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Minutes of Proceedings
Room 152, Parliament Buildings

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

In Attendance:
Shane McAteer (Assembly Clerk)
Colin Jones (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Paula Sandford (Clerical Supervisor)
Chris McCreery (Clerical Officer)
Dr Robert Barry (Assembly Research)

Declan O’Loan MLA

The meeting commenced at 10.03 am in open session.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Draft Minutes of Proceedings of 2 July 2008

Agreed: for publication on the Assembly website.

Agreed : that the evidence from Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) officials on the Department’s response to the Committee Report on the Building Regulations (Amendment) Bill will be covered by Hansard and that DFP’s response will be published on the Assembly website.

3. Matters Arising

The Committee noted the outstanding requests for information from DFP.

The Committee noted DFP’s response to the Committee for Regional Development request on Monitoring Round submissions.

Members considered the Minister of Finance and Personnel’s response to the Committee on the impact of departmental efficiency savings on the delivery of public services.

Agreed: that the Committee was content with this response.

Members considered DFP’s response to the Committee’s request for additional information on several departmental expenditure issues.

Agreed: that the Committee will continue to request monthly forecast outturn data for all departments from DFP, given the Committee’s role in scrutinising strategic cross-departmental underspend patterns, the emphasis on improving financial management in departments and DFP’s lead role in this regard.

Agreed : that the Committee will inform the other statutory committees of the availability of this information from their respective departments.

Members considered the Minister of Finance and Personnel’s response on issues concerning the construction industry in Northern Ireland. Members noted that an application had been submitted to set up an All Party Assembly Group on construction but that this had not been established to date. It was also noted that the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment had taken evidence from a group representing the construction and property industries and had voiced its concerns with the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment.

Agreed: that the Committee will seek an oral briefing from the Construction Industry Forum for Northern Ireland, which is both sponsored and chaired by DFP’s Procurement Directorate.

Members noted DFP’s response on its performance against targets in its business plan for 2007/08.

Members noted several pieces of information received from DFP following the briefing on proposed amendments to the domestic rating system on 25 June 2008.

Agreed: that further information will be sought from DFP on the timing of the next domestic revaluation and how the recent fall in house prices will be factored into this process.

4. Evidence from DFP on its Response to the Committee Report on the Building Regulations (Amendment) Bill

Ms McCann joined the meeting at 10.20 am.

The Committee took evidence from Seamus McCrystal, Head of Building Standards Branch; Hilda Hagan, Properties Division and Gerry McKibbin, Building Regulations Branch, DFP. The session was recorded by Hansard.

5. DFP Briefing on the Department’s September Monitoring Round Position

The Committee was briefed by David Orr, Director of Corporate Services and Deborah McNeilly, Finance Director, DFP.

Agreed: that the DFP officials will provide information requested by the Committee during the briefing session and that any other issues which the Committee wished to raise will be requested in writing.

6. Assembly Research Briefing on the Presumption of Death Bill

The Committee was briefed by Assembly Research on the forthcoming Presumption of Death Bill, which will reach Committee Stage following Second Stage in the Assembly, currently scheduled for 15 September 2008.

Members were briefed by the Assembly’s Bill Office on the procedure for a plenary debate on the Second Stage of a Bill.

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

Agreed: a notice for publication in the press, drawing attention to the Committee Stage of the Bill and seeking submissions by 15 October 2008.

Agreed: that the list of stakeholders identified by Assembly Research will be contacted directly to inform them of the Committee’s consultation on the Bill.

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

The Committee was briefed by Assembly Research on a comparative analysis of budget scrutiny in Northern Ireland and other legislatures.

Agreed: that details will be requested from DFP on the organisations consulted and the questions posed during DFP’s Review of the Budget process.

Agreed: that information will be obtained on the budget available to the Committee for specialist advice.

Agreed: that a paper will be requested from Assembly Research on the key themes emerging from the Scottish Finance Committee’s ongoing review of the budget process in Scotland.

Members noted DFP’s questions on the 2007 budget process, which had been forwarded to the other statutory committees over the summer for a response by 10 October 2008.

Agreed: that members will consider DFP’s questions before formulating a response at a future meeting.

Members considered initial information from DFP on the proposed Budget Stocktake, which will focus on the financial years 2009/10 and 2010/11.

Agreed: that further information will be requested, including on the proposed input from statutory committees and the Assembly.

Mr McCann left the meeting at 12.30 pm.

8. Subordinate Legislation

The Committee considered a DFP proposal for subordinate legislation in relation to the Lands Tribunal (Salaries) Order ( Northern Ireland) 2008.

Agreed: that further information will be requested from DFP.

9. Correspondence

The Committee noted the following correspondence:

Ms McCann left the meeting at 12.42 pm.

10. Committee Work Programme

Members considered the draft Committee work programme from September 2008.

Members noted that submissions had been sought over the summer on the Civil Registration Bill and that, in addition to the Budget Inquiry and various other policy issues which the Committee needed to scrutinise, the Committee Stage of the Presumption of Death Bill was due to commence next week. In addition, the committee had lost the services of one of its assistant clerks for several weeks to cover a vacancy in the Procedures Committee.

Members noted that DFP officials had advised that the Presumption of Death Bill was a priority and that there was no immediate urgency with the Civil Registration Bill.

Agreed: that priority will be given to the Presumption of Death Bill.
Agreed: a draft agenda for the Committee visit to the Metro Building on 1 October 2008.
Agreed: that the briefing from Land and Property Services officials will be postponed until 22 October.
Agreed: that Professor Sir George Bain will brief the Committee on 1 October on the Report on the Review of Public Sector Jobs Location.

Members noted that written submissions from DFP updating the Committee on progress on Workplace 2010 and on Northern Ireland Civil Service back pay had been requested for next week’s meeting.

Agreed: that a further written brief will be requested from DFP on progress on the NI Direct programme.
Agreed: that the work programme will be published on the Assembly website.

11. Any Other Business

Members noted the following:

12. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting

The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, 17 September 2008 at 10.00 am in Room 152, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.53 pm.

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