MINUTES OF THE FIFTY SECOND MEETING OF THE ASSEMBLY COMMISSION HELD ON TUESDAY 1 DECEMBER 2009 AT 1.15PM IN ROOM 106
Mr Stephen Moutray
Mr Pat Doherty
Rev Robert Coulter
Mrs Carmel Hanna
Mr Sean Neeson
In Attendance: Mr T Reaney, Mr T Logue, Ms Frances Lenaghan, Mr J Stewart, Mr R Stewart and Dr G McGrath.
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. COMMISSION REPORT
The Speaker thanked Members for attending the meeting at short notice. He outlined his disappointment surrounding the fact that the motion on the Commission Report on Pay, Pensions and Financial Support was not moved in Plenary on 30 November 2009. However, he highlighted the need to continue to progress the issues set out within the report and outlined a number of possible options for moving forward. The Speaker invited Commission Members views on the situation and on how best to proceed. There was a consensus view that a further meeting with Party Leaders would be helpful and it was agreed that this would be convened. Members confirmed that there was no deficiency in respect of consultation with their respective Parties and were mystified by media coverage. The Clerk/Director General suggested that further consideration might be given to the options on a way forward, at the Commission meeting on 10 December 2009. The Speaker expressed his thanks and appreciation for the work undertaken by Secretariat Staff in preparing the Report.
Mr Stewart and Dr McGrath entered the meeting at 1:25pm.
3. NORTHERN IRELAND ASSEMBLY MEMBERS – DRAFT BILL
The Clerk/Director General provided the Commission with a progress up-date on the passage of the Northern Ireland Assembly Members Draft Bill. He confirmed that it would be having a second reading in the House of Lords today. He confirmed that subject to an uninterrupted passage, it was likely that it would receive Royal Assent prior to the dissolution of the current Westminster Parliament in May 2010. The Speaker stressed the importance of ensuring that this enabling legislation was passed, as it is a pre-requisite for setting up an independent statutory body. He proposed that he would write further to the Minister of State, Paul Goggins, confirming cross-party support for the draft Bill. The Commission agreed that a further letter be sent.
4. ESTABLISHMENT OF AN INDEPENDENT STATUTORY BODY
The Clerk/Director General outlined the process and likely timeline for setting up an Independent Statutory Body, subject to the successful passage of the above Bill. He stressed the point that the Body would have the power to determine salaries, pensions and allowances and that they would then inform the Commission of their decisions which could not be amended at that stage. The decisions of such a body would be binding on the Assembly, without amendment.
5. ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Mr Doherty raised the issue of the North-South Parliamentary Forum and follow-up from the meeting held in Dublin. The Clerk/Director General advised that a meeting of the North South Parliamentary Forum Working Group would be convened following the Commission meeting on 10 December 2009 to progress the approach agreed between the respective working groups.
6. DATE OF NEXT MEETING
The next meeting of the Assembly Commission will be on Thursday 10 December 2009.
The meeting ended at 1.55 pm