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

In Attendance:
Mr Shane McAteer (Assembly Clerk)
Miss Karen Jardine (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mrs Kathy O’Hanlon (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mr Jim Nulty (Clerical Supervisor)
Mr Dominic O’Farrell (Clerical Officer)
Mr Gareth Brown (Bursary Student)
Mr Colin Pidgeon (Assembly Research)

The meeting commenced at 10.07am in open session.

1. Apologies

There were no apologies.

Agreed: that the evidence sessions at Agenda items 5, 6, 8 and 9 are recorded by Hansard and the Official Reports published on the website.

2. Draft Minutes of Proceedings of 15 December 2010

Agreed: that the minutes are published on the Assembly 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.

Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (Amendment No. 2) Scheme (NI) 2010

The Committee noted correspondence from DFP regarding the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (Amendment No.2) (NI) 2010.

Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) Art Collection

The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure regarding the NICS art collection.

Agreed: to forward the correspondence to DFP.

Presbyterian Mutual Society

Agreed: to request an oral evidence session on the Presbyterian Mutual Society rescue plan, in view of the financial aspects that have been included in the Draft Budget 2011-15.

Damages (Asbestos-Related Conditions) Bill

Agreed: arising from previous DFP evidence on the Bill on 8 December 2010, to write to the Minister requesting that he share any advice which he has received from the Attorney General in respect of the Bill with the Committee and the Assembly. In making this request, the Committee will also highlight a recent precedent in which another Minister outlined in Assembly plenary the Attorney General’s advice on a Bill.

Ms Purvis joined the meeting at 10.10am.

4. Draft Budget 2011-15 – Assembly Research Briefing

The Committee received a briefing from Assembly Research on the Draft Budget 2011-15 briefing note.

Mr Hamilton left the meeting at 10.39am.

Members noted that the Minister of Finance and Personnel quoted incorrect figures to the House when comparing the proposed budget for the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to its counterparts in the other devolved administrations.

Agreed: to draw this matter to the attention of the Speaker, noting that the Committee expects that the necessary steps for the Minister to correct this error will be expedited.

Mr Hamilton returned to the meeting at 11.00am.

Agreed: to forward the Research briefing note to DFP for comment and specific response to six of the key points highlighted in the paper. Given its cross-cutting nature, the paper will also be forward to the other Assembly statutory committees, the Assembly Commission and the Assembly Audit Committee for information.

Members noted that the Executive’s Draft Budget 2011-15 imposed spending reductions on the NI Assembly itself and on the NI Audit Office which are in excess of the reductions faced by Executive departments and comparable bodies in Scotland and Wales. Concerns were raised around the basis for these proposed spending reductions and the implications for both of the bodies, which provide constitutional/statutory checks and balances to the Executive.

Agreed: to seek the views of the Assembly Commission and the Assembly Audit Committee on the draft budgets of the NI Assembly and the NI Audit Office respectively. This evidence will be incorporated in the Committee’s co-ordinated report on the Draft Budget 2011-15.

Mr McNarry left the meeting at 11.03am.

5. Draft Budget 2011-15: Strategic Issues - Evidence Session

Members held an evidence session with the following DFP officials: Michael Brennan, Head of Central Expenditure Division, Central Finance Group (CFG); Joanne McBurney, Central Expenditure Division, CFG ; and Jeff McGuinness, CFG.

Mr Frew left the meeting at 11.13am.

Mr McNarry returned to the meeting at 11.21am.

Mr Frew returned to the meeting at 11.21am.

Mr O’Loan left the meeting at 11.47am.

Mr McLaughlin left the meeting at 11.47am.

Mr McLaughlin returned to the meeting at 11.51am.

Mr O’Loan returned to the meeting at 11.51am.

Agreed: the DFP officials will provide further information to the Committee as requested during the evidence session .

The Committee noted correspondence from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (NI Committee) regarding the Draft Budget 2011-15 consultation.

The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister advising that he would not be available to brief the Committee on either 12 January or 19 January as requested, or any Wednesday thereafter.

Agreed: to request clarification from the Minister on the reasons why he is unable to attend any of the Committee’s normal weekly Wednesday meetings to discuss important issues.

The Committee noted concerns raised in correspondence from the Committee for Regional Development with regard to the timetable for scrutinising the Draft Budget 2011-15. The Committee also discussed a Secretariat paper outlining options for timetabling the scrutiny of the Draft Budget.

Mr Frew left the meeting at 12.15pm.

Mr Frew returned to the meeting at 12.24pm.

Agreed: to move the deadline for returns from the other Assembly committees to 27 January to offer more time for each committee to scrutinise the draft budget of its department. Submissions received after this date and before the closing date of the Executive’s consultation will be appended to the Committee’s coordinated report on the Draft Budget.

Agreed: that the preferred dates for the “take note” debate on the Draft Budget are Monday 31 January or Tuesday 1 February, subject to the Business Committee’s agreement.

Agreed: the Committee will endeavour to complete the co-ordinated report by the closing date of the Executive’s consultation, while recognising that an additional week may be needed to finalise the report.

Agreed: to record Mr McNarry’s dissent in respect of the Committee’s decisions on how to proceed with the timetabling for scrutiny of the Draft Budget 2011-15.

Agreed: to respond to the Committee for Regional Development outlining the decisions taken by the Committee.

