledged that they had ‘created a momentum for change and improvement which the new Management Board will be able to build on’.
Mr Reid then gave his reflections of the process to date and again paid tribute to the work of the Interim Clerk/Director General. He offered opinion in relation to building on the HR functions within the Secretariat and highlighted the importance of instilling the vision and values of the Assembly Commission in all future work projects. He stressed the importance of the Commission continuing to set the vision and values for the Assembly not least in the promotion of the Outreach and Engagement Strategy.
Mr Neeson commented positively on the leadership shown by the Interim Clerk/Director General in implementing the review recommendations and acknowledged the difficulties associated with the implementation of several of the recommendations. He agreed that there was a need to communicate the Assembly Commission’s vision for bringing the Assembly into the twenty first Century.
The Speaker confirmed that the Commission had taken difficult decisions within the process and thanked Members for working collectively for the betterment of the Secretariat. He highlighted that further work would be required to ensure a seamless transfer of responsibility to the new management team.
Mr Maginness thanked the Rt Hon George Reid and Mr J Hunter for the contribution they had made in assisting the Commission’s decision making process. He also praised the Interim Clerk/Director General for her leadership within the process and highlighted his optimism for the future.
Mr Moutray and Rev Coulter both endorsed the tributes to the Review Team and the Interim Clerk/Director General and welcomed the opportunities for the future.
3. GOOD RELATIONS STRATEGY
The Interim Clerk/Director General spoke to a paper which outlined the proposals for developing a Good Relations Policy and associated implementation strategy for the Assembly Commission. Mrs Devon highlighted the guidance provided by the Equality Commission on promoting Good Relations.
The Commission discussed the initial suggestions for the remit, membership and associated chairing arrangements of a ‘Good Relations Working Group and endorsed the proposal. However they agreed that it would be useful to enter into further discussions with Belfast City Council on how they had developed and implemented their strategy.
4. OUTREACH AND ENGAGEMENT STRATEGY
Mr Rickard provided the Commission with a background to the development of the Draft Outreach and Engagement Strategy. He highlighted that the draft document set out the initial activities required to achieve the aims and objectives of improving the Assembly’s outreach and engagement.
Members offered their experiences on a range of different approaches to engaging sections of the community. The Commission agreed the Strategy and confirmed that further baseline research should be initiated with further consideration being given to setting the context for the Strategy.
Rt Hon George Reid, Mr John Hunter.
John Gibson joined the meeting.
5. BROADCASTING EQUIPMENT CONTRACT
Mr Rickard provided a background on the project for the design, supply and installation of the broadcasting equipment. Mr Gibson provided an overview of the procurement process and the outcome of the evaluation process.
Rev Coulter requested information in relation to the ‘after sales service’ within the award. Mr Gibson assured the Commission that discussions would occur between the relevant persons to ensure effective support.
Mr Moutray enquired about the timescales for delivery and Mr Rickard assured him that the main Chamber would be highest priority with operational completion by end of August 2008.The Commission approved the award of contract to TSL and agreed that the ‘Alcatel’ period be initiated immediately.
Mr Rickard and Mr Gibson left the meeting at 11.40am
Ms McClelland joined the meeting.
The Interim Clerk/Director General provided the Commission with an update in relation to difficulties experienced by certain groups holding events within Parliament Buildings.
Mr Maginness highlighted that he and his Party did not agree with the restrictions currently in place.
Following further discussion, the Commission agreed the proposals in relation to the:
- Use of Committee Rooms by specified groups or individual Members; and
- The application of the filming/photography rule.
7. UPDATE ON ARRANGEMENTS FOR 8 th MAY 2008
Ms McClelland provided an update on the arrangements for the Economic Investment Conference on the 8 th May 2008.
The Commission agreed to remove filming/photography restrictions during the conference.
Ms McClelland informed the Commission that she had obtained 14 paintings from the Ulster Museum for display within the Long Gallery.
Hugh Widdis left the meeting at 11.50am.
Frank Duffy joined the meeting.
Ms McClelland left the meeting at 12noon.
8. INTERIM STARTING PAY - DG/DIRECTORS
The Commission endorsed the inclusion of Assembly Grade 1 and Grade 2 level posts in the Secretariat’s interim starting pay policy.
9. DIRECTOR OF LEGAL SERVICES POSITION
The Commission agreed that the recruitment for the post of ‘Director of Legal Services’ should progress to advertisement. Members agreed the composition of the interview panel and the salary arrangements for the post.
Members agreed the proposed changes to the eligibility criteria within the personnel specification.
10. CORRESPONDENCE WITH TUS
The Commission agreed the reply to Mr Noel Griffin in relation to the use of tests within Assembly Clerk/Assistant Assembly Clerk Competitions.
11. ANY OTHER BUSINESS
11.1 Letter from Kieran McCarthy
The Commission noted the letter from Mr McCarthy and agreed a draft response should be provided to the next meeting.
11.2 Letter from Belfast Telegraph
Mr Logue tabled the draft response to David Gordon and Members agreed to consider and forward any further comments by 25 April 2008.
11.3 Assembly Commission Oral Questions
Mr Logue provided Members with a further update in relation to the questions for oral answer on Monday 28 April.
11.4 Letter to Standards and Privileges
Rev Coulter explained that a letter from Sylvia Herman, MP, had been raised at a recent meeting of the Standards & Privileges Committee. It was confirmed that the issue raised had been ruled on by the Commissioner for Complaints and had now been dealt with by the Committee.
12. DATE OF NEXT MEETING
The date of the next meeting of the Assembly Commission will be held on Thursday 01 May 2008 at 10:00 am in room 106.
The meeting ended at 12.20pm