MINUTES OF THE FORTIETH MEETING OF THE ASSEMBLY COMMISSION HELD ON TUESDAY 24 FEBRUARY 2009 AT 3.50PM IN ROOM 106
Mr Stephen Moutray
Mr Paul Butler
Rev Dr Robert Coulter
Mr Alban Maginness
Mr Sean Neeson
Mr T Reaney, Mr T Logue, Dr G McGrath, Mr S Welch, Mr R Good and Ms C McGowan. Mr J Stewart was in attendance for Items 3.3 – 10.
1. CHAIRMAN’S BUSINESS
The Speaker informed Members that the second meeting of the North-South Parliamentary Forum working group would take place directly after the Commission Meeting.
The Speaker sought any declarations of interest from the Commission in relation to Items of Business being discussed. There were no disclosures.
2. MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING
The minutes of the meeting held on the 24 January 2009 were agreed.
3. MATTERS ARISING
3.1 Visit to Brussels
Mr Logue informed the Commission that he was experiencing difficulty in finding a suitable date for Members to meet with President Pöttering in Brussels. The Commission agreed that Mr Logue look for an alternative date prior to the Summer Recess and outline the purpose of the visit for Members consideration.
3.2 NIA Internet Connection
The Director of Resources informed the Commission that the NICS had now setup the connections and the equipment at their new facilities. He stated that the IS office have now configured the NI Assembly systems and have started to test Internet access. He informed Members that following successful testing, the plan would be to move everyone to the new connection over the weekend of the 28th February 2009.
Mr Stewart joined the meeting.
3.3 Engagement Road show
The Director of Engagement provided the Commission with an update in relation to the Assembly Road Show.
Mr Butler raised concerns in relation to the selection of venues and the format of the “Lets Talk” style session with a panel of MLAs taking questions from the public. Dr McGrath assured the Member that the initiative was a pilot and any difficulties or problems experienced in its operation would be taken on board before any further events. Mr Butler also requested that further consideration is given to including members of the Irish language speaking community in future events.
Mr Moutray raised concerns in relation to the level of expenditure proposed for advertising costs. Dr McGrath assured the Commission that best value had been achieved within the existing contract with Anderson Spratt.
3.4 Research Service background paper
The Commission noted a paper by the Director of Engagement in relation to the ongoing restructuring of the Research and Library Service.
3.5 The Assembly Website Project
The Director of Engagement sought the Commissions approval in relation to the Assembly Website Redevelopment Project Initiation Document. Members considered the Project Initiation Document and the proposed redevelopment costs involved.
Mr Butler asked that further consideration be given to providing information on the website in the Irish language. Mr Logue informed the Member that work was currently being undertaken in conjunction with the Inter- Departmental Group on Minority Languages to develop a policy approach on minority languages and he would prepare an update paper for a future meeting.
4. CLERK’S MONTHLY REPORT
The Clerk/Director General provided the Commission with an overview of his monthly report which detailed progress achieved in relation to each of the Commissions’ strategic objectives.
The Clerk/Director General informed the Commission that a cross-Directorate Project Team, chaired by the Director of Clerking and Reporting, was being established to develop proposals for a member survey to be undertaken prior to the Summer Recess. Following consideration, Rev Coulter agreed to join the Project Team. The Clerk/Director General informed Members that a paper outlining proposals for the survey would be presented to the Commission when available.
The Clerk/Director General also provided an update in relation to the review of the Corporate Plan for 2008 – 11. He informed Members that a draft revised Corporate Plan would be presented for consideration in March 2009.
The Clerk/Director General provided a brief update in relation to progress achieved in the establishment of the Secretariat Audit and Risk Committee (SARC). He also drew Members attention to previous corporate governance training and informed Members that arrangements were being made to hold a further workshop after the Easter Recess.
In relation to Human Resources issues, the Clerk/Director General provided an update on progress achieved in relation to the Separation Project, the development of a Human Resources Strategy and the first meetings of the Employee Relations Group and Employee Relations Board.
The Clerk/Director General confirmed that the preparation of the Secretariat budget for 2009/10 was underway. He also confirmed that the administrative preparations for the devolution of Policing and Justice were progressing and that the Project Team had been established.
The Commission agreed that the Director of Legal Services should be invited to the next meeting to provide advice on the level of legal support available in relation to all litigation and grievance cases.
5. NI ASSEMBLY PUBLICATION SCHEME
Mr Logue presented a paper in relation to the review of the Northern Ireland Assembly Publication Scheme. Following consideration, the Commission agreed to the adoption of the Model Publication Scheme including the procedure for publishing information in the disclosure log.
6. EXTENSION OF TEMPORARY STAFFING CONTRACT
The Director of Resources presented a paper in relation to the temporary staff contract. Following clarification that a provision existed within the contract, the Commission agreed that the temporary staffing contract be extended by one year. Mr Maginness declared an interest in this issue.
7. TV DISTRIBUTION /REPLACEMENT
The Director of Resources provided Members with a summary of the economic case for upgrading the television signal distribution system within Parliament Buildings. Following consideration, the Commission agreed that an external supplier be sought to design, install and maintain a replacement TV distribution system, using digital technology with enhanced services.
8. NIA EXTERNAL COMMUNICATION STRATEGY
The Director of Engagement outlined the proposed communications plan for the Assembly from March 2009 until the end of the current Assembly session and provided details in relation to the essential activities, timescales and preparatory work needed to achieve the required goals. Following consideration, the Commission agreed the content and implementation of the proposed plan.
9. ANY OTHER BUSINESS
9.1 Removal of a model of the ‘Titanic’ from Member’s Office
Mr Neeson informed the Commission of his annoyance in relation to the removal of a model of the Titanic from his office. The Director of Properties reassured the Member that the matter was being fully investigated and he would report any findings as soon as possible.
9.2 Canadian Delegation
The Speaker informed Members that a delegation from the Canadian Parliament were visiting Parliament Building in March 2009 and that he had extended an invitation for them to join him in the St Patrick’s Day evening reception. Members agreed that they should extend an invitation to the delegation to join them for a dinner on Monday 16 March 2009.
9.3 Filming in Parliament Buildings
The Commission agreed that the issue of filming within and around Parliament Buildings should be considered on a case by case basis. Members agreed that approval should be obtained from the Speaker in relation to this matter.
10. DATE OF NEXT MEETING
The next meeting of the Assembly Commission was agreed for Tuesday 10 March 2009, 15 minutes after rise of House, or earlier if no Member was involved in the Adjournment Debate for that day.
The Commission further agreed that future monthly meetings would take place on 23 April, 21 May and 18 June 2009.The meeting ended at 5.25pm
Clerk to the Assembly Commission
Note: Following the Commission Meeting, all Officials were asked to leave the room for a brief closed session were the Commission considered a matter of private Commission business.