COMMITTEE FOR FINANCE AND PERSONNEL
MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS
WEDNESDAY, 09 JUNE 2010
ROOM 30, PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS
Ms Jennifer McCann MLA (Chairperson)
Mr David McNarry (Deputy Chairperson)
Dr Stephen Farry MLA
Mr Simon Hamilton MLA
Mr Fra McCann MLA
Mr Mitchel McLaughlin MLA
Mr Declan O’Loan MLA
Ms Dawn Purvis MLA
Mr Shane McAteer (Assembly Clerk)
Miss Karen Jardine (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mrs Kathy O’Hanlon (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mr David McKee (Clerical Supervisor)
Mr Dominic O’Farrell (Clerical Officer)
Apologies: Mr Jonathan Craig
The meeting commenced at 10.10 am in open session.
Apologies are detailed above.
2. Draft Minutes of Proceedings of 02 June 2010
Agreed: that the minutes are published on the Assembly website.
Agreed: that the evidence sessions with Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) officials at agenda item 5, and item 4 if necessary; and with the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) at agenda item 6 are recorded by Hansard, and the Official Reports published on the 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.
Draft Press Release: Report on the Preliminary Inquiry into Public Sector Efficiencies
The Committee considered a draft press release to be issued to coincide with the launch of the Committee’s Report on its Preliminary Inquiry into Public Sector Efficiencies, due to be debated in plenary on Monday 21 June.
Agreed: that the press release will issue on commencement of the plenary debate; and to issue embargoed copies of the Report and press release to selected media outlets in advance.
Agreed: to distribute copies of the Report to those witnesses that gave written and oral evidence as part of the Inquiry, the other statutory committees and the Public Accounts Committee.
DFP: Census Recruitment Advertisements
Members noted a response from DFP regarding the placement of Census Recruitment Advertisements.
Draft Response to Committee for Justice on Tribunal Reform
The Committee considered a draft response to the Committee for Justice on Tribunal Reform.
Agreed: to forward the response on Tribunal Reform to the Committee for Justice.
September 2010 Monitoring Round
The Committee considered a response from DFP following its request to postpone the returns for the September 2010 Monitoring Round by one week, to allow for scrutiny by statutory committees.
Agreed: to write to DFP welcoming the one-week extension; and to notify all statutory committees of this decision.
4. Budget (No.3) Bill – Consideration of request for accelerated passage and suspension of standing orders
The Committee received advice from Mr Damien Martin, Clerk Assistant, NI Assembly on the procedural considerations around the DFP proposal to seek a suspension of standing orders to dispense with both the Further Consideration Stage and the 10 day minimum requirement for the Budget (No.3) Bill to complete all Assembly stages.
Agreed: to release the briefing paper prepared by the Clerk Assistant to the DFP officials in the public gallery.
Ms Purvis joined the meeting at 10.27am.
Members also considered correspondence from the Minister of Finance and Personnel responding to the Committee’s request for assurances in terms of addressing the need for improved transparency and consultation by departments with their respective Assembly committees as part of the future budget process.
The following DFP officials were invited to give evidence to the Committee: Mr Michael Brennan, Head of Central Expenditure Division, Central Finance Group; and Ms Agnes Lennon, Central Expenditure Division, Central Finance Group. The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.
Question put and agreed to: that the Committee for Finance and Personnel is satisfied that there has been appropriate consultation with it on the public expenditure proposals contained in the Budget (No.3) Bill 2010 and is content to grant accelerated passage to the Bill in accordance with Standing Order 42(2).
Question put: that the Committee for Finance and Personnel agrees to support the Department of Finance and Personnel in seeking the suspension of standing orders to dispense with both the Further Consideration Stage of the Budget (No.3) Bill and the 10 day minimum requirement for the Bill to complete all Assembly stages.
The Committee divided: Ayes 6; Noes 1; Abstentions 0.
Dr Farry, Mr Hamilton, Mr McCann, Mr McLaughlin, Mr McNarry, Ms Purvis
Question accordingly agreed to.
Members considered a draft letter to the Speaker confirming its decision to support the request for accelerated passage and the suspension of the relevant standing orders.
Agreed: that the draft letter be amended to further contextualise the Committee’s support for the request for accelerated passage and its support for the suspension of the relevant standing orders; including an indication that the support for suspending the said standing orders should not be regarded as setting a precedent for applying such measures in respect of future Budget Bills.
