MINUTES OF THE FIFTIETH MEETING OF THE ASSEMBLY COMMISSION HELD ON TUESDAY 20 OCTOBER 2009 AT 5.55PM IN ROOM 106
Mr Stephen Moutray
Mr Pat Doherty
Rev Dr Robert Coulter
Mrs Carmel Hanna
Mr Sean Neeson
In Attendance: Mr T Reaney, Mr T Logue, Dr G McGrath, Mr R Stewart, Mr H Widdis, Mr R Good, Mr A McQuillan and Ms C McGowan. Mr J Stewart was present for Items 1 – 5.
1. DECLARATION OF INTEREST
The Speaker sought any declarations of interest from the Commission Members in relation to items of business being discussed. Members noted an interest in relation to the issues being discussed regarding the publication of expenses and the draft Report on Members’ Pay, Pensions and Financial Support.
2. CHAIRMAN’S BUSINESS
The Speaker noted the congratulations given to Rev Coulter during the Plenary session on the 19 October 2009, in relation to his upcoming 80 th birthday and wished him many happy returns.
The Speaker informed Members that he had asked Mr Logue to investigate a suitable date for the Commission to visit Dublin to meet with the Oireachtas Commission. It was agreed that an update would be provided at the next meeting.
The Speaker welcomed Mr Alan McQuillan (Chair of the Secretariat Audit and Risk Committee) to his first full meeting of the Commission.
3. MIMUTES OF LAST MEETINGS
The minutes of the meetings held on the 24 September 2009 and 5 October 2009 were agreed without amendment.
4. MATTERS ARISING
4.1 Data Security Breach
The Clerk/Director General provided Members with an update on the on-going internal investigation being undertaken and that he would provide a report to the Commission at the conclusion of the investigation. The Clerk/Director General also informed Members that a project team had been established to look at the wider issues of information management and security within the Secretariat and he would report on progress at an early meeting of the Commission.
4.2 Publication of Members’ Expenses
The Clerk/Director General informed the Commission that the detail of Members’ expenses had now been considered by MLAs and it was intended that final checks on the figures would be undertaken this week with a view to setting a date for public release. The Clerk/Director General advised that the information would be released in PDF format. The Commission approved the Clerk/Director General’s proposal and further agreed that the details of Members’ expenses that were now deceased would not be published. The Commission confirmed that an embargoed release should be issued in advance through the Stormont Correspondents Group.
Mr Moutray joined the meeting.
5. COMMISSION REPORT ON PAY, PENSIONS AND FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR MEMBERS
5.1 The Clerk/Director General provided Members with a background in relation to the development of the Commission’s draft report on Pay, Pensions and Financial Support for Members of the Assembly. The Clerk/Director General informed Members that following discussions with Party Leaders on the draft report, a number of issues were raised by Parties. He confirmed that the report had been amended to include revised recommendations in relation to areas where there was cross party consensus.
5.2 The Commission considered each of the recommendations made within the report in detail and sought clarification on a number of matters. It was agreed that further consultation would be undertaken with a view to agreeing the way forward and that a further meeting would be arranged for the Commission to consider a further draft of the report.
5.3 It was further agreed that consideration should also be given to the recommendations within the report by Committee on Standards in Public Life which is due for publication on 4 November 2009.
The Commission meeting was adjourned at 7pm for 12 minutes to allow Members an opportunity to participate in a Division.
6. ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Publication of Members Expenses
Mr Moutray highlighted that he had received concerns from his party colleagues in relation to the accuracy of some detail provided during the consultation with Members. The Director of Resources explained that the purpose of consultation was to ensure accuracy and undertook to review the specific figures to ensure accuracy. The Commission acknowledged the amount of work undertaken to bring forward the publication date and paid tribute to the staff within the Assembly Finance Office.
Door Signage Issue
Mr Moutray sought clarification of the policy for displaying material on internal doors in Parliament Buildings.
Office TV Quality
Mr Moutray reported that he had received complaints from colleagues in relation to the image quality on televisions within Parliament Buildings. The Director of Resources informed the Commission that a business case had been developed to replace the existing system and that a tender process was underway to address the distribution of the TV signal throughout the building.
Rev Coulter sought further clarity in relation to the provision of ‘firewall security’ within the IT equipment used by Members. The Director of Resources provided an update on the current provisions and highlighted that the project team set up to look at information security would also consider this matter.
Access to Upper Car Park
Rev Coulter sought further clarification in relation to the level of access to the upper car park on sitting days. The Clerk/Director General agreed to explore the matter and report back to an early meeting.
7. DATE OF NEXT MEETING
The next meeting of the Assembly Commission to be confirmed.
The meeting ended at 7.45pm