Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Thursday, 29 March 2012

Venue: Room 29, Parliament Buildings

The meeting began in public session at 10.02am                   

1. Apologies.

Apologies were indicated as above.

2. Draft Minutes of Meeting 22 March 2012.   

Agreed:  The minutes of the meeting held on Thursday 22 March 2012 were agreed.

3. Chairperson’s Business.

The Chairperson welcomed Mr Alastair Ross to the Committee

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to Mr Sammy Douglas thanking him for his contribution to the Committee.

The Chairperson advised Members that he met with Lord Whitty and the Chief Executive of the Consumer Council last week to discuss Lord Whitty’s report – Energising Northern Ireland.

The Chairperson advised Members that he met with Cameron Watt from the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations and discussed the possibility of a committee visit to housing associations in receipt of SNMA funding.

The Chairperson reminded Members that in the Programme for Government, one of the commitments is to establish an advisory group to assist Ministers in alleviating hardship including any implications of the UK’s Government Welfare Reform Programme.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department to ask if any discussions have taken place regarding the establishment of the group and if the membership of the group has been considered or agreed.

4. Matters Arising.

The Chairperson reminded Members that at last week’s meeting, the Committee agreed to forward a copy of the department’s paper on SNMA to NIFHA in advance of the briefing on 19th April. RQIA are also briefing the Committee that day and have also requested the department’s paper.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the department’s paper to RQIA in advance of their briefing.

The Chairperson reminded Member’s that at last week’s meeting, the Committee discussed an issue raised by a Newry reporter regarding a £2000, 000 compensation event funding and the St Colman’s Project in Newry. The deputy chairperson updated the Committee on his meeting with the reporter and the Department officials.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the reporter explaining that following an update from the Department the Committee are content that this issue has been dealt with appropriately.

5. Incapacity Benefit - Departmental Briefing.

The following officials from the Social Security Agency joined the meeting at 10:12am:

Mr Tommy O’Reilly, Chief Executive

Mr Brian Doherty, Director of Working Age Services

Mr Tony Murphy, Social Security Agency

The officials briefed the Committee on the Incapacity Benefit Reassessment.

This was followed by a question and answer session.

Mr Mark H Durkan joined the meeting at 10:15am.

Ms Pam Brown joined the meeting at 10:18am

Mr Michael Copeland left the meeting at 10:41am

Mr Alex Easton left the meeting at 10:45am

Members questioned the figures for the number of appeals lodged by those people who have been placed in the work-related activity group. Members also questioned what the average cost per appeal is and the total cost incurred for the 1368 appeals dealt with by the Social Security Agency up to 29th February 2012.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing.

The officials left the meeting at 11:03am

Mr Alex Easton re-joined the meeting at 11:04

6. Proposed Subordinate Legislation

The following Departmental officials joined the meeting at 11:04am:

Anne McCleary, Director Social Security, Policy and Legislation

Michael Pollock, Social Security, Policy and Legislation

The Housing Benefit (Executive Determinations) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

Agreed: The Committee was content for this rule to be made.

The Jobseekers Allowance (Domestic Violence) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

Agreed: The Committee was content for this rule to be made.

The Child Support (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012.

Agreed: The Committee was content for this rule to be made.

7. Statutory Rules

The Pensions (Institute and Faculty of Actuaries and Consultation by Employers) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule SR113/2012 The Pensions (Institute and Faculty of Actuaries and Consultation by Employers) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 and subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules Report has no objection.”

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

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule SR116/2012 The Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order (Northern Ireland) 2012 and subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules Report has no objection.”

The Occupational Pensions Schemes (Contracting-Out and Modification of Schemes) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule SR125/2012 The Occupational Pensions Schemes (Contracting-Out and Modification of Schemes) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 and subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules Report has no objection.”       

8. Consultation on Draft Regulations to Ban Certain Price Based Drinks Promotions – Departmental Briefing

The following Departmental officials joined the meeting at 11:30am:

Liam Quinn, Social Policy Unit

Margaret O’Hare, Social Policy Unit

The officials briefed the Committee on the Consultation to ban certain price based drinks promotions. This was followed by a question and answer session.

Mr Mark H Durkan declared an interest at 11:31am.

Ms Paula Bradley left the meeting at 11:31am

Discussion was held around having a joint working group to target alcohol related issues.

Discussions were also held around where the proposed code of practice sits within the context of the legislation.

Some Members expressed concerns over issues surrounding multiple purchasing and also the need for cross border co-operation.

The Committee have requested an update on the consultation once all responses received have been collated.

The officials left the meeting at 11:48am.

9. Correspondence     

The Committee considered correspondence from the Department on recommendations made to the Committee by the Cathedral Quarter Steering Group regarding Laganside Events Grant Funding

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department to request further updates as and when they are available.

The Committee noted correspondence from the Department inviting Members of the Committee to the Northern Ireland Civil Service Live event on 24 April in the Waterfront Hall, Belfast. The theme will be based around the Programme for Government.

Agreed: The Committee agreed for Members to contact the Committee office if they would like to attend this event.

The Committee noted correspondence from The Mount Business and Conference centre in East Belfast expressing concerns over an alleged ban imposed by senior civil servants on the use of any non-public sector premises for meetings, training events or conferences.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to The Mount Business and Conference Centre to state that while the Assembly is under similar financial constraints as departments there is no such ban operating in respect of committees.

The Committee considered correspondence from the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment on their views on the briefing paper from the Cathedral Quarter Steering Group.

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

The Committee noted correspondence from the Housing Executive inviting Members of the Committee to attend the launch of its report on its report on the housing market. The event will take place on Friday 6 April at 2pm in the Housing Centre, Belfast.

Agreed: The Committee agreed for Members to contact the Committee office if they would like to attend this event.

The Chairperson advised Committee Members that he has agreed to speak at an event organised by the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People on 26 April. The event is on the impact of Welfare Reform on children. The Minister and other junior Ministers have been invited to speak.

Agreed: The Committee agreed for Members to contact the Committee office if they would like to attend this event.

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

13. Forward Work Programme

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

14. Date, Time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will take place at 10.00am on Thursday 19 April 2012. The venue is to be confirmed.

The meeting adjourned at 11:52am

Mr Alex Maskey
Chairperson, Committee for Social Development.
19 April 2012

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