MINUTES OF THE THIRTY FOURTH MEETING OF THE ASSEMBLY COMMISSION HELD ON TUESDAY 7 OCTOBER 2008 AT 4.45PM IN ROOM 106
Mr Paul Butler
Rev Dr Robert Coulter
Mr Alban Maginness
Mr Sean Neeson
Mr Stephen Moutray
In Attendance: Mr T Reaney, Mr T Logue, Dr G McGrath, Mr J Stewart, Mr R Stewart, Mr S Welch , Mr R Good and Ms C McGowan.
1. MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETINGS
The minutes of the meeting held on the 23 September 2008 were agreed.
2. MATTERS ARISING
2.1 Visit of the President of the European Parliament
The Speaker reminded Members of their earlier discussions in relation to the visit of the President of the European Parliament on 24 November 2008. The Commission agreed that the President would be invited to address Members in the Senate Chamber.
2.2 Publication: ‘Stormont: The House on the Hill’
The Clerk/Director General informed Members that the book ‘Stormont: A House on the Hill’ had gone to print and would not be formally endorsed by the Commission.
3. CLERK’S MONTHLY REPORT
The Clerk/Director General provided the Commission with an overview of his first monthly report which detailed progress achieved in relation to each of the Commissions’ strategic objectives. He highlighted the unique environment in which the Secretariat had operated and paid tribute to the dedication and professionalism of staff during that time.
The Clerk/Director General drew Members attention to the future appointment of a replacement Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), following the planned retirement of the current C&AG in September 2009. He advised the Commission that a paper would be provided, at a future meeting, on the appointment process and the resources and framework required to enable the Assembly Commission to fill the position.
The Clerk/Director General informed the Commission that the report from the Senior Salaries Review Body was still being finalised. He discussed the process the Commission might consider for the handling of the report and possible options for the agreed future publication of the full report.
The Clerk/Director General also informed Members that the launch of the World Rally Championship was due to take place within the Stormont Estate during week beginning 13 October 2008.
Members congratulated the Clerk/Director General on the detail of his monthly report and confirmed that they were content to receive future reports in a similar format.
4. BROADCASTING EQUIPMENT REPLACEMENT PROJECT(BERP) UPDATE
Mr McGrath spoke to a paper which provided the Commission with an update in relation to the replacement of the broadcast equipment in Parliament Buildings and highlighted the future capabilities of the new system.
Mr McGrath outlined some the initial suggestions in relation to the disposal of the old equipment and confirmed that proposals would be forwarded to a future meeting. The Commission noted the additional expenditure and the communications plan and acknowledged the commitment from Secretariat staff in ensuring the success of the project. Rev Coulter suggested that the Commission Members would benefit from visiting the Assembly Broadcasting room to view the new equipment.
Rev Coulter also suggested that further consideration be given to the installation of a shelf to the back bench desks within the Chamber. Mr Welch highlighted the space restrictions in that area and agreed to come back with design proposals.
5. FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE TO POLITICAL PARTIES
Provision of Information to the Electoral Commission
The Clerk/Director General reminded Members of a paper deferred at the last meeting relating to a recent request from the Electoral Commission to provide information on amounts paid by the Assembly to political parties under the Financial Assistance for Political Parties Scheme 2007.
Following consideration, the Commission agreed that the Finance Office produce regular expenditure reports for use by the Electoral Commission.
6. TRAVEL SCHEME - UPDATE
Mr Stewart provided the Commission with an update on the tax and national insurance liability in respect of the operation of the Assembly Taxi Scheme in operation from May 2002.
Following consideration, Members endorsed HM Revenue and Customs’ assessment of the outstanding tax and national insurance liabilities in respect of the previous Assembly Taxi Scheme and agreed that payment should now be processed.
Mr Maginness joined the meeting.
7. FEES FOR PRIVATE LEGISLATION
The Clerk/Director General spoke to a paper detailing recommendations from the Committee on Procedures relating to fees for promoting and objecting to private bills.
Following discussion, the Commission agreed the proposed level of fees for promoting and objecting to a private bill for the lifetime of the mandate and to the review of charges in future mandates. Members also agreed with the Committees proposal that a second fee would not be required if the private bill fell because of dissolution or suspension of the Assembly.
The Commission considered the proposal for a reduction to the fee for charitable, religious and educational organisations and for literacy or scientific purpose where no private profit or advantage was derived and agreed that the fee should be reduced by 75%. The Commission agreed that Mr Neeson confirm their recommendation at the next meeting of the Committee on Procedures.
8. ANY OTHER BUSINESS
8.1 CIPFA – ‘On Board’ Training
The Speaker reminded Members of a recommendation within the Review of the Secretariat for the Commission to consider best practice in the area of corporate governance. Mr Logue informed the Commission that in response he had secured the services of CIPFA in the delivery of ‘On Board’ training for Members of the Commission and the Secretariat Management Group. The Speaker proposed that Members may wish to participate in the sessions as part of a ‘planning day’ exercise prior to the Christmas recess. This was agreed.
8.2 Visit from the Brussels Regional Parliament
The Speaker informed Members that Mr David McClarty MLA was hosting a visit from the Brussels Regional Parliament and had extended an invitation to the Commission for lunch on the 8 October 2008 in the Members Dining Room.
8.3 Freedom of Information
Mr Logue provided the Commission with an update in relation to recent requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act.
8.4 Visit from delegation from the House of Oireachtas
Mr Logue informed the Commission that a short visit from the Corporate body from within the Houses of Oireachtas was scheduled to take place on the 20 th October 2008 and he would liaise with Members when details were finalised.
9. DATE OF NEXT MEETING
The next meeting of the Assembly Commission was agreed for Tuesday 21 October 2008, 15 minutes after the rise of House or earlier if no Commission Member is involved in the Adjournment Debate scheduled for that day.
The meeting ended at 5.45pm