Northern Ireland Assembly Flax Flower Logo


Ms Jennifer McCann MLA (Chairperson)
Mr David McNarry MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Dr Stephen Farry MLA
Mr Simon Hamilton MLA
Mr Mitchel McLaughlin MLA
Mr Adrian McQuillan MLA
Mr Declan O’Loan MLA
Ms Dawn Purvis MLA

In Attendance:
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)

Mr Fra McCann MLA

The meeting commenced at 10.06 am in open session.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Draft Minutes of Proceedings of 9 June 2010

Agreed: that the minutes are published on the Assembly website.

Agreed: that the evidence sessions at Agenda items 4, 6 and 7 are recorded by Hansard and the Official Reports published on the website.

3. Matters Arising

Composite Request

The Committee noted the composite request for information from the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) which provided an update on any matters arising not covered elsewhere on the agenda.

Rating of Empty Homes

The Committee noted correspondence from DFP which provided further information following the briefing session on the proposal for the rating of empty homes, which was considered at last week’s meeting.

Dr Farry joined the meeting at 10.12am.

Ms Purvis joined the meeting at 10.12am.

Agreed: to support the proposal for the introduction of the rating of empty homes on 1 April 2011, subject to the Department giving careful consideration to issues raised by a number of Committee members, including: the need for initial exemption/concessionary periods to allow for ownership changes; the need to take account of potential barriers to occupying vacant properties, including listed buildings, in cases where there are ongoing disputes with Environment and Heritage/Planning Service; the importance of providing developers with a clearly specified exemption period and the need to review the duration of this in light of economic circumstances; and the need to take account of the outcome of the forthcoming public consultation on the Landlord’s Allowance.

Mr O’Loan left the meeting at 10.23am.

3. Allowances to the Members of the Assembly (Repeal) Bill – Evidence from Assembly Commission

In response to concerns raised with regards to a potential conflict of interest, the Clerk informed the Committee that advice received from the Clerk of Standards and Privileges had confirmed that the Assembly’s Code of Conduct does not set out any requirements that would either prevent or limit a Member’s ability to discuss matters that relate equally to all Members of the Assembly. Members were also advised of the rationale for referring the Bill to the Committee.

Ms Purvis left the meeting at 10.28am.

Mr McQuillan joined the meeting at 10.34am.

Members took evidence from Rev Dr Robert Coulter MLA, Member of Assembly Commission; Mr Hugh Widdis, Director of Legal Services, NI Assembly Secretariat; and Mr Tony Logue, Clerk to the Commission, NI Assembly Secretariat. The witnesses provided evidence on the provisions in the Bill and on the Assembly Commission’s request for the Bill to proceed by the accelerated passage procedure.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

Ms Purvis returned to the meeting at 10.46am.

Mr O’Loan returned to the meeting at 11.06am.

Agreed: that the Committee for Finance and Personnel is content that the Allowances to Members of the Assembly (Repeal) Bill proceeds by accelerated passage, having been satisfied with the explanation and assurances provided by the Assembly Commission in this regard.

Mr McNarry left the meeting at 11.18am.

5. Cost of Insurance in NI: Assembly Research Briefing.

The Committee received a briefing from Assembly Research on The Cost of Insurance in NI.

Mr Hamilton left the meeting at 11.24am.

Dr Farry left the meeting at 11.28am.

6. Cost of Insurance in NI: Evidence from the Association of British Insurers (ABI)

Members took evidence from Mr Nick Starling, Director of General Insurance and Health, ABI.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

Dr Farry returned to the meeting at 11.35am.

Mr McNarry returned to the meeting at 11.54am.

Mr Hamilton returned to the meeting at 11.58am.

Mr McLaughlin left the meeting at 11.59am.

Mr McQuillan left the meeting at 12.07pm.

Mr McLaughlin returned at 12.17pm.

Dr Farry left the meeting at 12.29pm.

Agreed: to request that Committee staff, in conjunction with Research colleagues, prepare a draft terms of reference for a potential inquiry into the cost of insurance in NI, which would: identify the issues for further exploration; assess the availability of data sources and other evidence; identify potential witnesses; and set out the respective areas of responsibility and jurisdiction. The Committee will then be in a position to consider the feasibility and scope for undertaking an inquiry and the procedural options for taking the issue forward.

7. Inquiry into the Role of the Assembly in Scrutinising the Executive’s Budget and

Expenditure – Stage 2: Evidence from Assembly Research and Library Service.

The Committee took evidence from Dr Gareth McGrath, Director of Engagement, NI Assembly Secretariat; and Dr John Power, Head of Assembly Research and Library Service, NI Assembly Secretariat.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

Mr McQuillan returned to the meeting at 12.40pm.

Mr Hamilton left the meeting at 12.44pm.

Ms Purvis left the meeting at 12.54pm.

The Chairperson left the meeting and the Deputy Chairperson took the Chair at 1.00pm.

Members also noted responses on the Budget Scrutiny Inquiry from the Committee for the Environment and the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

The Chairperson returned to the meeting and resumed the Chair at 1.08pm.

Agreed: that the responses from the other statutory committees will be included in the evidence base for the ongoing Inquiry.

8. Correspondence

The Committee considered the following correspondence:

Agreed: that the correspondence is copied to DFP in the context of the Committee’s recent Inquiry into Public Procurement, which recommended prompt payment of sub-contractors as part of the procurement process.

Agreed: to forward the correspondence to the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister.

9. Committee Work Programme

Members considered the current draft of the Committee work programme until June 2010.

Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) Equal Pay Settlement

The Committee noted a draft list of outstanding issues relating to the NICS Equal Pay settlement to be provided to DFP officials in advance of the evidence session scheduled for 30 June.

Agreed: to also seek clarification from DFP officials on what responsibility NICS senior management had in advising staff retiring or leaving service of the position with regard to the outstanding equal pay dispute, including the timeframe for lodging claims.

Agreed: to forward the list to the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA) so that any additional issues can be identified; and to seek clarification of NIPSA’s responsibility in terms of advising those members leaving or retiring from service of the position with the outstanding equal pay dispute, particularly in respect of the timeframe for lodging claims, and details of how this responsibility was discharged.

Review of Senior Civil Service Pay

The Committee considered a request from DFP officials to postpone the evidence session on the Review of Senior Civil Service Pay, which had been scheduled for 23 June.

Agreed: to seek clarification on the reasons for the request for postponement, and an indicative time when the review will be completed and Departmental officials will be in a position to brief the Committee on its outcome.

Agreed: that the work programme is published on the website.

10. Any Other Business
11. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting

The next meeting will be held on Wednesday 23 June 2010 at 10.00am in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.

The meeting ended at 1.14pm.

Jennifer McCann, Chairperson
Committee for Finance and Personnel
23 June 2010

09 June 10 / Menu