MINUTES OF THE FIRST MEETING OF THE ASSEMBLY COMMISSION
HELD ON 17 MAY 2007
AT 10.30AM IN ROOM 106
Mr Stephen Moutray
Mr Paul Butler
Rev Robert Coulter
Mr Alban Maginness
Mr Sean Neeson
In Attendance: Mr A Moir, Mr T Logue, Mr T Evans, Mr R Good, Ms C McGowan, and Ms C Foster.
The Speaker welcomed Members to the first meeting of the Assembly Commission following restoration and expressed his appreciation for the work the group had progressed during the period of the Transitional Assembly. He added that he was happy to take up the position of Chair and stated that he was looking forward to working with the Members.
1. MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING
The minutes of the last meeting of the Commission for the Transitional Assembly held on 03 May 2007 were agreed.
2. MATTERS ARISING
2.1 Accommodation Arrangements for Committee Chairpersons
Mr Evans explained that work in this area was nearing completion and agreed to table a status report at the next Commission meeting.
2.2 Review of Security
Mr Evans informed members that an update report on the review of security and draft SLA between the Assembly and PSNI would be tabled at the next Commission meeting. He also advised of progress to date on the purchase of a remote search facility. Other areas of note were:
- upgrading of the PA system to provide an evacuation signal;
- control room management upgrade; and
- some general improvements to the perimeter of Parliament Buildings .
Mr Maginness congratulated the Deputy Chief Executive and his team for providing an effective and efficient security service on the 8 May.
2.3 Review Body on Senior Salaries (SSRB)
Mr Logue referred to the Secretary of State’s recent correspondence with the Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB) and the determination that uplifted Members’ Office Costs Allowances (OCAs). The Clerk to the Commission outlined the procedures for initiating a further review. Mr Butler raised Sinn Fein’s concerns about any increase in Members’ salaries, so early in the mandate. Mr Evans tabled a salaries comparator with other UK Parliaments. It was agreed to provide a draft terms of reference and timeframe for engaging with SSRB at the next Commission meeting.
3. ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE NI ASSEMBLY COMMISSION
3.1 Professional Development: Criteria Based Interviewing
Members were provided with a document setting out the roles and responsibilities of Commission members. Mr Logue talked to the paper and highlighted the importance of Equal Opportunities training for the Commission in their role as panel members for posts at Director level and above. It was agreed that the Clerk to the Commission should source criterion based interview training for Members.
3.2 On Board Training
Mr Logue discussed the role of Commission members in the development of policy and strategic issues. Members agreed that Mr Logue should source Corporate Governance training for the Commission and bring back a proposal for an away day to examine policy and strategic matters.
3.3 Portfolio Arrangements
Mr Logue explained the system adopted by the Commission in the last mandate for ‘shadowing’ Directorates. The Speaker then proposed the following arrangements:
Mr Moutray - Finance (including services to members)
Mr Neeson - Keeper of the House directorate
Rev Coulter - Information Technology
Mr Maginness - Personnel
Mr Butler - Research and Information
Mr Logue agreed to meet with individual Members to embed portfolio arrangements.
4. MONTHLY REPORT FROM THE CLERK
Mr Moir presented his Monthly Report which covered a number of areas including finance, recruitment, staffing, TUS relations, Plenary, events/visits and business planning. Several areas were highlighted, namely:
Education programme - the difficulties in accommodating educational visits was raised. Members agreed to seek Party views on the proposal to utilise Party-meeting rooms to facilitate educational visits
FOI - The Clerk agreed to provide the source of FOI requests in future reports;
Corporate Plan - A report on performance against targets to be presented at a Commission meeting in advance of Summer Recess.
5. IT REFRESH
Mr Evans informed the team that the IT refresh project was now at the contract award stage and highlighted the 10% saving on the original estimate. Rev Coulter reported that that one week delay in roll-out had been caused by the volume of equipment required. Members agreed to move to immediate award of contract and commended the pilot exercise . Following an enquiry by a Member, Mr Evans agreed to explore the suitability of providing power points for laptops in Party rooms.
6. EQUAL PAY / STARTING PAY POLICY
Mr Moir talked to a paper outlining the current policy on starting pay for Secretariat staff. The paper recommended some revisions to the current arrangements. Following discussion, Mr Moir agreed to provide more information on the legal implications of implementing the revised policy. Mr Evans also agreed to provide current salary scales to the team and to speak to Members separately in advance of the next Commission meeting.
7. ANY OTHER BUSINESS
7.1.1 The Media - The Speaker confirmed that he has agreed to meet with members of the media to discuss how the Assembly might best interface with them. Problems with Press access to Internet facilities was also raised. Mr Evans to consider this issue.
Mr Maginness left the meeting at 11:05 am
7.1.2 Presentation by Mr Ian McNicoll (Scottish Parliament) - Mr McNicoll will present the Scottish Parliament’s experience on their separation project at the next meeting of the Assembly Commission.
7.1.3 Canadian Senate delegation visit to Belfast - The Speaker informed Members that he had formally invited a delegation from the Canadian Senate to visit the Assembly. Mr Logue provided Members with details of an evening event when Members would have the opportunity to meet the delegation.
7.1.4 Pension Trustees - Members nominated Pension Trustees.
7.1.5 The British/Irish Council - Speaker drew Members’ attention to a paper containing information about a British/Irish summit.
7.1.6 Business Cards for MLAs - Mr Evans to investigate the delay in the availability of ivory business cards for MLAs.
7.1.7 Sound System and Heating in Parliament Buildings - Members raised the issue of poor acoustics within the Chamber during plenary sittings. The issue of heating was also raised. Mr Evans agreed to investigate both issues and come back to an early Commission meeting with proposals.
It was agreed that future Assembly Commission meetings would be held fortnightly at 10:00 am
It was further agreed that minutes of Assembly Commission meetings would be published on the Assembly’s website.
8. Date of Next Meeting
The next meeting of the Assembly Commission will be held on Thursday 24 May 2007 at 11:30 am in Room 106. This will be an informal meeting to meet with staff from the Personnel Directorate of the Scottish Parliament.
The meeting ended at 11.15 am.
Clerk to the Assembly Commission