Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Venue: Room 106

Meeting began at 4.10pm

1. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

The Speaker sought any declarations of interest from the Commission in relation to items of business being discussed. None were declared.

2. CHAIRMAN’S BUSINESS

2.1 Joint Meeting of the North South Parliamentary Forum Working Group

The Head of the Commission and Corporate Support Unit informed the Commission that a provisional date of the 20 June 2012 had been agreed for a joint meeting of the Working Groups, subject to an agreed paper being available for discussion. 

3. MINUTES

The minutes of meetings held on the 20 March 2012 and 8 May 2012 were agreed.

4. MATTERS ARISING

4.1 Commission Newsletter

Members agreed the content of the draft newsletter. It was further agreed the newsletter would now be placed on AssISt and a post master would be sent out to Members drawing their attention to it. 

4.2 Ormiston House – Update

The Director of Facilities provided Commission Members with an update in relation to the Ormiston House site.  He informed Members that the planning application was being considered at a Council meeting on 1 June 2012 and he would provide a further update to the next meeting.

4.3 Parliament Buildings Roof Project – Update

The Director of Facilities provided Members with an update in relation to the roof project.

4.4 Front Door Ramps – Update

The Director of Facilities provided Members with an update in relation to the schedule for installing front ramps at Parliament Buildings.  Mr Welch assured Members that the impact would be minimised with the main construction taking place during the Summer Recess and that visitors would still be able to access the building through a front tunneled entrance.

4.5 Management Accounts

The Director of Corporate Services provided an update to Members in relation to the final outturn for the 2001/12 financial year.

5. CLERK/DG KEY UPDATE REPORT

The Clerk/ Director General provided Members with a brief overview of key issues contained within his update report, drawing Members attention to the following:

5.1 Assembly Commission – Off site meeting

The Clerk/Director General requested Members consider the proposed dates for the Commission to attend an off-site meeting prior to Summer Recess to discuss views on any strategic matters arising from the implementation of the Corporate Strategy 2012/16.  It was agreed that the Commission and Corporate Support Unit would liaise with Members to explore a possible date and that further consideration would be given to availing of a community based venue to hold the event.

5.2 Members Survey

The Clerk/Director General sought the views of Members in relation to proceeding with and the timing of the next Members Survey on the services provided by the Commission to the Assembly, its Committees and Members. Members agreed the next survey should be undertaken during the autumn period of 2012.

5.3 Equality Scheme Approval

Members took note that the Equality Commission approved the Assembly Commission’s new Equality Scheme on 28 March 2012.

5.4 HMRC Records Classification

The Director of Corporate Services highlighted the current classifications attributed by HMRC to Assembly payroll records.  Mr Stewart highlighted that under the current classification, some payroll records require hand delivery of data to HMRC.  He informed the Commission that with the closure of the HMRC office in Lisburn and the transfer of work to the HMRC Secure Unit in Cardiff, this would in essence require Secretariat staff to travel to Cardiff.  The Commission agreed that re-classification of records should be sought from HMRC to resolve the matter. 

5.5 Directors – Job Rotation

The Clerk/Director asked Members to take note that he had approved the job rotation of the Directors of Information & Outreach and Clerking & Reporting. He highlighted that the rotation would commence from 4th June 2012 with Mr John Stewart assuming the role of Director of Information & Outreach and Dr Gareth McGrath assuming the role of Director of Clerking & Reporting.

Mrs Bannon joined the meeting.

6. DISABILITY ACTION PLAN

The Speaker welcomed Mrs Bannon to the meeting.  Mrs Bannon spoke to a paper on the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission’s Disability Action Plan for 2012-2016 and highlighted that under Section 49B of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, the Commission is required to submit to the Northern Ireland Equality Commission a Disability Action Plan showing how it proposes to fulfil its duties in relation to the functions for which it is responsible.

