Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Venue: Room 106

1. Apologies

1.1 Apologies were noted from the Speaker, Lord Morrow, Mr Gerry Kelly and Mrs Karen McKevitt. The Acting Chairperson welcomed Mr Raymond McCartney as the Sinn Féin substitute.

2. Minutes of the meeting held on Tuesday 4 June 2013

2.1 The minutes of the meeting held on Tuesday 4 June were agreed and signed by the Acting Chairperson.

3. Matters arising

3.1 The Acting Chairperson referred Whips to paragraph 6. 2 of the minutes of the previous meeting, and advised that the Speaker had now received confirmation that NI21 had been officially registered as a political party; that Mr Basil McCrea and Mr John McCallister had notified changes of party affiliation; and that the changes would take effect in the Assembly on Monday 17 June 2013.

3.2 The Acting Chairperson reminded Members of the existing arrangement that parties with two or more members would be called in order of size in the first round of speakers, and that parties would then be called according to their proportional size using the d’Hondt formula.

3.3 Following discussion about whether or not parties were content for the current arrangement to continue, it was not possible to reach a consensus.  Members agreed to suspend the meeting, following completion of the other business on the agenda, and to reconvene at 4pm. Members also requested that further information be provided by the Clerk on speaking arrangements in the first Assembly mandate, for consideration when the Business Committee reconvened.

4. Finalisation of the Order Papers for the plenary meetings in week commencing 17 June

Executive Business

4.1 Members noted that, in addition to the Executive Business previously agreed, the First Stages of the following Bills were scheduled for introduction on Monday 17 June, subject to the Speaker’s clearance:

  • Financial Provisions Bill;
  • Public Service Pensions Bill; and
  • Licensing of Pavement Cafés Bill.

4.2 Members noted that, in addition to the Executive Business previously agreed for Tuesday 18 June, a statement by the Minister of the Environment on ‘Planning Policy 16: Tourism’, and a statement by the Minister for Employment and Learning on ‘Launch and Procurement of Steps to Success’ were also scheduled for that day; along with an Assembly Consent Motion relating to the Public Bodies (Abolition of the Registrar of Public Lending Right) Order 2013.

Committee Business

4.3 Members noted that there was no change to the Committee Business already agreed.

Private Members’ Business  

4.4 Members agreed to schedule the presentation of a public petition on Monday 17 June from Ms Maeve McLaughlin calling for the completion of the Factory Girls Sculpture in Harbour Square, Derry~Londonderry.  

4.5 Members noted that, although the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment was not available to respond, Sinn Féin were content to select the motion ‘Broadband Provision in Rural Areas’ for Tuesday 18 June.

4.6 The UUP and DUP requested that their slots for Private Members’ business on Monday 17 June and Tuesday 18 June be exchanged; and Members agreed to schedule the motion ‘Aid Package for Fishermen’ on Monday 17 June, and the motion ‘Funding for Other Projects in Place of the A5 Western Transport Corridor’ on Tuesday 18 June.

4.7 Junior Minister Bell confirmed that, apart from the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, all relevant Ministers were available to respond to the business selected.

4.8 The draft Order Papers were agreed.

5. Provisional arrangements for the plenary meetings in week commencing 24 June 2013

Executive Business

5.1 Members noted that a motion to suspend Standing Orders 10(2) to 10(4) was scheduled for Monday 24 June 2013, in anticipation of the following Executive business:

  • Question Time to the Minister of Education, and the Minister for Employment and Learning;
  • Consideration Stage of the Planning Bill;
  • Final Stage of the Budget (No.2) Bill;
  • Legislative Consent Motion on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill;
  • Legislative Consent Motion on the Care Bill; and
  • Motion to approve the draft Renewables Obligation (Amendment No.2) Order (Northern Ireland) 2013.

5.2 In addition to Question Time to the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and the Minister of the Environment on Tuesday 25 June, Members noted that the Second Stage of the Public Service Pensions Bill and Second Stage of the Licensing of Pavement Cafés Bill were scheduled for that day, noting also the possibility of Ministerial statements.

Private Members’ Business 

5.4 Members agreed to schedule the presentation of a public petition on Tuesday 25 June from Ms Maeve McLaughlin regarding the ‘Magee Expansion: Time to Make It Happen’ campaign.

5.5 Members agreed to schedule one Private Members’ motion on Tuesday 25 June, but none on Monday 24 June.  The selection lay with the SDLP and Mr Ramsey suggested that their selection be deferred in favour of scheduling a cross-party motion. Members agreed to schedule the following motion with the usual timings:

  • ‘If Campaign/G8 Summit’ (Mr C McDevitt, Mr J Wells, Mr C Lyttle, Mr S Agnew, Mr R Swann, Ms J McCann).

5.6 Members agreed to schedule an Adjournment Debate on Tuesday 25 June. Under the system of allocation, the selection lay with Sinn Féin and the following topic was selected:

  • ‘Lack of Economic Development in Down District’ (Mr C Hazzard).

5.6 Junior Minister Bell advised that all relevant Ministers were available to respond to the selected plenary business.

5.7 The provisional Order Papers were agreed.

6. Any other business

6.1 There was no other business

The Acting Chairperson suspended the meeting at 1.04pm.

