ASSEMBLY BUSINESS

Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Thursday, 09 June 2011

Venue: Room 29, Parliament Buildings

The meeting began at 10.02am in open session.

1. Apologies

Apologies were as noted.

2. Chairperson’s Business

The Chairperson briefed the Committee on a recent meeting that he and the Deputy Chairperson held with senior officials from DSD’s Urban Regeneration and Community Development Group and the Social Security Agency. The Chairperson advised that a meeting with senior officials from the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Division is scheduled to take place on Wednesday 15 June 2011.

A Member noted his interest in community development and urban regeneration issues and indicated that he would be happy to accompany the Chairperson to any relevant meetings should the opportunity arise.

3. Draft Minutes of Meeting 2 June 2011

Agreed: The minutes of the meeting held on Thursday 2 June 2011 were agreed as amended.

4. Understanding Parity – Briefing by the Department for Social Security

The following senior officials from the Department for Social Development joined the meeting at 10.07am:

Ms Anne McCleary - Director, Social Security Policy and Legislation;

Dr Colin Sullivan – Director, Universal Credit, Social Security Agency;

Mr Michael Pollock - Social Security Policy and Legislation; and

Mr Gerry McCann - Social Security Policy and Legislation.

The officials provided a briefing on the principle of social security parity in Northern Ireland. This was followed by a question and answer session.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing.

The officials left the meeting 10.24 am.

5. Proposed Pensions Bill – Departmental Briefing

The following senior officials from the Department for Social Development joined the meeting at 10.24am:

Ms Anne McCleary - Director, Social Security Policy and Legislation;

Mr Gerry McCann - Social Security Policy and Legislation; and

Mr Sam Dempster – Social Security Policy and Legislation.

The officials provided a briefing on the main provisions of the Westminster Pensions Bill and the introduction of a forthcoming corresponding Pensions Bill for Northern Ireland. This was followed by a question and answer session.

The Committee expressed concerns about a proposed corresponding Pensions Bill for Northern Ireland in respect of the following:

  • The impact on women of proposals to accelerate the equalisation of State Pension Age, particularly those women who are currently approaching retirement age;
  • The lack of awareness about the full impact of the increase in State Pension age on the corresponding qualifying age for benefits, namely State Pension Credit and Winter Fuel Payment;
  • The lack of transitional protection in place for the first tranche of women who will be affected by the increase in State Pension age; and
  • The impact of the proposed legislation on small business, in particular the provision of automatic enrolment.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it would write to the Department to seek more information on the women who will be affected by the proposed acceleration of the equalisation of State Pension age. In particular, the Committee sought information on the financial impact of the proposed legislation on the 7,000 women who will be affected and clarity on the time period that these women will have to adjust to the proposed increase in their State Pension age.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing.

The officials left the meeting 10.53am.

6. Proposed Subordinate Legislation

6.1 The Committee noted the Commencement Order: Housing (Amendment) (2011 Act) (Commencement) Order (Northern Ireland) 2011

6.2 The Committee considered the proposed Statutory Rule: Rent Book Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011.

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

7. Legislative Consent Motion: Welfare Reform Bill – Departmental Briefing

The following senior officials from the Department for Social Development joined the meeting at 10.55am:

Ms Anne McCleary - Director, Social Security Policy and Legislation;

Dr Colin Sullivan – Director, Universal Credit, Social Security Agency;

Mr Michael Pollock - Social Security Policy and Legislation; and

Ms Marian McKay – Social Security Policy and Legislation.

The officials provided a briefing on a Legislative Consent Motion relating to the Westminster Welfare Reform Bill. This was followed by a question and answer session.

Agreed: The Committee was content to support the provisions of the following motion:

“That this Assembly agrees that the provisions in clauses 122 and 123 of the Welfare Reform Bill, as amended in the House of Commons, dealing with the transfer of tax credits functions and the supply of information by a Northern Ireland Department, or by a person providing services to a Northern Ireland Department, should be considered by the UK Parliament.”

The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing.

The officials left the meeting 11.06am.

8. Correspondence

8.1 The Committee considered correspondence from the Construction Employers Federation requesting an opportunity to brief the Committee.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to invite the Federation to an informal Committee stakeholder event to be held after the summer recess.

8.2 The Committee considered correspondence from National Energy Action requesting an opportunity to brief the Committee on the issue of fuel poverty in Northern Ireland.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to invite National Energy Action and the Fuel Poverty Coalition to brief the Committee on fuel poverty at its meeting of 23 June 2011.

8.3 The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister regarding the Review of Arm’s Length bodies.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to DSD to request a list of the Arm’s Length Bodies under DSD.

8.4 The Committee noted correspondence from the Social Security Agency regarding the closure of the Jobs and Benefits Project.

8.5 The Committee noted items of correspondence from Inside Government, The Law Centre (NI) and the Community Transport Association.

9. Forward Work Programme

The Chairperson advised Members that the Minister is scheduled to appear before the Committee on 16 June 2011.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to meet at the stairs of the Great Hall at 9.55am for a Committee photo with the Minister.

The Chairperson informed the Committee that the informal stakeholder event agreed at the Committee meeting of 2 June 2011 has been scheduled for Thursday 22 September 2011.

The Chairperson informed Members that a Committee visit to a supported housing project managed by the Cedar Foundation will take place immediately after the Committee meeting on Thursday 30 June.

The Chairperson advised the Committee that the Clerk is working with the Department to devise an initial draft Forward Work Programme for the period immediately after summer recess.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content with the revised Forward Work Programme.

10. Any Other Business

None

11. Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 16 June 2011 in Room 29, Parliament Buildings at 10.00am.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 11.14am.

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

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