MINUTES OF THE THIRTEENTH MEETING OF THE ASSEMBLY COMMISSION HELD ON 29 NOVEMBER 2007 AT 10:30 IN ROOM 106
Mr Stephen Moutray
Rev Robert Coulter
Mr Alban Maginness
Mr Sean Neeson
Mr Paul Butler
Mrs C Devon,
Mr R Good,
Mrs C McGowan,
Ms C Foster,
Mr Rickard was in attendance for item 10.
The Speaker welcomed everyone to the thirteenth meeting and reminded Members that, following the meeting, the Commission would receive a presentation from the Chamber Upgrade Project Steering Group.
MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING
The minutes of the twelfth meeting held on the 14 November 2007 were agreed.
3.1 Draft Letter of Delegation
Following consideration the Commission approved the draft letter of Delegation from the Speaker to the Interim Clerk/Director General. It was agreed that the letter would issue immediately.
The Clerk/DG informed Members that following the approval of the letter of delegation, all functions of the Assembly Commission (although certain exclusions apply) would now be delegated to the Clerk.
3.2 Draft Budget Letter
The Interim Clerk/Director General summarised the content of the draft letter to the second Permanent Secretary in DFP which outlined the process for setting the Assembly’s budget and in particular the Assembly Commission’s role. The Commission endorsed the letter and agreed that it should issue as soon as possible.
Following a query raised by Mr Neeson, the Clerk/DG confirmed that the Assembly Commission is responsible for its own budget and highlighted the mechanism in relation to the release of funds.
The Interim Clerk/Director General explained that, following recent discussions with TUS, a number of changes had been proposed by the TUS to the Whitley Constitution. Members noted the proposals and agreed that the Interim Clerk/DG should aim to agree with the TUS the establishment of a working group to progress this issue, including considering emerging best practice in Management / TUS agreements.
PI BROADCASTING CONTRACT
Members considered a paper proposing the extension of the PI Broadcasting Contract by one year. It was agreed that the current service provider was efficient and that building in a further 12 months before re-tendering would allow time to develop a business case for modifications to the Chamber.
Mr Neeson stressed the need to ensure transparency in the management of all contracts. The Interim Clerk/DG assured the Member that this would happen with the introduction of new strategic business planning process. The Commission agreed to extend the contract by one year but stressed that it wished to initiate a new procurement in 2009, ie with no further extension.
TSO PRINT CONTACT
The Interim Clerk/Director General spoke to a paper in relation to the current contract with The Stationery Office ( TSO) for the provision of printing, publishing and related services. Following discussion the Commission agreed to extend the contract by one year with a full review of printing and publication requirements being undertaken in 2008 to inform a procurement exercise.
DRAFTING SERVICES CONTRACT
Members noted a submission detailing the award of contract for a Bill Drafting Service and endorsed the arrangement as part of the machinery for taking forward non-executive bills. The Speaker recorded his thanks to Mr Maginness in his role as Chairperson in the process.
The Speaker appraised Members that a letter had issued from SSRB to all MLAs inviting submissions for written evidence to SSRB on matters relating to the Review. The Interim Clerk/Director General suggested that the Commission may want to consider giving collective evidence, for example factual papers, budget information. Mr Maginness supported this idea and recommended the group also examine other suggestions, such as:
- the shadowing of Westminster’s salaries and allowances;
- the position of office holders;
- recognition for Statutory Committee Chairs and business managers;
- retirement through ill-health.
Mr Neeson also requested a comparative analysis of current arrangements operating within other legislatures. It was agreed that the Review would also allow the Commission the opportunity to clearly define Office Cost Allowances. The Clerk/DG agreed to produce a paper on the issues raised for consideration at an early meeting of the Commission.
ALLOCATION OF COMPUTERS
Mr Rickard joined the meeting at 11.03am
Mr Rickard spoke to a paper proposing a revision of the PC allocation formula for NI Assembly Parties and Party Support staff. The Commission approved the revised formula.
Mr Butler enquired about enabling remote access for all MLAs to the Assembly’s Intranet site (AssISt). He reported that this worked well in Council area. Mr Rickard agreed to report back to an early Commission meeting.
Mr Maginness left the meeting.
Mr Rickard left the meeting at 11:10 am
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
11.1 Assembly Written Questions:
Members noted current questions requiring a response by the Assembly Commission.
11.2 Concert Proposal:
It was agreed that the Keeper of the House should explore options for hosting a concert at Stormont in the summer of 2008.
11.3 Film Shoot:
The Speaker informed Members of a brief film shoot due to take place on 4/5 December 2007. Members gave their authorisation for the film crew to access part of the Assembly Commission meeting on the 5 December.
11.4 Upper Tier Car Parking:
Mr Neeson raised the issue of the difficulty in getting parked in the Upper Tier car parks on Committee Days and sometimes on Sitting Days. Mr Moutray supported Mr Neeson’s concerns adding that he had raised this issue at an earlier meeting. Rev Coulter also informed Members of certain concerns he had witnessed in relation to inappropriate parking. The Interim Clerk/Director General agreed to report back to an early Commission meeting.
DATE OF NEXT MEETING
The next two meetings will be:
Wednesday 5 December 2007 at 12.30 pm in Room 106; and
Thursday 13 December 2007 at 10:00 am in Room 106.
The Commission spent some time discussing the proposed modifications to the Chamber in advance of the presentation by the Chamber Upgrade Project Steering Group.
Mr Maginness explained that he would be unable to attend the presentation.
The meeting ended at 11:40 am