Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Venue: Parliament Buildings

12.33pm The Chairperson opened the meeting in closed session.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Minutes of the meeting on 20 November 2012

The minutes of the meeting on 20 November 2012 were agreed.

3. Matters Arising

Members noted a paper by the Committee Clerk in respect of Electronic Committee Packs (ECPs). The Clerk advised Chairpersons that electronic tablets were being procured and meanwhile Committee Members would receive ECPs as well as the routine hard copy packs. A short term pilot on the use of ECPs with the new tablet devices would be carried out before completion of the project.

4. Review of Committees - arising from recommendations in the Assembly & Executive Review Committee Report

Chairpersons noted a paper on the Review of the Northern Ireland Assembly's Committee System which contained revised terms of reference for a review which would seek to examine options and make recommendations to improve the effectiveness of the system.

12.37pm Mr Frew joined the meeting
12.41pm Ms Boyle joined the meeting
12.44pm Mr Storey joined the meeting

The Chairperson welcomed Dr Gareth McGrath, Director of Clerking and Reporting, and Lucia Wilson, Clerk, to the meeting and invited them to brief the Group on the terms of reference contained within the paper and the suggested approach, that a Committee Review Group be established, to progress the review.

Agreed: Members agreed to the recommendations in the report and to the establishment of the Committee Review Group. Membership of the Group will be taken from CLG, comprise of one member from each Party, plus a substitute; nominations would be done through the Party Whips. The Chair of CRG was agreed as Alex Maskey, current Chair of CLG.

12.45pm The Chairperson thanked Dr McGrath and Ms Wilson for the presentation and Ms Wilson left the meeting.

5. Committee Travel and Subsistence Policy Review

Chairpersons noted a paper by Assembly Finance on the governance arrangements for business travel.

The Chairperson welcomed Ms Paula McClintock, Head of Finance, to the meeting and invited her to brief the Group on the changes that have been introduced by the Assembly Commission regarding those arrangements.

12.52pm The Chairperson thanked Ms McClintock for the presentation and she left the meeting.

6. Budgets for Committees – January Monitoring Round

Chairpersons noted a paper by the Committee Clerk on the January Monitoring Round. Members noted that monitoring returns would now be carried out on a monthly basis.

7. Business Efficiency Programme – Review of Clerking

The Chairperson welcomed Mr Trevor Reaney, Clerk/Director General, to the meeting and invited him to update the Group on the Business Efficiency Programme and its review of clerking in the Assembly. The Director General reiterated that there would be no reduction in the level of support for Committee work. Members noted that a paper on business efficiencies would be presented to the Assembly Commission at its next meeting.
Ms Lo advised the Director General of her concerns in relation to increased pressure on the staff of the Committee for the Environment as a result of its involvement in scrutinising specific clauses in the Planning Bill. The Director General advised Ms Lo that the Clerk Assistants would continue to monitor resource in accordance with business need.
The Group also highlighted the impracticalities of Committees having to forward correspondence to Ministers of other Departments through the relevant Committee.

Agreed: It was agreed that the Clerk Assistant would consider the protocol governing such correspondence and report back to the Group in due course.

Mr Storey commented that, after a period of rotation of clerks, there appeared to be a sense of stability in the secretariat support of Committee Chairs and emphasised the importance of maintaining that stability where possible.

12.59pm The Chairperson thanked Mr Reaney for the presentation.

8. Draft Forward Work Programme

Agreed: Members noted, and agreed, a draft forward work programme for the Chairpersons' Liaison Group.

9. Any other business

None

10. Date, time and venue of next meeting

The next meeting of the Liaison Group is scheduled to take place on Tuesday 19 March 2013 at 12.30pm in Room 21, Parliament Buildings.

1.02pm The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.

Mr Alex Maskey, Chairperson
19 March 2013

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