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Minutes of Proceedings
WEDNESDAY, 2 July 2008
Room 152, Parliament Buildings

Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (Chairperson)
Simon Hamilton MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Roy Beggs MLA
Dr Stephen Farry MLA
Jennifer McCann MLA
Adrian McQuillan MLA
Declan O’Loan MLA
Ian Paisley Jnr MLA
Dawn Purvis MLA
Peter Weir MLA

In Attendance:
Shane McAteer (Assembly Clerk)
Vivien Ireland (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Colin Jones (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Paula Sandford (Clerical Supervisor)
Chris McCreery (Clerical Officer)
Claire Cassidy (Assembly Research)

Fra McCann MLA

The meeting commenced at 10.00 am in open session.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above. Members expressed their condolences in respect of Mr McCann’s bereavement.

2. Draft Minutes of Proceedings of 25 June 2008

Agreed: for publication on the Assembly website.

3. Matters Arising

Ms Purvis joined the meeting at 10.03 am.

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

The Committee considered the DFP paper on bonus payments made to senior civil servants in 2007/08.

Agreed : that the Committee was content at this stage with the information provided.

As agreed at last week’s meeting, members gave further consideration to the scrutiny of individual departmental efficiency plans and their potential impact on frontline services, together with correspondence from the Committee for Social Development, on the efficiency scrutiny of public sector delivery by the voluntary and community sector.

Agreed: that the correspondence from the Committee for Social Development will be forwarded to the Minister of Finance and Personnel as requested.

Agreed: that the Committee will also write to the Minister, expressing broader concerns at the potential for departmental efficiency plans to adversely affect service delivery and seeking assurances from the Minister on his Department’s role in monitoring this situation. The correspondence will be approved by the Chairperson and forwarded to members for information during recess.

Mr Paisley joined the meeting at 10.10 am.

The Chairperson informed members that Mr Paisley had replaced Mr Storey on the Committee. He welcomed Mr Paisley to his first meeting and paid tribute to Mr Storey’s contribution to the work of the Committee.

Mr Paisley Jnr referred to his entry in the Register of Members’ Interests as follows:

Remunerated employment, office, profession etc.

- Assistant to Dr Ian Paisley MP, MLA.

Sponsorship or financial support as an Assembly candidate

- Democratic Unionist Party

Gifts, benefits and hospitality ( UK)

- Attendance at 2006 Ryder Cup at the K Club, Co. Kildare as a guest of Ryder Cup Europe Ltd.

Overseas Visits

- March 2007, Policing Board visit to the USA.

- 14 – 25 August 2007 – Visit to China with Chinese Business Community Leaders. Partly funded by Mr Paisley.

- 5- 7 September 2007 – Visit to Zurich with, and funded by, IWC Company.

- 5 – 12 April 2007 – Visit to USA funded by Titanic Quarter.

Unremunerated Interests

- Member of NI Police Board.

Members noted DFP’s response to queries raised by the Committee during the briefing from DFP officials on the Maze/Long Kesh regeneration site.

4. DFP Briefing on Public Consultations on Amendments to Domestic Rating System

The Committee was briefed by Brian McClure and Veronica Holland, Rating Policy Division, DFP on the six public consultations currently ongoing in relation to proposed changes to the domestic rating system.

Mr Weir and Dr Farry declared their interest as members of North Down Borough Council.

Mr Weir left the meeting at 10.35 am.
Mr Weir joined the meeting at 10.50 am.
Dr Farry left the meeting at 10.57 am.
Ms Purvis left the meeting at 10.58 am.

Agreed: that DFP officials will forward the equality impact assessment report on the proposal to lower the maximum cap and will update the Committee by the end of September 2008, on the issues arising from the various consultations.

5. Assembly Research Briefing on Civil Registration Bill – Committee Stage

The Committee was briefed by Assembly Research on the Civil Registration Bill.

Agreed: a notice for publication in the press, drawing attention to the Committee Stage of the Bill and seeking submissions by 20 August 2008.

Agreed: an initial draft timetable for the Committee Stage of the Bill.

Agreed: a list of key stakeholders to be contacted directly and asked to make a submission on the Bill.

Mr Paisley left the meeting at 11.26 am.

6. Inquiry into the Role of the Northern Ireland Assembly in Scrutinising the Executive’s Budget and Expenditure

Members noted that DFP officials planned to review the Executive’s Budget process and report to the Minister by the end of October 2008. Members considered the terms of reference for DFP’s Review and noted that it will cover many areas which the Committee’s Inquiry may otherwise have examined.

Members considered a revised terms of reference for the Committee’s Inquiry, which would contribute to and complement DFP’s review and focus on the Budget process from the Assembly’s perspective.

Agreed: revised terms of reference for the Committee’s Inquiry.

Agreed: that, as DFP will engage with key stakeholders as part of its Review and as the Committee’s main focus will be on internal processes within the Assembly, the Committee will not seek external evidence from the public at this stage.

Agreed: that Assembly Research will be asked to provide a paper on the budgetary processes in other applicable legislatures, with a particular focus on the Scottish Parliament, where the Finance Committee is currently carrying out an Inquiry on this subject area.

Agreed: that the views of the other statutory committees will be sought in relation to the Committee’s Inquiry.

7. Correspondence

The Committee noted the following correspondence:

Mr Paisley joined the meeting at 11.37 am.

8. Draft NICS Employment, Equality and Diversity Plan – DFP Briefing

Ms McCann joined the meeting at 11.43 am.

The Committee was briefed by John McKervill, Head of Resourcing Division, Central Personnel Group, DFP and Sonja Kilpatrick, Equal Opportunities Unit, Central Personnel Group, DFP.

9. Committee Work Programme

Members considered the draft Committee work programme from September 2008.
Agreed: that the new Minister for Finance and Personnel will be invited to brief the Committee on the priorities for his Department.
Agreed: that the work programme will be published on the Assembly website.

10. Any Other Business

Members considered the outcomes from a recent meeting between local political representatives and members of the local construction industry to discuss current problems facing the industry. It was noted that an Assembly All-Party Group may be set up to consider these issues.

Agreed: that information will be sought from DFP on its role as the sponsoring Department for the construction industry. The Committee will also draw the Department’s attention to the problems caused for the construction industry from imbalanced capital expenditure patterns in 2007/08 and the lack of information on the rollout of the Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland. Clarification will also be sought on whether DFP has any remit to influence the role of financial institutions in Northern Ireland.

Mr McQuillan joined the meeting at 12.14pm.

11. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting

The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, 10 September 2008 at 10.00 am in Room 152, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.15 pm.

Mitchel McLaughlin, Chairperson,
Committee for Finance and Personnel.
10 September 2008

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