Minutes of Proceedings
Thursday, 21 February 2008
ROOM 135, PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS
Mr Gregory Campbell (Chairperson)
Mr David Hilditch (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Mickey Brady MLA
Mr Thomas Burns MLA
Mr Jonathan Craig MLA
Ms Anna Lo MLA
Mr Alban Maginness MLA
Mr Fra McCann MLA
Mrs Claire McGill MLA
Miss Michelle McIlveen MLA
Mr Martin Wilson (Principal Clerk)
Ms Marie Austin (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Neil Currie (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mrs Joy Hamilton (Clerical Supervisor)
Mrs Lorraine McFarland (Clerical Officer)
Mr Fred Cobain MLA
The meeting opened at 10.38am in public session.
Apologies are detailed above.
i. The Chairperson informed Members that on 20 February 2008, Mr Hilditch (Deputy Chairperson), Mr Brady and Mr McCann met with Mr Richard Corden,Interim Chief Executive of the Commission for the Compact, to discuss issues relating to the Compact and how the Commission operates in England.
ii. The Chairperson informed Members that he would speak as Committee
Chairperson during the debate on the legislative consent motion for the Pensions
Bill, scheduled for plenary on 26 February 2008.
Draft minutes of the meeting held on 14 February 2008
Agreed – The draft minutes were agreed.
The Chairperson confirmed that Research had been commissioned to identify areas where innovative methods had been employed to tackle social/affordability housing issues. Research had also been commissioned on the impact the implementation of a procurement strategy has had in other jurisdictions on the construction industry, and in particular, standards of construction.
ii. Conference on ‘Meeting Northern Ireland’s Housing Needs’
Ms Lo indicated that she wished to attend the conference on ‘Meeting Northern Ireland’s Housing Needs’ to be held on 5 March 2008.
Publicity for informal reception on 21 February 2008
Agreed – The Committee agreed a press release in relation to the informal reception for various groups to be held on 21 February 2008. The Committee was content for a photographer to be in attendance at the reception, and for photographs to be sent to the local papers.
The Committee wished to record its thanks to Committee staff for all the work that had gone into the preparation of briefing papers and arrangements for the informal reception.
Briefing by Minister Margaret Ritchie on the Budget allocation and Programme
for Government and Investment Strategy
Minister Margaret Ritchie joined the meeting at 10.45am, accompanied by the following officials:
Barney McGahan – Deputy Secretary, Resources, Housing and Social Security Group
John McGrath – Deputy Secretary, Urban Regeneration & Community Development Group.
The Minister briefed the Committee on the Budget allocation for the Department for Social Development, the Programme for Government and the Investment Strategy. This was followed by a question and answer session.
Mr Hilditch joined the meeting at 10.59am.
Mrs Magill joined the meeting at 11.00am.
The Minister informed the Committee that she would be making a statement in plenary
on 26 February 2008, regarding the outcome of the Affordability Review. At the
Chairperson’s request, the Minister agreed to meet with the Chairperson, Deputy
Chairperson and the Clerk in advance of making the statement.
The Chairperson expressed concern that the Minister had not responded to his letter of
17 January 2008, in which the Committee had requested an urgent meeting with the
Minister to discuss the Committee’s concerns in relation to the proposed Local Housing Allowance regulations. The Minister confirmed that she was content to brief the
Committee on this matter at a future meeting.
The Minister was made aware of Members’ concerns in relation to the Northern Ireland
Housing Executive budget for maintenance, emergency repairs and change of tenancy repairs. The Chairperson informed the Minister that he would write to her in relation to this matter.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister and officials for the informative briefing.
The Minister and officials left the meeting at 11.28am.
Agreed – Members agreed to send to the Clerk, by close of play on 22 February 2008, any correspondence with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive or other information relevant to this matter. The information received would be forwarded to the Minister.
Committee Stage of the Charities Bill – evidence session
The following representatives from the Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland joined the meeting at 11.29am:
Karen Jardine – Public Affairs and Development Officer
Rev Norman Hamilton – Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland Member.
