COMMITTEE FOR FINANCE AND PERSONNEL
Minutes of Proceedings
Wednesday, 03 December 2008
Room 152, Parliament Buildings
Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (Chairperson)
Dr Stephen Farry MLA
Fra McCann MLA
Jennifer McCann MLA
David McNarry MLA
Adrian McQuillan MLA
Declan O’Loan MLA
Ian Paisley Jnr MLA
Dawn Purvis MLA
Peter Weir MLA
Shane McAteer (Assembly Clerk)
Colin Jones (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Vivien Ireland (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Paula Sandford (Clerical Supervisor)
Chris McCreery (Clerical Officer)
Apologies: Simon Hamilton MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
The meeting commenced at 10.10 am in open session.
Apologies are detailed above.
Agreed: that the Committee will send best wishes to Mr Hamilton and his wife on the birth of their son.
Agreed: that the evidence session with Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) officials on Bonus Awards to Senior Civil Servants will be recorded by Hansard and the finalised transcript will be published on the website.
Members noted that the evidence from DFP officials on the Presumption of Death Bill will be recorded by Hansard as it forms part of the Committee Stage of the Bill.
2. Draft Minutes of Proceedings of 26 November 2008
Agreed: for publication on the Assembly website.
3. Matters Arising
The Committee noted the outstanding requests for information from DFP.
Members noted a paper from the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) and the fact that the BBA had offered to represent Northern Ireland’s local banks in briefing the Committee on 28 th January 2009.
Agreed: that correspondence will issue to the four main banks, outlining the Committee’s concern at their apparent reluctance to meet urgently with the Committee.
Agreed: that a Committee press release will be issued on this matter today.
Agreed: that staff will determine which bank is used by the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Members noted that the Consumer Council had agreed to the Committee’s request to brief members on 10 December on the role of the local banks in the current economic downturn.
Agreed: that the BBA paper will be forwarded to the Consumer Council for comment.
Members noted that the Deputy Chairperson was to have addressed the Northern Ireland Government Affairs Group (NIGAG) this evening on the current and future issues being addressed by the Committee, but was now unable to attend.
Agreed: that apologies will be sent to NIGAG.
Mr Weir joined the meeting at 10.26 am.
Mr Paisley Jnr joined the meeting at 10.28 am.
Mr McQuillan joined the meeting at 10.29 am.
4. Bonus Awards to Senior Civil Servants: Evidence from DFP
The Committee took evidence from Derek Baker, Director of Personnel for the Northern Ireland Civil Service, DFP and John McKernan, Head of Pay and Grading Unit, DFP. The session was recorded by Hansard.
Agreed: that the DFP officials will provide a written response to issues identified during the session which require further clarification and will provide details of bonuses paid to senior civil servants in 2008 by the end of December 2008.
Agreed: that a draft letter to the Minister, setting out the Committee’s concerns in this area and identifying possible options for taking this forward, will be considered at next week’s meeting.
Mr McNarry left the meeting at 11.38 am.
5. Presumption of Death Bill Committee Stage: Consideration of Issues Arising from Evidence: Evidence from DFP
The Committee took evidence from Neil Lambe, Principal Legal Officer, Civil Law Reform Division, Departmental Solicitor's Office, DFP and Oswyn Paulin, Departmental Solicitor and Head of Government Legal Service, DFP. The session was recorded by Hansard.
Mr McQuillan left the meeting at 12.04 pm.
Agreed: that the DFP officials will provide a written response to issues identified during the session which require further clarification, by the morning of 8 December 2008.
Dr Farry left the meeting at 12.22 pm.
6. Subordinate Legislation
The Committee considered a DFP proposal to make subordinate legislation in relation to the Rates (Social Sector Value) (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2008.
Agreed: that the Committee is content with the policy implications of the proposed legislation at this stage.
The Committee noted the following correspondence:
- DFP: Executive Summary of Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment Report on the Assessment of the Potential for Bioenergy Development in Northern Ireland;
Agreed: that the Committee will write to the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment to acknowledge the positive findings in the Report;
- Carson McDowell Solicitors: Projects Update Bulletin including an Examination of Recent Public Procurement Cases;
Mr Paisley Jnr declared an interest as the firm were currently his solicitors.
