Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Thursday, 23 June 2011

Venue: Room 29, Parliament Buildings

The meeting began at 10.03 am in open session.

1. Apologies

Apologies were as indicated above.

2. Chairperson’s Business

The Chairperson briefed the Committee on recent meetings that he held with the Child Maintenance Enforcement Division and a meeting the Deputy Chairperson held with the Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive of the NI Charity Commission.

Mr Sammy Douglas requested clarification on whether he had to declare an interest at each meeting as he is a member of numerous community development groups dealing with issues relevant to the work of DSD.

Mr Michael Copeland declared an interest as his spouse is an unpaid worker for Macmillan Cancer Support (NI).

3. Draft Minutes of Meeting 16 June 2011

Agreed: The minutes of the meeting held on Thursday 16 June 2011 were agreed.

4. Matters Arising

The Chairperson advised the Committee of a draft press release which had been prepared to coincide with the launch of the independent Report on the Review of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to amend the press release to take account of a Members’ suggested re-wording.

5. Fuel Poverty in Northern Ireland – Briefing by National Energy Action and the NI Fuel Poverty Coalition.

The following senior representatives from National Energy Action and the NI Fuel Poverty Coalition joined the meeting at 10.10am:

Ms Pat Austin – Director, National Energy Action (NI);

Mr John French – Head of Policy, Energy, Consumer Council for Northern Ireland; and

Ms Heather Monteverde – General Manager for Northern Ireland Macmillan Cancer Support and Chair of the Long Term Condition’s Alliance for NI.

The representatives provided a briefing on fuel poverty in Northern Ireland. This was followed by a question and answer session.

Mr Michael Copeland left the meeting at 10.56am

Ms Pam Lewis declared an interest as having supported Northern Ireland Mcmillan Cancer when she was Mayor of Antrim Borough Council at 10.59am

The Chairperson thanked the representatives for the briefing.

Mr Michael Copeland re-joined the meeting at 11.01am

The representatives left the meeting at 11.02am.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department to seek the following:

  • An update on progress against each of the 18 Action Points listed in Annex A of the Department’s new Fuel Poverty Strategy;
  • Further information on the forthcoming Boiler Replacement Scheme, including clarification as to why it is not included in the Warm Homes Scheme; the business case for allocating a grant of £1,500 under the Scheme; and the support provided to those over 60 in accessing the Scheme.
  • Details of any plans to review and audit the Warm Homes Scheme;
  • Further information on the organisational structure and remit of both the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group and the Interdepartmental group;
  • Details of any plans or initiatives DSD is taking forward with other Departments to address fuel poverty in Northern Ireland; and
  • Details of steps the Department is taking to reduce the impact of the high cost and dependence on oil in Northern Ireland.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it would request that the Department comes to brief the Committee on the new DSD Fuel Poverty Strategy after the summer recess.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment to ask why the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment is not playing a more active role in helping to address fuel poverty in Northern Ireland, particularly in the context of the heavy reliance and high price of home heating oil.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to release a draft press release on the fuel poverty briefing.

The Chairperson, Mr Alex Maskey left the meeting at 11.08am.

The Deputy Chairperson, Mr Mickey Brady, assumed the Chair at 11.08am.

6. Proposed Subordinate Legislation

Mr Mark H. Durkan declared an interest as his family owns a licensed premise at 11.09am

6.1 The Committee considered the proposed Statutory Rule: Licensing (Form of Age Notice) Regulations (NI) 2011

Agreed: The Committee agreed it was content for the Department to make the Statutory Rule.

6.2 The Committee considered the proposed Statutory Rule: The Licensing (Form of Licence) (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2011.

Agreed: The Committee agreed it was content for the Department to make the Statutory Rule.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department to seek clarification on an aspect of the proposed Regulations.

6.3 The Committee considered the proposed Statutory Rule: The Licensing (Register of Licences) Regulations (NI) 2011.

Agreed: The Committee agreed it was content for the Department to make the Statutory Rule.

6.4 The Committee considered the proposed Statutory Rule: Registration of Clubs (Form of Age Notice) Regulations (NI) 2011.

Agreed: The Committee agreed it was content for the Department to make the Statutory Rule.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department to request information on what form of proof-of-age documentation would be acceptable under the proposed Regulations.

6.5 The Committee considered the proposed Statutory Rule: The Registration of Clubs (Certificate of Registration) (Amendment Regulations) (NI) 2011

Agreed: The Committee agreed it was content for the Department to make the Statutory Rule.

6.6 The Committee considered the proposed Statutory Rule: The Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Act (NI) 2011 – Commencement Order

Agreed: The Committee agreed it was content for the Department to make the Statutory Rule.

6.7 The Committee considered the proposed Statutory Rule: The Social Security (Exemption from Claiming Retirement Pension) Regulations (NI) 2011

Agreed: The Committee agreed it was content for the Department to make the Statutory Rule.

6.8 The Committee considered the proposed Statutory Rule: The Pensions (2008 Act) (Abolition of Contracting-out for Defined Contribution Pension Schemes) (Consequential Provisions) Regulations (NI) 2011

Agreed: The Committee agreed it was content for the Department to make the Statutory Rule.

