COMMITTEE FOR FINANCE AND PERSONNEL
MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS
7 OCTOBER 2009
ROOM 152, PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS
Mr Peter Weir (Deputy Chairperson)
Dr Stephen Farry MLA
Simon Hamilton MLA
Fra McCann MLA
Mitchel McLaughlin MLA
David McNarry MLA
Adrian McQuillan MLA
Declan O’Loan MLA
Ian Paisley Jr MLA
Dawn Purvis MLA
Shane McAteer (Assembly Clerk)
Kathy O’Hanlon (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Karen Jardine (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
David McKee (Clerical Supervisor)
Kevin Marks (Clerical Officer)
Jennifer McCann MLA (Chairperson)
As notification had been received that the Chairperson would not be present, the Deputy Chairperson took the Chair and commenced the meeting at 10.06 am in open session.
There was one apology as detailed above.
Agreed: that the following evidence session will be recorded by Hansard and the Official Report published on the website: Consultation Responses on Pleural Plaques - Evidence from the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP).
2. Draft Minutes of Proceedings of 30 September 2009
Agreed: that the minutes be published on the Assembly website.
3. Matters Arising
The Committee noted the composite request for information from DFP which provided an update on any matters arising not covered elsewhere on the agenda.
Members noted correspondence from DFP advising that the Minister is not available to brief the Committee as requested on the Revised Departmental Expenditure Plans or to attend the Public Procurement Stakeholder Conference.
Agreed: that DFP officials be requested to give evidence to the Committee on the Revised Departmental Expenditure Plans as soon as possible. The Minister will also be invited to brief the Committee on this issue at the earliest available opportunity.
Agreed: that the Committee will commission a briefing paper from Assembly Research on the issue of efficiency savings by departments, to include the identification of potential expert witnesses.
Mr Hamilton joined the meeting at 10.09am.
Mr McNarry joined the meeting at 10.10am.
Members considered the request from the Ministerial Advisory Group for Architecture and the Built Environment for Northern Ireland (MAG) to present evidence on the Public Procurement Inquiry.
Agreed: that a representative from MAG is invited to attend the Public Procurement Stakeholder Conference.
Members were advised that the Sellafield Ltd Supplier Ombudsman, Zoe Whittle, has indicated that she would be willing to brief the Committee on the role of a supplier ombudsman, as discussed during the evidence session with the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply on 30 September.
Agreed: that Zoe Whittle is invited to attend the Public Procurement Stakeholder Conference. The Committee will also request a briefing paper outlining the role of a supplier ombudsman.
4. Cost of Insurance in NI: Briefing from Consumer Council
The Committee took evidence from Julie Megrath, Head of Money Affairs and Alison Donnelly, Senior Consumer Affairs Officer, Consumer Council.
Agreed: that the Consumer Council representatives will provide information as requested by the Committee during the evidence session.
Members stated that they were keen to further examine the issues raised during the evidence session, but recognised that there is an overlap with the remits of other Assembly committees.
Agreed: that the Clerk will write to the relevant Assembly committees and the Chairpersons’ Liaison Group to highlight the Committee’s interest in taking this issue forward and to determine the most appropriate procedural approach in this regard.
Mr McNarry left the meeting at 11.00 am.
Dr Farry left the meeting at 11.03am.
Mr McNarry returned to the meeting at 11.05am.
Dr Farry returned to the meeting at 11.12am.
5. Consultation Responses on Pleural Plaques: Evidence from DFP
The Committee took evidence from Oswyn Paulin, Director, Departmental Solicitors Office and Laura McPolin, Legal Policy Advisor. The session was recorded by Hansard.
Agreed: that the DFP officials will provide information as requested by the Committee during the evidence session.
Mr Hamilton left the meeting at 11.24am.
Mr McQuillan left the meeting at 11.25am.
Mr McCann left the meeting at 11.38am.
Mr McCann returned to the meeting at 11.40am.
Mr Hamilton returned to the meeting at 11.47am.
Mr Paisley Jr joined the meeting at 11.55am.
Mr McQuillan returned to the meeting at 12.05pm.
Mr O’Loan left the meeting at 12.09pm.