Agreed: to copy the relevant extract of the Minister’s letter on the future budget process and the “early draft timetable for Budget 2010 process” to the other statutory committees for information and planning purposes.
Agreed: to request a copy of the DFP guidance in respect of Budget 2010 and the Savings Delivery Plans that was due to be issued to departments in early June.
Agreed: to invite DFP officials to brief the Committee at its meeting of 30 June 2010 on the Department’s progress in preparing its return for the Budget 2010 process.
Mr McNarry left the meeting at 11.14am.
5. Budget Scrutiny Inquiry –Stage 2: Evidence Session – NI Audit Office
The Committee took evidence from the following NIAO officials: Mr Kieran Donnelly, Comptroller and Auditor General; Ms Louise Mason, Assistant Auditor General; Mr Eddie Bradley, Assistant Auditor General.
The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.
Mr McNarry returned to the meeting at 11.20am.
Mr McCann left the meeting at 11.21am.
Ms Purvis left the meeting at 11.28am.
Mr Hamilton left the meeting at 11.37am.
Mr McCann returned to the meeting at 11.38am.
Dr Farry left the meeting at 11.44am.
Members also noted the responses received to date from the other statutory committees on the Budget Scrutiny Inquiry.
Agreed: to include these returns in the evidence base of the Committee’s forthcoming Report on the Budget Scrutiny Inquiry.
6. Progress against PSA and Departmental Targets (DFP Briefing)
Members received a briefing from the following DFP officials: Mr David Orr, Director of Corporate Services Group; Mr Derek Baker, Director of Corporate HR; Mr Paul Wickens, Director of Enterprise Shared Services.
The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.
Agreed: to refer any issues outstanding following the evidence session to DFP officials for written response.
Mr Hamilton joined the meeting at 11.47am.
Dr Farry returned to the meeting at 12.10pm.
Dr Farry left the meeting at 12.19pm.
Agreed: to write to the Department seeking an explanation for the comparatively high level of underspend by DFP in current expenditure for 2009-10.
Agreed: to hold focused evidence sessions on each shared service project in autumn 2010.
7. Rating of Empty Homes
The Committee received a briefing from the following DFP officials: Mr Brian McClure, Head of Rating Policy Division, Central Finance Group; Mr Patrick Neeson, Rating Policy Division, Central Finance Group; Veronica Holland, Rating Policy Division, Central Finance Group.
Mr McCann left the meeting at 12.26pm.
Dr Farry returned to the meeting at 12.42pm.
Mr McLaughlin left the meeting at 12.46pm.
Agreed: that the DFP officials will provide further information as requested during the evidence session.
Agreed: that the Committee will defer its decision on the timing of the rating of empty homes until next week’s meeting.
The Committee considered the following correspondence:
- Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety: Sunbeds Bill;
- Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (COFMDFM): Commissioner for Older People Bill ;
Agreed: to decline the invitation to comment on the Bill.
- COFMDFM: Performance and Efficiency Delivery Unit;
- Committee for Education: External Advisors;
- Public Accounts Committee: Transforming Land Registers-The LandWeb Project;
- DFP: Payment of Rates by Credit Card;
- DFP: Implementation of the A2B recommendations on improving take up of rate reliefs ;
- DFP News Release: Mature debate required to tackle impact of cuts;
- The Assembly Commission Support and Compliance Unit: Allowance to Members of the Assembly (Repeal) Bill;
Agreed: to invite oral evidence on the Bill from the relevant officials at next week’s meeting; and that this invitation should extend to a representative Member of the Assembly Commission if one is available to attend on Wednesday 16 June.
- DFP: Letter from the Minister on Equal Pay issues; and
- DFP: Electrical Standards in Building Regulations.
9. Committee Work Programme
Members considered the current draft of the Committee work programme until June 2010.
Members noted a request from DFP officials that the evidence session on Dormant Accounts, scheduled for 16 June 2010, be postponed.
Agreed: to write to DFP seeking clarification on the reasons for the request for postponement, and an indicative time when the Departmental officials might be ready to come before the Committee on this issue.
Agreed: that the work programme is published on the website.
10. Any Other Business
Members considered a note of the meeting held on Monday 7 June with the Minister of Finance and Personnel, the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson, along with the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment on INTERREG IVA.
Members noted that a number of banking issues had been raised by local constituents.
Agreed: to write to the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment to propose a joint meeting to take evidence from local banking representatives on these issues, and to discuss the possibility of tabling a joint committee motion for plenary debate.
11. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting
The meeting ended at 1.05 pm.