Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Tuesday, 16 April 2013
Venue: Room 106
The meeting began at 12.35pm.
1.1 There were no apologies. The Speaker welcomed Principal Deputy Speaker McLaughlin as an observer at the Committee.
2. Minutes of the meeting held on Tuesday 9 April 2013
2.1 The minutes were agreed and signed by the Speaker.
3. Matters arising
3.1 There were no matters arising.
4. Finalisation of Order Papers for the plenary meetings in week commencing 22 April 2013
4.1 Members agreed to schedule the presentation of a public petition on Monday 22 April by Mr Pat Ramsey, relating to a campaign to keep open the University of Ulster Day Nurseries.
4.2 Members noted that there was no change to the Executive business previously scheduled for Monday 22 April.
4.3 Members noted that the Second Stage of the Tobacco Retailers Bill was now confirmed for Tuesday 23 April, following the Bill’s introduction on Monday 15 April; and that there was no change to the other Executive business previously scheduled for that day.
4.4 Members noted that there were no requests for Committee business.
Private Members’ Business
4.5 Having deferred its choice of a Private Members’ motion at the last meeting, the UUP selected a motion on ‘Repeal of the Exception for Teachers in the Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998’ (Mr D Kinahan, Mrs J Dobson) for Monday 22 April. Members agreed to schedule the motion with the usual timings.
4.6 Having deferred its choice of a Private Members’ motion at the last meeting, it was noted that Sinn Féin had selected a motion on ‘Economic Initiatives and Sustainable Employment’ (Mr C Boylan, Mr M McLaughlin, Mr B McElduff) for Tuesday 23 April.
4.7 Having deferred its choice of an Adjournment topic at the last meeting, it was noted that the DUP had selected the ‘Opening of the Sexual Assault Referral Centre at Antrim Area Hospital’ (Ms P Brown) for Tuesday 23 April.
4.8 Members agreed to schedule the motion and the Adjournment topic, with the usual timings.
4.9 Junior Minister Bell confirmed that all relevant Ministers were available to respond to the business selected and, following a request for clarification from Mr Weir, Junior Minister Bell confirmed that the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment would respond to the motion on ‘Economic Initiatives and Sustainable Employment’.
4.10 The draft Order Papers were agreed.
5. Provisional arrangements for the plenary meetings in week commencing 29 April 2013
5.1 Members noted that, apart from Question Time to the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and the Minister of Justice, no other Executive business was scheduled for Monday 29 April 2013.
5.2 Members noted that Question Time to the Minister of the Environment, and the Minister for Social Development was scheduled for Tuesday 30 April, along with the Consideration Stage of the Marine Bill.
5.3 Members noted that no Committee business had been requested.
Private Members’ Business
5.4 Lord Morrow requested clarification about the rescheduling of the Further Consideration Stage of the Civil Service (Special Advisers) Bill, which had not been moved earlier in the day. The Speaker advised that this would be a matter for the Member in charge of the Bill, and that he had not been given any indication about when the rescheduling of the stage might be requested.
5.5 Members agreed to schedule two Private Members’ motions on Monday 29 April. Under the system of allocation, the selections lay with the DUP and Sinn Féin. The following motions were selected:
- ‘400 Year Historical Legacy’ (Mr G Gampbell, Mr G Robinson)
- ‘Marriage Equality at the Constitutional Convention’ (Ms C Ruane, Ms B McGahan, Mr B McElduff).
5.6 Members agreed that up to 1 hour 30 minutes should be allocated for each debate, with the usual speaking times
5.7 Members agreed to schedule an Adjournment Debate on Tuesday 30 April. Under the system of allocation, the selection lay with Sinn Féín. The following topic was selected:
- ‘Special Needs services and provision in Larne’ (Mr O McMullan).
5.8 While junior Minister Bell confirmed that all relevant Ministers were available to respond to the business selected, he requested clarification from Sinn Féin regarding the specific nature of the selected Adjournment topic so that the most appropriate Minister could respond.
5.9 The provisional Order Papers were agreed.
6. Recess dates 2013/2014
6.1 Members discussed proposed recess dates for the 2013/14 session, noting that informal discussions had been held previously with Whips regarding the possibility of a shorter Christmas recess to allow for a mid-term ‘Spring recess’ week in February 2014, but that consensus had not been reached.
Mr Ramsey advised that the SDLP remained strongly supportive of the proposal on family friendly grounds. Mr Weir and Ms Ruane indicated that they would be content for Whips to meet to discuss the matter further and this was agreed as a way forward, with the matter to be brought back to the Business Committee for consideration at the next meeting.
7. Any other business
7.1 Ms Ruane asked that her concern about the developing pattern of Bill stages not being moved at the last minute be recorded; and expressed the view that it reflected badly on the Assembly, and had associated costs.
The Speaker agreed that this caused difficulties, but that it was a matter for the Minister or Member leading on a Bill to decide if a stage could be moved.
Lord Morrow expressed the view that, particularly in relation to Private Members’ Bills, expert guidance may be required on matters affecting a Bill once it has been amended, and that this can cause difficulties if issues arise after the next stage has been scheduled by the Business Committee.
On the issue of the timing of stages, Mr Weir highlighted the difficulties for the Business Committee in having to schedule a Bill stage before the position on amendments was clear. For example, the Committee currently has to schedule the amending stages of a Bill, and has to come to a view on its likely impact on business for that day, on the basis of anticipated amendments, which may not eventually be tabled. He suggested that it might be useful for consideration to be given to the current procedures relating to the timings for the tabling of amendments to Bills, and the scheduling of amending stages.
The Speaker advised that the discussion has been worthwhile, and that he would consider all the points that had been raised.
8. Date and Time of next meeting
8.1 Members agreed to meet at approximately 12.30pm on Tuesday 23 April 2013 in Room 106.
The Speaker brought the meeting to a close at 12.50pm.