The meeting was reconvened at 4.04pm with the following present:

Members: Ms C Ruane (Acting Chairperson), Mr S Dickson, Mr R McCartney, Mrs S Overend, Mr P Ramsey, Mr R Swann, Mr P Weir

In attendance: Mr G McGrath, Mr R Ramsey, Ms N Dunwoody, Ms L Gordon, Ms K Jardine

Observers: Mr A Rogers (OFMDFM)

7. Further discussion of Agenda Item 2: Matters Arising

7.1 The Acting Chairperson welcomed Members back to the meeting and it was noted that apologies remained as previously recorded.

7.2 Members noted a copy of an outline speaking list from 14 May 2001, along with a summary paper detailing how the speaking list operated at that time, and the arrangements that had applied since 4 May 2006.

7.3 The Acting Chairperson advised that the Business Committee should decide how it wished to proceed on the order of speaking and inform the Speaker under Standing Order 17(4).

7.4 The Acting Chairperson outlined three broad options for general discussion:

(i) Continue the current arrangements, with parties of  two or more members being called in the first round of speakers;

(ii) Change the current arrangements to increase the threshold for inclusion in the first round; or

(iii) Dispense with the threshold and come to some other arrangement to reflect proportional party size.

7.5 Mr Dickson expressed his disappointment that the confidentiality of the earlier discussions of the Business Committee had been breached, and advised that a member of NI21 had been in a position to recount to him the issues discussed at the meeting.

7.6 Mr Ramsey advised that the position of the SDLP was to continue with the current arrangements, and allow parties with two or more members to be called in the first round of speakers.

7.7 Mr Weir advised that, in suggesting that the Business Committee consider a different arrangement, he believed that in order to be fair and equitable to backbenchers on all sides of the House, arrangements for two member parties should not weigh against greater party strengths. It was his view that, except in the case of Private Members’ motions, any Member who wished to speak on other types of business is afforded an opportunity to do so.

7.8 Mr Swann advised that it was his view that speaking rights should be determined by party strength. He also considered that some members had, to date, not taken available opportunities to contribute to unrestricted debates on legislation or to ask questions on Ministerial statements.

7.9 Mr McCartney advised that he was supportive of the proposal to continue with the existing speaking arrangements, as this was consistent with a previous decision of the Business Committee on 27 September 2011 in regard to providing speaking opportunities for single member parties and Independent Members.

7.10 Mr Weir questioned whether a party created in the middle of a mandate should be treated more favourably with regard to speaking rights than those parties which existed since the start of the mandate, even with only one Member.

7.11 Mr Dickson reiterated the point that there was no restriction on any Member contributing to debates on legislation and that to use existing arrangements to accommodate Members who have rearranged themselves within their existing designations would be detrimental to existing single member parties.  He went on to suggest that the matter be referred to the Committee on Procedures to consider what arrangements might be appropriate with regard to the establishment of new political parties, or new political groupings, during a mandate.

7.12 Following discussion Mr Weir formally proposed that:

(i) the Committee on Procedures should be asked to consider issues relating to the emergence of new political parties or groupings during a mandate, including speaking arrangements;

(ii) in the interim, parties with five or more members would be called, in order of size, in the first speaking round; and,

(iii) parties with two or more members, not called in the first speaking round, would be called at the end of the third speaking round.

7.13 Mr McCartney formally proposed that the Business Committee agree to continue with the existing procedures as detailed in the minutes of the Business Committee on 4 May 2006, and reaffirmed by the Business Committee’s decision on 27 September 2011.

7.14 Mr Swann asked for it to be recorded that it was his view that the decision made on 27 September 2011 was in relation to a separate issue, that of speaking rights for single member parties, and independent members; and that, until the recent discussions on speaking rights, he had not been aware of the previous agreement regarding parties of two or more members.

7.15 Following a request for clarification from Mrs Overend, the Clerk advised that the reference to parties of two or more members did not refer to party strengths following an election, but at any point during a mandate.

7.16 Members agreed to vote first on Mr McCartney’s proposal:

For - 43 votes

Against - 58 votes.

The proposal therefore fell.

7.17 Members voted on the proposal from Mr Weir:

For - 58 votes

Against - 43 votes.

It was, therefore, resolved that:

(i) the Committee on Procedures should be asked to consider issues relating to the emergence of new political parties or groupings during a mandate, including speaking arrangements;

(ii) in the interim, parties with five or more members would be called, in order of size, in the first speaking round; and,

(iii) parties with two or more members, not called in the first speaking round would be called at the end of the third speaking round.

7.18 The Acting Chairperson advised members that the Speaker would be informed of the outcome of the meeting. The Adviser to the Speaker reported that he had spoken to the Speaker during the time the meeting had stood suspended, and that the Speaker had confirmed that he uses the discretion provided to him under Standing Orders within the framework agreed by the Business Committee. Members noted that, following consideration of the Committee’s decision, the Speaker would respond to the leader of NI21 about his query on speaking rights; and that members would be advised of the position.  Members further noted that the Speaker would write to the Committee on Procedures in due course.

7.19 The Acting Chairperson requested that the letter to the leader of NI21 would reflect that the Business Committee had divided on this matter.

8. Date and Time of next meeting

8.1 Members agreed to meet at approximately 12.30pm on Tuesday 18 June 2013 in Room 106 and noted that Mr Weir would be in the Chair.

The Acting Chairperson brought the meeting to a close at 4.30pm.

Mr Peter Weir
Acting Chairperson

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