Agreed: that the firm was a potential witness for the Committee’s current Inquiry into Public Procurement Practice in Northern Ireland;
- DFP: Response to Process for Paying Suppliers;
- DFP: October 2008 Forecast Outturn Data;
Agreed: that clarification will be sought on the figures relating to DFP;
- DFP: Cost and Details of Research and Consultation for NI Direct;
Mr McQuillan joined the meeting at 12.30 pm.
Dr Farry joined the meeting at 12.30 pm.
- Committee on Procedures: Details and Terms of Reference for Inquiry into Assembly Questions;
Agreed: that this will be forwarded to DFP as requested;
- DFP: Details on EC INSPIRE Directive;
Agreed: that clarification will be sought from DFP as to which other departments have an interest in this Directive and that the information will then be forwarded to the relevant statutory committees for comment;
- DFP: Response to Committee for Employment and Learning on the Downturn in the Construction Industry ; and
Mr McNarry joined the meeting at 12.36 pm.
- DFP: Rating Debt Arising from Rate Arrears.
Mr Weir declared an interest as Vice-President of the Northern Ireland Local Government Association.
8. Implications for Northern Ireland of the Chancellor’s Pre-Budget Report
Members considered a DFP paper on the implications of the Chancellor’s Pre-Budget Report for Northern Ireland.
Agreed: that the Committee will write to DFP seeking clarification on the press coverage of the First Minister’s statement on future efficiency targets for Northern Ireland departments.
Mr Paisley and Ms Purvis left the meeting at 12.50pm.
The Chairperson suspended the meeting at 12.50pm.
The meeting resumed at 1.00pm in closed session in Room 135, Parliament Buildings.
9. Consideration of Committee Submission on Strategic Stocktake
Members noted that the Committee’s draft submission to the Executive’s Strategic Stocktake needed to be agreed today as the Executive was to consider the Stocktake at its meeting on 11 December 2008.
Agreed: that the Committee’s submission will be published as a Report to the Assembly to inform all Assembly Members, in advance of the Minister’s statement on the outcome of the Stocktake in January 2009 and the Committee’s motion for a subsequent plenary debate.
Members considered the Committee’s draft submission to the Executive’s Strategic Stocktake on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis, as follows:
Agreed: that paragraphs 1-5 stand part of the Report.
Agreed: that paragraphs 6-11 stand part of the Report.
Agreed: that paragraphs 12-18 stand part of the Report.
Agreed: that paragraphs 19-25 stand part of the Report.
Agreed: that paragraphs 26-31 stand part of the Report.
Agreed: that paragraphs 32-34 stand part of the Report.
Agreed: that paragraphs 35-39 stand part of the Report.
Agreed: that paragraphs 40-46 stand part of the Report.
Agreed: that paragraphs 47-56 stand part of the Report.
Agreed: that paragraphs 57-66 stand part of the Report.
Agreed: that paragraphs 67-68 stand part of the Report.
Agreed: that the draft Executive Summary stands part of the report.
Agreed: that the appendices stand part of the Report.
Agreed: that the Report be the Second Report of the Committee for Finance and Personnel to the Assembly for session 2008/09.
Agreed: that the Report on the Committee for Finance and Personnel’s submission to the Executive’s Strategic Stocktake be printed.
Members noted that a typescript copy of the Report will issue to DFP by the end of the week, in line with normal protocol. The Report will be published shortly thereafter and copies issued to all MLAs.
10. Committee Work Programme
Members considered the current draft of the Committee work programme until Christmas recess.
Agreed: that the programme will be published on the website.
Members noted that a draft programme form January 2009 onwards will be considered at the next meeting.
11. Any Other Business
Agreed: that staff will determine whether DFP has any responsibility for the Access NI programme and, if so, request a written update on progress.
12. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting
The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, 10 December 2008 at 10.00 am in Room 152, Parliament Buildings.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.27pm.