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Minutes of Proceedings


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

In Attendance:
Shane McAteer (Assembly Clerk)
Vivien Ireland (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Colin Jones (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mary Thompson (Clerical Officer)

Jennifer McCann MLA

The meeting commenced at 10.04 am in open session.

  1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

  1. Draft Minutes of Proceedings 26 September 2007

Agreed: for publication on the Assembly website.

  1. Matters Arising

Members noted the outstanding requests for information from the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP).

Members noted that a briefing from DFP officials on the terms of reference for the review of policy on the location of public sector jobs had been scheduled in the Committee work programme for 24 October 2007.

Members noted the decision of the Business Committee that the debate on the Committee’s motion relating to its report on Workplace 2010 and the Location of Public Sector Jobs had been scheduled for Monday 8 October and had been allocated one hour. Some concern was expressed at the short time allocated for the debate. Initial advice received from the Business Office indicated that the time limit was not flexible.

Agreed: that Committee members will contact party whips to determine whether the time allowed for the debate on Workplace 2010 and the Location of Public Sector Jobs could be extended.
Agreed: that the Deputy Chairperson would make the opening speech during the debate and that the Chairperson would wind.
Agreed: that copies of the special report would be distributed to the Belfast Telegraph; Irish News; News Letter and the Press Association, with an embargo on publication until commencement of the debate.
Agreed: that similarly embargoed copies of the special report would also be distributed to appropriate television channels.
Agreed: that the Chairperson would offer to pre-record interviews with the radio media on Monday morning for use after the plenary debate.

Members noted that the Business Office would issue embargoed copies of the report to all MLAs in the weekly business bundle.

  1. Review of Domestic Rating Reform – Evidence Session with Citizens’ Advice

Agreed : that an Official Report (Hansard) would be made of all the evidence taken by the Committee in relation to its consideration of the domestic rating review and that the finalised transcripts will be published on the Assembly website.

Mr Hamilton joined the meeting at 10.14am.
Mr Storey joined the meeting at 10.14am.

The Committee took evidence from Lucy Cochrane, Information and Policy Officer, Citizens’ Advice. The session was recorded by Hansard.

Ms Purvis joined the meeting at 10.30am.
Mr Beggs left the meeting at 10.50am.

The Committee considered the key issues from the evidence session which could be included in its response to the Minister.

  1. Briefing from DFP on October 2007 Monitoring Round

The Committee was briefed by the following DFP officials on the Department’s submission on the October 2007 Monitoring Round: Chris Thompson, Director of Corporate Services Group and Jim O’Hagan, Finance Director.

Agreed: that follow up questions will be sent to the Department for a written response.

Dr Farry joined the meeting at 11.25am.

  1. Briefing from DFP on Review of Legal Services – Bain Report

Mr Weir declared an interest as a non-practising member of the Bar Library.

The Committee was briefed by the following DFP officials on the current proposals for the regulation of legal services in Northern Ireland: Chris Thompson, Director of Corporate Services Group and Michael Foster, Grade 6, Legal Services Review.

Mr Storey left the meeting at 11.42am.

  1. Committee Work Programme

Members considered the current draft of the Committee work programme until Christmas recess.

Agreed: that the current draft work programme will be published on the Assembly website.

  1. Correspondence

Members noted the following correspondence:

Agreed: that the correspondence will be passed to DFP.

  1. Review of Domestic Rating Reform

Members noted that DFP officials will update the Committee at next week’s meeting and that they will be accompanied by representatives from the University of Ulster, who will brief the Committee on the ongoing research into land value taxation and the rating of vacant domestic properties. In addition, Assembly Research will also brief members on the paper requested on potential international comparators.

Members considered other potential witnesses to be invited to provide oral evidence to the Committee on 10 th and 17 th October.

Agreed: that representatives from the Institute of Revenues Rating and Valuation will be invited to attend on 17 October.
Agreed: that evidence is required from economists, such as John Simpson, Mike Smyth or ERINI, on the longer-term strand two options and that the Clerk will arrange appropriate sessions.

Members noted the submission to the Department’s review from Professor Derek Birrell , Professor of Social Administration & Policy School of Policy Studies, University of Ulster

Agreed: that Professor Birrell will be asked whether he has undertaken any further research in this area which he would be prepared to share with the Committee and whether he would be prepared to provide a written response to any further queries arising from the Committee’s considerations.
Agreed: that University of Ulster officials attending on 10 October will also be asked to brief the Committee on the issue of banding versus individual valuations.
Agreed: that the General Consumer Council will be asked whether it wishes to submit evidence which is additional to that contained in its submission to the recent DFP consultation and, if so, the Committee will consider the possibility of an oral evidence session.

Members were referred to a paper from DFP, containing an initial analysis of the costs and benefits associated with the various options under consideration in the review. Members noted that this information was restricted to the Committee at this stage and considered the Department’s request that discussion on this paper should be held in closed session.

Agreed: that consideration of the DFP paper will be held in closed session.
The meeting continued in closed session at 12.10pm.
Agreed: a draft structure for the Committee response to the Minister.
Agreed: a list of options for which further information will be requested from DFP.
Agreed: that the restricted papers will be returned to Committee staff.

  1. Any Other Business

Members noted DFP press releases relating to the Minister’s recent meeting with Sir Michael Lyons to discuss the rating system and the Minister’s proposal for the creation of a new unit to seek out efficiency savings and ensure delivery throughout the public sector.

Agreed: that a briefing on the proposal for a new efficiency unit will be scheduled during the Committee’s consideration of the draft Budget.

The Chairperson informed members that the Principal Clerk to the Committee, Mr Alan Patterson, had returned to work at the Northern Ireland Office and thanked him for the professionalism and courtesy which he demonstrated in his work for the Committee.

  1. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting

The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, 10 October 2007 at 10.00am in Room 152 Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.40pm.

Mitchel McLaughlin, Chairperson,
Committee for Finance and Personnel.
10 October 2007

26 September 07 / Menu / 10 October 07