MINUTES OF THE THIRTY SECOND MEETING OF THE ASSEMBLY COMMISSION HELD ON MONDAY 15 SEPTEMBER AT 1.00PM IN ROOM 106
Mr Stephen Moutray
Mr Paul Butler
Rev Robert Coulter
Mr Alban Maginness
Mr Sean Neeson
In Attendance: Mr T Reaney, Mr J Stewart, Mr G McGrath, Mr S Welch, Mr H Widdis, Mr T Logue, Mr R Good and Ms C McGowan.
- The Speaker welcomed Commission Members to the meeting and explained that the purpose of the meeting was to brief them in relation to the proposed arrangements for the Prime Minister’s visit to Parliament Buildings on Tuesday 16 September.
- The Speaker informed Members that following communication between his Office and the Prime Minister’s Office he had invited the Prime Minister to deliver an address to Members. The Speaker reminded Members of the Commission of discussions in May 2008 regarding the proposed visit to Parliament Buildings of the President of the European Parliament and that any address the President might make to the Members should take place in the Assembly Chamber. The Speaker informed Members that he took the same view in relation to the Prime Minister and emphasised that although convention dictated that it was within his authority to determine how the Chamber is used, he felt it important to obtain the views of the Commission to confirm that they were content with the decisions taken around this visit.
- Mr Maginness acknowledged that authority in relation to the use of the Chamber rested with the Speaker, but expressed reservations in relation to the visit. He informed Members that his party believed that the Northern Ireland Assembly, as an independent legislative body, had had minimal control in relation to the instigation and detail of the visit. He further stated that he felt the proposed address, by the Prime Minister, to Members was inappropriate but held no opinion as to where the address would be made.
- Mr Neeson stated that logistically, the use of the Chamber for the delivery of the address from the Prime Minister made sense and referred to an address by a previous Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in the 1982 Northern Ireland Assembly. Mr Moutray welcomed the opportunity for the Prime Minister to speak to Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Rev Coulter added that the Chamber gave recognition to the Rt Hon Gordon Brown in his position as Prime Minister. Mr Butler confirmed that his party were broadly content with the visit.
- Following a brief further discussion the Commission expressed support, subject to the reservations raised by Mr Maginness, for the Speaker’s decision to invite the Prime Minister to address members in the Assembly Chamber following the plenary on Tuesday 16 September 2008.
- The Clerk/Director General provided the Commission with an update in relation to the logistics and security matters surrounding the visit. He informed the Commission that there would be minimal disruption within the building and to the operation of the Assembly. He informed Members of the proposed timings for the Prime Minister’s address and highlighted the arrangements in relation to access to the public galleries.
- Mr Butler requested further clarity in relation to the arrangements and authority of the PSNI in conducting searches within Parliament Buildings. The Clerk/Director General advised that it was the responsibility of the PSNI to determine security arrangements, including searches, and to provide the necessary ”all clear” for such visits. He stated that there were some aspects of the arrangements that he wished to review, with the PSNI, following the visit.
The meeting ended at 1.25pm