6.9 The Committee considered the proposed Statutory Rule: The Pensions (2008 No.2 Act) (Abolition of Protected Rights) (Consequential Provisions) Order (NI) 2011

Agreed: The Committee agreed it was content for the Department to make the Statutory Rule.

6.10 The Committee considered the proposed Statutory Rule: The Occupational Pension Schemes (Assignment, Forfeiture, Bankruptcy etc) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011

Agreed: The Committee agreed it was content for the Department to make the Statutory Rule.

6.11 The Committee considered the proposed Statutory Rule: The Social Security (Loss of Benefit) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011.

The Committee expressed concern about the impact of the proposed Regulations on the family of the individual convicted of benefit fraud, particularly if that individual is the head of household. Some Members also queried the Department’s conclusion that these proposals would not have significant implications for equality of opportunity.

Agreed: The Committee that it would write to the Department to request clarification on: the financial and human cost of these Regulations on the families of those convicted of benefit fraud and when the sanction would be applied – before or after the appeals process. The Committee also requested examples of how these proposed Regulations would affect different groups in society, i.e. families, lone parents, people with caring responsibilities etc.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that DSD officials should brief Members on the proposed Regulations the Committee meeting of 30 June 2011.

6.12 The Committee noted correspondence from the Department in respect of the Housing (Amendment) (2011 Act) (Commencement) Order (NI) 2011 and the Rent Book Regulations (NI) 2011.

7. DWP Consultation on the Green Paper on 21 st Century State Pension Reform Departmental Briefing

The following officials from the Department for Social Development joined the meeting at 11.28am:

Ms Anne McCleary – Director, Social Security Policy and Legislation, DSD;
Mr Gerry McCann- Social Security Policy and Legislation, DSD; and
Mr Sam Dempster – Social Security Policy and Legislation, DSD.

The officials provided a briefing on the DWP Consultation on the Green Paper on 21 st Century State Pension Reform. This was followed by a question and answer session.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing.

The officials left the meeting 12.07pm.

Mr Mark H. Durkan left the meeting at 12.07pm

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the Clerk should draft a response to the DWP consultation to be agreed by Members in advance of submission. The response should indicate the Committee’s general concerns in respect of the Coalition Government’s proposals for future pension reform. It should highlight the Committee’s concerns in respect of the ability of the working poor to save for retirement and the variance in life expectancy rates across the UK. The response should also indicate the Committee’s and or some Members’ views in respect of the two options for reforming the State Pension and the two options for developing a State Pension age mechanism.

8. Correspondence

8.1 The Committee considered correspondence from a resident in the Woodvale area in Belfast highlighting issues with the current state of housing conditions in the area.

8.2 The Committee considered correspondence from the Chief Executive of Women’sTEC regarding difficulties in accessing match funding from the Belfast Regeneration Office under the Neighbourhood Renewal projects.

8.3 The Committee considered correspondence from the Participation and Practice of Rights Project regarding NIHE’s proposed renovation of flats in the New Lodge area.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it would forward the above items of correspondence to the Department to request clarification and further information on the issues raised.

8.4 The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee Representing Independent Supporting People Providers (CRISPP) requesting the opportunity to brief the Committee on the range of supported housing provision.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it would invite the Committee Representing Independent Supporting People Providers to the Committee’s informal stakeholder event that is scheduled to take place in September 2011.

8.5 The Committee considered correspondence from the Federation of Master Builders.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the Deputy Chairperson and a number of Committee Members would meet with representatives from the Federation of Master Builders immediately following the Committee meeting.

8.6 The Committee considered correspondence from a bookmaker regarding betting legislation.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the Clerk would write to the bookmaker to advise that the Committee is awaiting an analysis of the DSD consultation on the Review of the Gambling Law which concluded at the end of May 2011.

8.7 The Committee noted correspondence from the Department regarding the Committee’s requests for information and queries on the June Monitoring Round and Savings Delivery Plans.

8.8 The Committee noted correspondence from the Department regarding its Departmental Disability Action Plan.

8.9 The Committee noted correspondence from Advice NI concerning a Welfare Cuts Research Survey.

8.10 The Committee noted a report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation entitled “Low –income neighbourhoods in Britain: the gap between policy ideas and residents’ realities.”

8.10 The Committee noted new guidance from the Charity Commission.

8.12 The Committee noted an invite from the Belfast Healthy Cities to the launch of “A Guide for Political Representatives”.

8.13 The Committee noted an invite from Queens University to a showcase event.

9. Forward Work Programme

The Deputy Chairperson reminded Members to advise the Committee Office if they wish to avail of Committee transport to the visit to a supported housing project following the Committee meeting on 30 June 2011.

Members noted the programme for the Committee meeting and visit on 30 June 2011.

10. Any Other Business

The Deputy Chairperson advised the Committee that the Legislative Consent Motion on the Westminster Welfare Reform Bill is scheduled to be debated on the morning of Tuesday 28 June 2011.

The Deputy Chairperson advised the Committee that a motion to confirm the Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order (NI) 2011 is scheduled to be debated on Monday 27 June 2011 and the previous Committee had no objection to the Rule.

Members noted and agreed that the Chairperson of the Committee will speak in support of both motions.

11. Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 30 June 2011 in Room 29, Parliament Buildings at 10.00am.

The Deputy Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.29pm.

Mr Alex Maskey
Chairperson, Committee for Social Development.
30 June 2011

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