ASSEMBLY BUSINESS

Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Thursday, 23 February 2012

Venue: Room 29

The meeting began in public session at 9.32am                     

1. Laganside Events Grant  – Ministerial Statement

The Minister joined the meeting at 9.32am with the following Department officials:

Mr Jackie Johnston
Mr Michael Pettigrew

Ms Paula Bradley joined the meeting at 9.35am

The Minister briefed the Committee on the Laganside Events Grant.

The Committee sought reassurance from the Minister that the £50,000 which has been found by the Department will not be taken from another programme and that the Department is committed to working with DCAL to ensure there is a proper policy framework for continuing grant assistance to the Laganside Events Grant.

Members welcomed the announcement of the Laganside Community Activity Grants increasing from £300 to £1000 for individual applicants

Members held discussions regarding the Laganside Events Grant and asked a number of questions including:

  • the time the Department took from taking the decision to cut the funding to when the groups and organisations were informed;
  • any future consultation the Department will undertake with groups and organisations to help assist in finding ways to raise funding in the future;
  • Any consultation that has taken place between the Arts Council and Belfast City Council regarding ways in which they can help sustain the groups and organisations.

The Chairperson advised Members that he met with the family of a member of the public who recently drowned at the Laganside Weir.  The Chairperson thanked the Department for their continuing help to the family. 

The Chairperson asked the Minister to briefly address the Committee on the Laganside Weir in respect of the availability of life belts on the foot bridge. 

The Chairperson thanked the Minister and the officials for their briefings.

The Minister and the officials left the meeting at 10.15am.

Mr Mark H Durkan left the meeting at 10.16am.

2. Apologies

Apologies were as indicated above.

3. Draft Minutes of Meeting 16 February 2012           

Agreed:  The minutes of the meeting held on Thursday 16 February 2012 were agreed.

4. Chairperson’s Business

The Chairperson welcomed Ms Paula Bradley to the Committee. 

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to Gregory Campbell thanking him for his contribution to the Committee.

The Chairperson advised Members that he met with the Permanent Secretary on Tuesday this week to discuss Fuel Poverty. 

The Chairperson also advised Members that he met with CO3 and two international representatives from the voluntary and community sector.

5. Matters Arising

The Committee considered a draft response to the DWP Support for Mortgage Interest informal call for evidence.

Agreed: The Committee agreed for the Clerk to forward this to the Department.

6. Laganside Events Grant – Briefing by the Cathedral Quarter Steering Group.

The following representatives joined the meeting at 10.19am

Mr Paul McErlean, Chairperson
Mr Will Chamberlain
Ms Patricia Freedman

Mr Mark H Durkan re-joined the meeting at 10.24am

Mr Alex Maskey left the meeting 10.25am

Mr Mickey Brady took over as Chairperson at 10.25am

The officials briefed the Committee on the Laganside Events Grant.

Members discussed the issues the Arts Sector in the Cathedral Quarter are faced with in respect of funding and what would be the best the way forward to ensure funding is available in the future. 

Members concurred with the following:

  • that an effective and speedy mechanism is put in place to allocate funding and ensure sustainability;
  • that a taskforce of DSD, DCAL and arts organisations should be established in order to ensure open dialogue and to meet the requirements of DFP; and
  • that other Departments could play a role in the taskforce for example DETI for tourism and OFMdFM for shared space.

Mr Paul McErlean left the meeting at 10.50am

The Chairperson thanked the representatives for the briefing.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department and the DCAL Committee to highlight the concerns raised and to consider the suggestions agreed by the Committee.  The Committee also agreed to write to the DETI and OFMdFM Committees highlighting the need for a strategic framework and recommend that they should also be involved in a framework in the context of tourism and shared space.

Mr Michael Copeland left the meeting at 11.00am

The representatives left the meeting at 11.05am.

7. Bereavement Benefit for the 21st Century Consultation – Briefing by Cruse

The following representative from Cruse joined the meeting at 11.08am: 

Ms Elaine Roub

Mr Michael Copeland re-joined the meeting at 11.11am

The representative briefed the Committee on the Bereavement Benefit for the 21st Century Consultation.

Members acknowledged the assistance, support and help Cruse offers people who have been bereaved.

Members discussed Bereavement Benefits and the questions set out in the consultation and acknowledged the difficulties people are faced with in respect of bereavement.

Some Members acknowledged that the provision of a large lump sum at such an emotionally, mentally and physically challenging time could lead to increased debt situations.

Some Members suggested that Cruse should seek an opportunity to meet with Department officials to highlight the consequences that people could potentially be faced with if the Department takes forward some its plans in the consultation.