Ms Bannon highlighted that the new Disability Action Plan covered the period from 1 July 2012 – 30 June 2016 and included new targets and actions in line with the Commission’s Corporate Strategy. Following discussion Members approved the Disability Action Plan and agreed it should now go out to public consultation.

The Clerk/Director General noted his thanks to relevant staff across the Secretariat in carrying forward this important piece of work.

Mrs Bannon left the meeting.

Mr McCallion joined the meeting.

7. BUSINESS EFFICIENCY REVIEW UPDATE

The Speaker welcomed Mr Peter McCallion, Team Leader of the Business Efficiency Programme to the meeting.  Mr McCallion provided an overview on progress to date in relation to the Business Efficiency Reviews. He highlighted that the final reports on the reviews of Security & Ushering and Research and Information Services (RaISe) were approved by the BEP Project Board on 14th March 2012 and were passed to the Clerk/Director General for consideration. He also reported that a draft report on the review of Clerking was agreed by the BEP Project Board on 4 May 2012, the final report will be considered by the Project Board at the end of June as well as the final report on the review of Contracts.

Mr McCallion urged Members to encourage their Party whips, Members and support staff to engage fully with the consultation exercise in order that the views of the Secretariat’s key stakeholders are well understood.

Mr McCallion also highlighted that the Project Board had agreed the scoping documents for the reviews of Outreach and Education, Hansard and Human Resources and that it was anticipated that the draft reports would be considered in September 2012 with the final reports agreed in October 2012.

In conclusion, Mr McCallion informed the Commission that a replacement BEP Project team is expected to be in place before September 2012 to take forward reviews of Communications, Building Services and Legal Services.  

Mr Weir was provided with assurance that a more detailed report on the recommendations of the Business Efficiency Programme that affect Members would be provided to the Commission for consideration at a future meeting following the conclusion of the consultation period.  Mr McElduff was also assured that the programme does not consider the issue of compulsory redundancies as a measure for reducing staff costs.  Members also sought clarification in relation to the term ‘suppression of posts’ within the context of the programme. (i.e. taking the decision that a post(s) is not necessary and will be removed from the staffing structure for the organisation.)

The Speaker on behalf of the Commission paid tribute to the work and progress lead by Mr McCallion in his role as Team Leader.  Mr C McKenna as Chairman of the Secretariat Audit and Risk Committee also acknowledged the work of the current team in bringing forward recommendations in line with the Business Efficiency Programme.    

 Mr McCallion left the meeting.

8. REVIEW OF FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE TO POLITICAL PARTIES (FAPP) SCHEME 2007

The Director of Corporate Services spoke to a paper in relation to the Financial Assistance to Political Parties (FAPP) Scheme 2007.  Mr Stewart reminded Members that at its meeting of the 25 February 2012, the Commission considered the findings of the review of the Scheme.  He highlighted that the review had proposed a number of recommendations to further enhance the accountability of the Scheme.  Mr Stewart further reported that following the meeting in February 2012, the Speaker on behalf of the Commission had written to all Party Leaders on two occasions to seek their views on the recommendations and inviting further discussion, to which he had received no response.

Following consideration, the Commission approved the recommendations outlined within the review of the Financial Assistance to Political Parties (FAPP) Scheme and agreed that progress should be made in implementing the required changes.  It was agreed that a further paper on implementing required changes and a copy of the revised draft FAPP Scheme would be brought to an early Commission meeting following Summer Recess.

9. NORTHERN IRELAND ASSEMBLY COMMISSION BUDGET SETTING PROCESS

The Director of Corporate Services spoke to a paper in relation to the budget setting process for the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission.  He provided the background information around this issue and invited Members to review the draft input to the Committee for Finance & Personnel’s consultation.

Following discussion, Mr Weir wished to reserve his position on the matter but agreed that the consultation submission as drafted could be used as the basis of the Commission’s response to the Committee’s consultation exercise.  No further Members raised concerns.  The Commission agreed the draft response be forwarded to the Committee.