The representatives gave oral evidence on the Charities Bill. This was followed by a question and answer session.
The Chairperson thanked the representatives for the oral evidence.
The representatives left the meeting at 11.49am.
Mr Maginness left the meeting at 11.49am.
Committee Stage of the Charities Bill – possible evidence sessions
Agreed – It was agreed to invite representatives from all the religious groups that had submitted written evidence specifically in relation to Designated Religious Charity Status to give oral evidence on the Charities Bill.
Statutory Rule laid in the Assembly
The Committee considered the following Statutory Rule which is subject to negative resolution and has been laid in the Assembly:
SR 2008/45 – The Social Security (Industrial Injuries) (Prescribed Diseases) (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2008
Question put and agreed:
“That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule 2008
No. 45 The Social Security (Industrial Injuries) (Prescribed Diseases) (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2008 and has no objection to the Rule.”
Mr Maginness rejoined the meeting at 11.54am.
Review of District Council Drinking in Public Bye-Laws
The Committee considered correspondence from the Minister in relation to the Review
of District Council Drinking in Public Bye-Laws.
Mr Burns left the meeting at 11.58am.
The Committee noted:
i. the relevant extract from the report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the draft Criminal
Justice (NI) Order 2007;
ii. the outcome of the public consultation;
iii. Minister Ritchie’s comments on the underpinning policy; and
iv. that the draft Criminal Justice (NI) Order 2007 was likely to be laid in Parliament in
early March 2008.
Agreed – Torevisit this matter in 12 months time.To copy the correspondence to former Members of the Ad Hoc Committee on the draft Criminal Justice (NI) Order 2007 .
i. The Committee considered the Minister’s response to its request for clarification of the difference between affordable housing and social housing.
Agreed – To write to the Minister requesting further clarification on this matter, and to seek confirmation that, subject to Executive approval, the affordable housing definition, as outlined in the Minister’s response to the Semple recommendations, would apply to all housing developments from April 2008.
ii. The Committee noted the letter that the Minister had sent to the Chairperson of the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development in relation to its Inquiry into Renewable Energy/Alternative Land Use.
iii. The Committee noted the response from the Department to its request for information on the training to be undertaken by staff in the Social Security Agency who will administer the proposed Employment and Support Allowance.
iv. The Committee considered a letter from the Chairperson of the Committee for Employment and Learning in relation to the proposed Employment and Support Allowance regulations.
Agreed – To forward the letter to the Department for Social Development.
v. The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for Employment and Learning regarding its visit to the Magherafelt Jobs and Benefits Office on 5 March 2008.
Agreed – To forward a letter from the Chairperson of the Committee for Employment and Learning to Minister Ritchie in relation to the visit.
vi. The Committee received details of a conference to be hosted by the Chartered Institute of Housing NI on ‘Developer Contributions in Housing: Panacea or Pandora’s Box?’ to be held in the Stormont Hotel on 9 April 2008. The organisers had asked that a Member of the Committee speak at the conference to outline the Committee’s perspective on developer contributions.
Agreed – As t he Committee had not discussed the issue of developer contributions in depth, it was agreed that it would not be appropriate for a Member to speak at the conference on behalf of the Committee.
The Chairperson asked that Members wishing to attend the conference should
contact the Clerk by 28 February 2008.
vii. The Committee considered correspondence from the Organisation of the Unemployed:
Northern Ireland (OUNI) regarding its funding difficulties.
Agreed – To forward the correspondence to the Department for comment and advise OUNI accordingly.
viii. The Committee considered correspondence from Citizens Advice requesting to brief the Committee on various social policy areas.
Agreed – To invite representatives of Citizens Advice to an informal reception to be hosted by the Committee in Parliament Buildings.
Forward Work Programme
The Committee noted the Forward Work Programme.
Any other business
Date, time and place of next meeting
The next meeting will be held on Thursday, 28 February 2008 at 10.30am in Room 135, Parliament Buildings.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.08pm.