Mr McNarry left the meeting at 12.54pm

6. Damages (Asbestos-Related Conditions) Bill: Evidence Session – Legal Panel

The Committee considered a Secretariat paper on progress made in advance of the Second Stage of the Bill.

Members noted that the Committee had previously raised concerns at the delay by DFP in bringing the Bill to the Assembly. It was also noted that all the remaining written and oral evidence relating to the Bill would need to be received during week commencing 17 January, in order for Committee Stage to be completed in time to ensure that the Bill stands a reasonable chance of passing all subsequent stages before the Assembly’s dissolution.

Agreed: that it would not be feasible to complete the evidence gathering in such a short timeframe and that, in order to afford the Bill full and proper scrutiny, the Committee will consider requesting an extension to the Committee Stage of the Bill.

Agreed: the Committee will maintain an open position with regard to the principles of the Bill at this time.

The Committee took evidence from Oonagh McClure, Thompson & McClure Solicitors and Martin Hanna, Francis Hanna & Co. Solicitors.

Mr McKay joined the meeting at 1.25pm.

Mr McNarry returned to the meeting at 1.41pm.

Agreed: to seek a written response from Thompson & McClure Solicitors with regard to setting fixed tariffs to compensate those with symptomless pleural plaques.

The meeting was suspended at 1.45pm.

The meeting resumed at 2.07pm, with Ms McCann, Mr McNarry, Mr Hamilton, Dr Farry, Mr McKay Mr McLaughlin, and Mr O’Loan present.

7. Equal Pay: Evidence from Civil Service Pensioners’ Alliance (CSPA)

The Committee took evidence from Ivan Baxter, NI Branch Secretary, CSPA; Sam Caul, NI Branch Member, CSPA; Mike Duggan, General Secretary, CSPA; and Nixon Armstrong, Vice Chair, NI Public Service Alliance (NIPSA - Retired Members Branch).

Mr Frew returned to the meeting at 2.08pm.

Ms Purvis returned to the meeting at 2.08pm.

Mr McNarry left the meeting at 2.40pm.

Agreed: to forward the draft Hansard of the evidence session to the Minister, requesting that he meets with representatives of CSPA as soon as possible.

The Committee noted a response from NIPSA to issues raised in respect of this matter.

8. Corporate HR issues including NICS Absenteeism, Equal Pay and Pensions

The Committee took evidence from the following DFP officials: Derek Baker, Director of Personnel for the NICS and Mark Bailey, Pay and Grading Review Team.

Mr O’Loan left the meeting at 2.43pm.

Ms Purvis left the meeting at 3.05pm.

Agreed: to forward issues regarding absenteeism to DFP for written response, and to request an update with regard to the Senior Civil Service pay review.

9. Correspondence

The following items of correspondence were noted:

  • DFP: Banking Issues.

Agreed: to forward the Correspondence to the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment (CETI).

  • CETI: Banking Issues.

Agreed: to forward the correspondence to DFP for comment.

  • DFP: Ministerial Response to Employment and Learning Committee on December Monitoring Round.
  • DFP: Dormant Accounts Scheme.

Agreed: to request that DFP provides the Committee with an oral update on the scheme in late February/early March.

  • DFP: End of Year Flexibility.

Agreed: to forward the correspondence to the Committee for Justice.

  • DFP: Reply to Environment Committee regarding Aggregates Levy Scheme.
  • Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (COFMDFM): Atlantic Region.

Agreed: to forward the correspondence to DFP.

  • Committee for the Environment: Landfill Tax.

Agreed: to forward the correspondence to DFP.

  • DFP: Provision of Information to Legislature.
  • DFP: Departmental Spending and Savings Proposals.
  • DFP: Payment of Rates by Credit Cards.
  • DFP: Efficiency Delivery Plan 2008 – 11.
  • DFP: Performance in Relation to Committee Requests.
  • DFP: Follow up to PSA and Business Targets Session.
  • Head of the Commission Support and Compliance Unit: Allowances to Members of the Assembly (Repeal) Bill
  • Committee for Education: Stakeholder Engagement
  • Robert Skidelsky and Felix Martin: NYRB Essay Plan for a National Investment Bank

Members noted that the following routine correspondence was emailed to members prior to the meeting:

  • Covering email from Esmond Birnie andlatest edition of the Government Futures series, “Corporation Tax – Game Changer or Game over?”
  • Report on Land Law from the NI Law Commission.
  • Hansard Report on Child Poverty Strategy and Childcare Strategy.
  • Paper from the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development on Rural Development Issues.
  • BBC News Article regarding the DFP security contractor ‘lapse’ probe.
  • House of Lords Inquiry into EU Financial Framework from 2014: Call for Evidence.

Agreed: to continue with the procedure of issuing routine papers in this way.

9. Committee Work Programme

Members considered a draft of the Committee work programme and noted that it will be necessary to hold a longer meeting on 19 January.

Agreed: that the work programme is amended to reflect decisions made today, and that the revised programme is published on the Assembly website.

Forum of Renewable Energy Development in NI: Request to Brief Committee

The Committee considered correspondence from the Forum of Renewable Energy Development in NI.

Agreed: to request a written submission in the first place, which relates specifically to the remit of DFP.

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

The next meeting will be held on Wednesday 19 January 2010 at 10.00am in the Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings.

The meeting ended at 3.17pm.

Jennifer McCann, Chairperson
Committee for Finance and Personnel
19 January 2011

15 December 10 / Menu

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