Members were concerned that a person who has been a long term partner of someone who has died but is neither a spouse nor civil partner will not be entitled to receive Bereavement Benefit.

Ms Paula Bradley left the meeting at 11.25am

Ms Paula Bradley re-joined the meeting at 11.34am

Ms Judith Cochrane left the meeting at 11.41am

The Chairperson thanked the representative for her briefing.

The representative left the meeting at 11.44am.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to wait until it has received a briefing from Advice NI and the Law Centre at next week’s meeting before it considers formulating a response to the consultation.  The Committee also agreed to invite the Department to brief the Committee on some of the issues raised.

8. Proposed Subordinate Legislation

Commencement Order: The Licensing and Registration of Clubs Amendment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011(the Act).

The Committee were content to note the proposed Order.

The Social Security (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012.

The Committee were content for the rule to be made.

The Social Security (Credits) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012.

The Committee were content for the rule to be made.

Annual Up-Rating of Pensions and Benefits:

The Social Security Benefits Up-Rating Order (Northern Ireland) 2012

The Committee were content for the rule to be made.

The Mesothelioma Lump Sum Payments (Conditions and Amounts) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

The Committee were content for the rule to be made.

The Pneumoconiosis, etc., (Workers Compensation) (Payment of Claims) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

The Committee were content for the rule to be made.

The Guaranteed Minimum Pension Increase Order (Northern Ireland) 2012

The Committee were content for the rule to be made.

The Social Security (Industrial Injuries) (Dependency) (Permitted Earnings Limits) Order (Northern Ireland) 2012

The Committee were content for the rule to be made.

The Social Security Benefits Up-rating Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

The Committee were content for the rule to be made.

The Jobseeker’s Allowance (Sanctions for Failure to Attend) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

The following Departmental official joined the meeting at 11.51pm

Mr Michael Pollock

Some Members expressed concerns regarding the sanctioning of claimants. Members also expressed concerns with the definition of “good cause” in relation to the number of people who have been sanctioned.           

Ms Judith Cochrane re-joined the meeting at 12.05pm

Mark H Durkan left the meeting at 12.20pm

As the Rule has already been made by the Department the Committee agreed to vote to approve the Rule.

9. Statutory Rules

The Jobseeker’s Allowance (Sanctions for Failure to Attend) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

Following discussion, the Committee divided as follows on the motion:

“That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule SR 2012/44 The Jobseeker’s Allowance (Sanctions for Failure to Attend) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 and subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules’ Report has no objection to the rule”.

Ayes 4; Noes 2; Abstentions 1

The deputy Chairperson thanked the official for his attendance at the meeting.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to write to the Department to request up-to-date figures     in respect of the number of sanctions applied.

10. Correspondence

The Committee noted the Department’s response to the Committee regarding the Housing Executive’s consultation on the Establishment of a Belfast City Centre Waiting List.

The Committee noted the Department’s response to the Committee regarding whether a mechanism is currently in place (or if one will be put in place) to allow NIHE to track the young homeless who have not been declared homeless in the records.

The Committee considered correspondence from the Department about the current position on the gambling review.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward this item of correspondence to the NI Turf Guardians Association and Legalise Poker in NI for their information.

The Committee considered correspondence from the Department regarding its involvement in the Barosso Task Force Working Group.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward this correspondence to the OFMdFM Committee for their consideration.

Mr Sammy Douglas left the meeting at 12.31pm

Mr Mark H Durkan re-joined the meeting at 12.31pm

The Committee considered correspondence from a member of the public in relation to the negative effects of Village Vesting in his area.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the individual to explain the role of the committee and suggest he seeks political representation from his constituency MLAs.

The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel in relation to Post Project Evaluations (PPE).

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the information to the Department that relates to its PPEs, asking what these projects are and explanations as to why each of the PPEs have not yet been received.

Agreed: The Committee agreed for the remaining items of correspondence to be dealt with as per the proposed next steps in the correspondence Memo.

11. Forward Work Programme

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to note the draft Forward Work Programme.

A Member raised the issue of the timescale of NIHE Review and requested that the Department schedules this as soon as possible.

12. Any Other Business

There was no other business.

The Committee adjourned at 12.34pm

The meeting opened in public session at 1.30pm.

Mr Alex Maskey re-joined the meeting at 1.30pm

Mr Sammy Douglas re-joined the meeting at 1.30pm

13. Pensions Bill – Departmental Briefing

The following officials from the Department joined the meeting at 1.32pm

Ms Anne McCleary
Mr Gerry McCann
Mr Seamus Cassidy
Ms Doreen Roy

The Committee noted a submission from the Women’s Support Network.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to include this submission in its report.

