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Present: Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (Chairperson)
Mervyn Storey MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Roy Beggs MLA
Dr Stephen Farry MLA
Simon Hamilton MLA
Fra McCann MLA
Jennifer McCann MLA
Adrian McQuillan MLA
Declan O’Loan MLA
Peter Weir MLA

In Attendance: Alan Patterson (Principal Clerk)
Shane McAteer (Assembly Clerk)
Vivien Ireland (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Colin Jones (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Paul Woods (Clerical Supervisor)
Mary Thompson (Clerical Officer)
Dr Peter Gilleece (Assembly Research)

Apologies: Dawn Purvis MLA

The meeting commenced at 10.01am in open session.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Draft Minutes of Proceedings 6 June 2007

Agreed for publication on the Assembly website.

3. Matters Arising

Members noted that, as agreed at the last meeting, the Clerk had written to a range of organisations and individuals who had contributed to the work of the economic sub-group to invite views on the fiscal issues to be considered by the Committee for inclusion in its submission to the Varney Review. The Economic Research Institute of Northern Ireland (ERINI) and the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) had already confirmed that they would respond to the Committee’s invitation.

The respective statutory committees for Enterprise, Trade and Investment; Employment and Learning and Education had also been informed of the approach to the review agreed by the Committee for Finance and Personnel. The Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment had agreed to share its draft submission with this Committee and, whilst the Committee for Employment and Learning had not yet decided whether it would be responding to the Review, it may also share any response, prior to submitting it to the Varney Review.

Mr Weir joined the meeting at 10.06am.

Members also noted a response from Professor Richard Harris in relation to his research on Assessing the Case for Higher R&D Tax Credits.

4. DFP Briefing on the Varney Review and Draft Regional Economic Strategy

The Committee was briefed by the following DFP officials on the Department’s approach to the Varney Review and on the implementation of the draft Regional Economic Strategy: Leo O’Reilly, Budget Director, Central Finance Group; Michael Brennan, Head of Strategic Policy Division; and Peter Jakobsen, Strategic Policy Division.

Members noted a DFP paper setting out the draft structure of the proposed submission by DFP to the Varney Review. It was also noted that the Department would await the outcome of the Varney Review, currently due in September, before finalising the Regional Economic Strategy.

Agreed that a summary of any responses received by the Committee will be prepared by the Committee secretariat for tabling at next week’s meeting.

Agreed that the Clerk will request that a further draft of the Department’s submission be provided to the Committee after consideration by the Minister.

5. Assembly Research Briefing on Workplace 2010

Dr Farry joined the meeting at 11.02am.

The Committee was briefed by Assembly Research on its potential approach to scrutinising Workplace 2010.
Agreed that the Clerk will ask DFP to provide urgently the information requested following the last meeting and to provide further information in time for the next meeting on 20 June.

Agreed that officials from the Northern Ireland Audit Office should be invited to brief the Committee on their experience of PFI projects and that written submissions should be requested from the National Audit Office and the Office of Government Commerce.

Agreed that officials from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency should be invited to the next meeting to brief the Committee on the Health Check Review which they carried out on Clare House.

Agreed that the views of the Northern Ireland Court Service should be sought on its experiences of managing the Laganside Courts PFI contract.

6. Briefing on Domestic Rating Policy Review Terms of Reference

The Committee was briefed by the following DFP officials on the Terms of Reference for the Domestic Rating Policy Review: Leo O’Reilly, Budget Director, Central Finance Group; Brian McClure, Head of Rating Policy Division; and Patrick Neeson, Rating Policy Division.

The officials agreed to provide the Committee with any research which the Department might commission into the feasibility of a tax on land value which was listed as a potential option in the Terms of Reference.

Mr Storey left the meeting at 11.50am.
Mr Weir left the meeting at 11.55am.

Agreed that Assembly Research would provide a paper for the next meeting assessing the longer-term Strand Two options contained in the Terms of Reference and that a draft response to the Minister would then be prepared for consideration at the meeting on 27 June.

Agreed that the Committee was content with the range of issues in the Terms of Reference to be covered under Strand One of the Review.

7. Draft Press Release

Agreed that the press release should be issued.

8. Any Other Business

Agreed that the current draft of the committee work programme should be published on the website.

It was noted that next week’s meeting may need to continue into the afternoon.

Agreed that the Committee Secretariat would inform members as soon as possible on potential timings for next week’s meeting.

Members noted that the informal briefing on the annual budget process would be completed today once the formal business was adjourned.

9. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting

The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, 20 June 2007 at 10.00am in Room 152 Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.12pm.

Michel McLaughlin, Chairperson,
Committee for Finance and Personnel.
20 June 2007.

6 June 2007 / Menu / 20 June 2007