The Committee discussed its position with regard to DFP’s proposal to bring forward legislation to facilitate civil claims for symptomless pleural plaques, and the recommendation not to introduce a register of those with pleural plaques.
Agreed: to notify DFP that, on a majority basis, the Committee is supportive of the proposal for legislation, subject to the Department taking account of developments in Scotland on this issue. However, DFP will also be advised that the Committee sees merit in the introduction of a register of those with pleural plaques.
Mr Hamilton left the meeting at 12.10pm.
Mr Hamilton returned to the meeting at 12.12pm.
Mr McNarry left the meeting at 12.15pm.
Ms Purvis left the meeting at 12.15pm
6. Subordinate Legislation
The Committee considered the following proposal from DFP for subordinate legislation: The draft Rate Relief (Education, Training and Leaving Care) (Revocation and Savings) Regulations ( Northern Ireland) 2009
Agreed: that the Committee was content with the policy implications of the proposed legislation at this stage.
The Committee noted the following correspondence:
- Office of First Minster and deputy First Minister (OFMDFM): Letter to Jimmy Spratt on Devolution of Policing & Justice Matters.
- Committee for OFMDFM: Draft Sustainable Development Strategy .
- Committee for OFMDFM: Invitation to Public Procurement Stakeholder Conference.
Agreed: that the post-conference report will be forwarded to the Committee for OFMDFM when available.
- Committee for OFMDFM: letter to the Minister of Finance and Personnel on access to funding from the European Investment Bank.
Agreed: that the Committee will forward the correspondence to the Minister.
- DFP: Gender Equality Strategy Action Plans Update .
Agreed: that the Committee will forward the correspondence to the Committee for OFMDFM.
- Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure: Funding for the Northern Ireland Place-Name Project at QUB.
Agreed: that the Committee will request a written briefing from DFP clarifying its role in funding the Place-Names Project and details of the output from the project.
- Institute of Directors (IoD): Overview of Banking Survey Results.
Agreed: that a draft Committee Press Release in response to this article will be prepared for consideration at the Committee meeting on 14 October.
- DFP: Analysis of Sickness Absence in NI Departments 2008-09.
Agreed: that a copy of the report will be forwarded to the other statutory committees and the Public Accounts Committee.
- DFP: Summary of Minister’s meeting on NAMA.
Agreed: that the Committee will write to the Minister to request the following: a detailed breakdown of the €4.8 bn of assets pertaining to Northern Ireland; an assurance that the disposal of any asset in Northern Ireland will not take place without due consultation; clarification on whether the Minister is still actively seeking formal Northern Ireland specific representation on the NAMA board; and clarification on the role of the proposed advisory committee.
Mr Paisley Jr left the meeting at 12.30pm.
- DFP: Performance Against 2008 - 09 PSA Targets
Agreed: that the Committee will copy the correspondence to the other statutory committees and the Public Accounts Committee, suggesting that they may wish to also consider the discrepancy between the performance reporting systems used by individual departments and centrally by OFMDFM.
- DFP: Policy detail on Rates Deferment Scheme
Agreed: that the Committee does not require further briefing on the policy detail of the scheme at this time.
- Civil Servant: Equal Pay Issue.
Agreed: that the Committee will issue a response, noting that the NIPSA Bulletin of 6 October has clarified the Minister’s reference during an Assembly debate regarding proposals having been put to NIPSA on this issue.
- Civil Servant: HR Connect complaint.
Agreed: that the Committee will forward the correspondence to DFP for comment on the general issues raised.
- Committee for Regional Development: Invitation for DFP to give evidence on Water & Sewerage Services (Amendment) Bill.
Agreed : that the invitation will be forwarded to DFP but that the Committee will not also make a submission to the Committee for Regional Development on this issue.
8. Committee Work Programme
Members considered the current draft of the Committee work programme until Christmas recess.
Agreed: that the current draft of the programme be published on the Assembly website.
9. Any Other Business
Members noted an Irish News article: ‘North’s public-sector pay bill the new elephant in the room’.
10. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting
The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 at 10.00am in Bryson House, 28 Bedford Street, Belfast.
The Deputy Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.42 pm.