The Committee noted correspondence from the Department detailing figures for estimated reduction in expenditure on pensioner benefits arising from the proposed changes to State Pension age.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to include this item of correspondence in its report.

The Committee noted the Examiner of Statutory Rules’ scrutiny of Delegated Powers.

Ms Patricia Casey joined the meeting at 1.34pm

Ms Paula Bradley re-joined the meeting at 1.39pm

The Committee held discussions around some of the issues regarding the Pensions Bill. Some Members expressed their concerns regarding the following: 

  • Equalisation of pensionable age for men and women in particular the impact this will have on some women;
  • The proposed State Pension amount being below the stated poverty level in terms of Universal Credit;
  • The possibility of linking pensions with health profiles as people may be living longer but not necessarily living healthier; and
  • The passported Winter Fuel Payment being linked to the pensionable age.

Clause 1 Equalisation of and increase in pensionable age for men and women

“Question: That the Committee is content with clause 1 as drafted.”

As a consensus could not be reached on whether to accept clause 1 as drafted, the   Committee divided on this question as follows:

Ayes; 3; Noes 4; Abstentions: 2

The motion fell.

Clause 2 Abolition of certain additions to the State Pension

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 2 as drafted.”

Clause 3 Consolidation of additional pension

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 3 as drafted.”

Clause 4 Automatic re-enrolment where scheme membership interrupted

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 4 as drafted.”

Clause 5 Earnings trigger for automatic enrolment and re-enrolment

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 5 as drafted.”

Clause 6 Postponement or disapplication of automatic enrolment

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 6 as drafted.”

Clause 7 Timing of automatic re-enrolment

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 7 as drafted.”

Clause 8 Review of earnings trigger and qualifying earnings band

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 8 as drafted.”

Clause 9 Rounding figures for earnings trigger and qualifying earnings band

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 9 as drafted.”

Clause 10 Qualifying schemes: administration charges

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 10 as drafted.”

Clause 11 Test scheme standard for schemes that produce sum of money for provision of benefits

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 11 as drafted.”

Clause 12 Certification that alternative to quality requirement is satisfied

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 12 as drafted.”

Clause 13 Certification for non-UK schemes

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 13 as drafted.”

Clause 14 Transitional period for defined benefits and hybrid schemes to be optional

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 14 as drafted.”

Clause 15 Arrangements where transitional conditions cease to be satisfied

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 15 as drafted.”

Clause 16 Power of managers to modify by resolution

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 16 as drafted.”

Clause 17 No indemnification for civil penalties

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 17 as drafted.”

Clause 18 Power to exempt certain cross-border employment from enrolment duty

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 18 as drafted.”

Clause 19 Indexation and Revaluation

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 19 as drafted.”

Clause 20 Indexation requirements for cash balance benefits

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 20 as drafted.”

Clause 21 Pension Protection Fund

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 21 as drafted.”

Clause 22 Payment of surplus to employer: transitional power to amend scheme

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 22 as drafted.”

Clause 23 Contribution notices and financial support directions

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 23 as drafted.”

Clause 24 Technical amendment to Schedule 4 to the Pensions Act (Northern Ireland) 2008

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 24 as drafted.”

Clause 25 Technical amendment to section 38(2) of the Pension Schemes (Northern Ireland) Act 1993

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 25 as drafted.”

Clause 26 Definition of money purchase benefits

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 26 as drafted.”

Clause 27 Transitional

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 27 as drafted.”

Clause 28 Consequential and supplementary

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 28 as drafted.”

Clause 29 Power to make further provision

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 29 as drafted.”

Clause 30 Regulations

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 30 as drafted.”

Clause 31 Grants by the Department to advisory bodies etc

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 31 as drafted.”

Clause 32 Service of documents and electronic working

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 32 as drafted.”

Clause 33

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 33 as drafted.”

Clause 34

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Clause 34 as drafted.”

Schedule 1 Equalisation of and increase in pensionable age for men and women: consequential amendments

The Committee divided on the following:

“Question: That the Committee is content with Schedule 1 as drafted.”

Ayes; 3; Noes 4; Abstentions: 2

The motion fell.

Schedule 2 Abolition of certain additions for the state pension: consequential amendments

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Schedule 2 as drafted.”

Schedule 3 Consolidation of additional pension

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Schedule 3 as drafted.”

Schedule 4 Pension Protection Fund

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with Schedule 4 as drafted.”

Long Title

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee is content with the long title of the Bill.”

The Chairperson thanked the officials for their attendance.

The officials left the meeting at 1.57 pm

14. Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will take place at 9.30am on Thursday 1 March 2012 in Room 29 Parliament Buildings.  

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.57pm

Mr Alex Maskey
Chairperson, Committee for Social Development.
1 March 2012

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