10. SECRETARIAT AUDIT & RISK COMMITTEE ANNUAL REPORT 2011/12

Mr Colm McKenna, Chairman of the Secretariat Audit & Risk Committee (SARC) provided Members with an overview of the SARC Annual Report 2011/12, the report sets out the progress made by SARC in 2011/12 and its key objectives for 2012/2013. Following consideration, the Commission noted the contents of the report.

Mr Paul Gill joined the meeting.

11. APPOINTMENT OF THE COMMISSIONER FOR STANDARDS

The Speaker welcomed Mr Gill to the meeting.  The Clerk/Director General provided some background to the appointment of the Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards.  Mr Gill, as Clerk of the Committee on Standards and Privileges, provided Members with an update on the competition to identify a suitable person to be appointed as the Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards. Mr Gill confirmed that Mr Douglas Bain was the Panel’s preferred candidate. Following discussion Members agreed that a motion, in the name of Mr Barry McElduff, MLA and Mr Alastair Ross, MLA, to appoint Mr Bain as the Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards would be laid before Plenary.   It was agreed that a further paper would be brought to a next Commission meeting detailing any further legislative issues following the appointment of the Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards.

Mr Paul Gill left the meeting.

12. TRAINING FOR MEDICAL EMERGENCIES

The Director of Facilities provided Members with an update in relation to the current first aid and Automated External Defibrillators (AED) arrangements within Parliament Buildings. He highlighted that the Northern Ireland Assembly currently has 46 trained first aiders, of which 26 of those have received training in the use of AEDs.

Following consideration, it was agreed that further communication would take place with the British Heart Foundation and Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) to explore the possibility of delivering an information session to any party support staff who would wish to pursue training.

13. CORPORATE STRATEGY IMPLEMENTATION FRAMEWORK – ORGANISATIONAL REDESIGN

The Clerk/Director General spoke to a paper on the Organisational Redesign Strategic Work Strand which is part of the implementation of the Corporate Strategy 2012/16. He drew attention to responses to consultation on the draft Terms of reference, the proposed methodology and outline timetable, and advised that a budget of £20,000 was considered necessary to fund external support for the review. Following discussion, the Commission agreed the proposals.

14. NIO EXHIBITION ON THE CENTENARY OF THE THIRD HOME RULE BILL

The Adviser to the Speaker presented a paper to the Commission seeking consideration to an official approach from the Northern Ireland Office for the Assembly to host an exhibition on the Centenary of the Third Home Rule Bill.

Following consideration on the detail of the exhibition, the Commission agreed to host the exhibition during the Summer Recess period within the Senate rotunda.  It was further agreed that the exhibition would be launched by the Speaker in line with the current exhibitions policy on 2 July 2012 and that invitations would be extended to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and/or the Minister of State.

15. ANY OTHER BUSINESS

15.1 Correspondence from the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

The Head of the Commission and Corporate Support Unit informed the Commission that the Speaker had received a letter from the Chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life requesting a meeting as part of its review of what works best in promoting high ethical standards in public life.  Mr Logue also informed the Commission that an invitation had also been extended to the Committee on Standards and Privileges. 

Following consideration the Commission agreed that a joint meeting should be arranged for the suggested date of Monday 24 September 2012. 

15.2 Oral Question Time to the Assembly Commission

The Head of the Commission and Corporate Support Unit informed the Commission that the next Oral Question Time for the Assembly Commission was scheduled to take place on Tuesday 3 July.  It was agreed that the Commission and Corporate Support Unit would inform Members of the detail of all questions on Friday 22 June 2012.

16. DATE OF NEXT MEETING

26 June 2012 at 4.00pm in Room 106 

Meeting ended at 5.20pm

Tony Logue
Head of the Commission and Corporate Support Unit

17. Clerk/Director General End of year Review

All officials left the meeting, the Clerk/Director General’s End of Year Review was considered.

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