Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2013/2014

Date: 02 April 2014

Venue: Room 106, Parliament Buildings

The meeting commenced at 2.05pm


The Speaker sought any declarations of interest from the Commission in relation to items of business being discussed.  Ms Ruane declared an interest in relation to Item 10, in her capacity as a Member of the Policing Board. The Clerk/Chief Executive declared an interest on behalf of all staff in relation to item 15/Pay Remit 2014.


The Speaker highlighted that he would be taking Item 13 in closed session and all Officials with the exception of the Clerk/CE and the Director of Corporate Services would be required to leave the meeting.

The Speaker reminded Members of the arrangements for the evening reception and Plenary for the North-South Inter-Parliamentary Association to be held on 3 – 4 April 2014.  Members considered and discussed topics for future Plenary sessions and agreed that proposals would be suggested to the next Joint Executive meeting of the NSIPA on 3 April 2014.


Minutes of the meetings on the 26 February 2014 and 19 March 2014 were agreed for publication.


4.1 Visitors Survey

Ms Ruane sought further information in relation to her previous query on the use of a visitors survey.  Mr Logue informed Members that the questionnaire had been constructed in collaboration with the Assembly’s Equality Manager and Research Department in line with Section 75 guidelines.  Ms Ruane proposed that the Commission review the questionnaire and following further discussion it was agreed that further information on the data collected to date would be circulated for Members consideration.   

4.2 Roof Project – Update

The Director of Facilities provided Members with an update on the progress of the Roof Project in Parliament Buildings and informed Members that the anticipated start date for the commencement of work would be 15 April 2014.

4.3 Ormiston House – Update

The Director of Facilities provided Members with an update on progress on the sale of the Ormiston House site and informed Members that he would be seeking the Commission’s final decision on how to proceed at the June 14 Meeting or earlier if required.

4.4 Assembly Commission Corporate Governance Arrangements-Update

The Clerk/Chief Executive (Clerk/CE) informed Members that a range of papers on corporate governance arrangements would be provided to the next Commission meeting. 


The Clerk/CE provided Members with an update on the key issues arising in his monthly report namely:

5.1 Business Efficiency Programme (BEP) - Recommendations

The Clerk/CE highlighted that there were 3 recommendations which required the Commission’s consideration.  Members considered recommendation 8 of the BEP review of Support Services relating to Party Refreshments.  Ms Ruane stated that she supported the recommendation to discontinue the provision of complimentary refreshments, however following further discussion it was agreed that a compromise approach would be progressed, allowing the provision of complimentary tea and coffee for one party meeting per week.

The second recommendation related to the use of ivory paper and ivory pre-paid envelopes.  Ms Ruane noted that she was in favour of the use of white paper and envelopes, however, Members felt that the ivory house style was a well-established part of the Assembly’s communications and concluded that the recommendation would not be supported and that the Assembly would continue to use ivory paper and ivory pre-paid envelopes.  

The final recommendation for the Commission’s consideration related to the BEP review of Outreach and Education  and proposed reduced week-end opening of Parliament Buildings.  Following consideration, it was agreed that a letter would issue to Party Leaders seeking their views prior to a final decision being taken at a future Commission meeting.

5.2 Art Advisory Group

The Clerk/CE informed the Commission that the Art Advisory Group would be meeting in the next few weeks to consider future exhibitions including a discussion on hosting an Irish language exhibition or other initiative and that an update would be provided to a future meeting.

5.3 Policy Development

Recognition of Individuals

The Clerk/CE reminded the Commission that at their meeting on 29 January 2014 a paper on developing a Recognition of Individuals Policy was presented.  The Clerk/CE sought Members support in seeking the views from their parties to forward to Mr Robin Ramsey to enable a final paper to be presented to a future meeting of the Commission.

Lighting of Parliament Buildings

The Clerk/CE highlighted that a policy was being developed for consideration by the Commission on the lighting of Parliament Buildings for special occasions or events.  The Clerk/CE drew Members attention to the details of recent requests.  The Commission broadly supported proposals from charities and discussed the need to develop the facilities to light the exterior of the building.  The Director of Facilities provided information in relation to the introduction of digital facilities at the Belfast City Hall and it was agreed that a policy should progress for the Commission’s consideration.  Members also requested that Mr Welch explore the approach taken by other organisations and the availability of any additional funding opportunities. 

5.4 Financial and Governance Issues

Management Accounts

The Director of Corporate Services provided Members with an overview of the      Management Accounts for the 11 month period to 28 February 2014.

Financial Planning Workshop – 12 December 2013

The Commission noted a revised note of the Commission’s Financial Planning Workshop held on 12 December 2013.

5.5 Data Management Breach

The Clerk/CE informed Members that as part of the response to the recent data management breach, the incident was referred to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) as a potential breach of the Data Protection Act. The ICO decided that no further action was necessary as minimal detriment appears to have been caused and the incident appears to them not to involve sensitive personal data.

5.6 Employers Public Liability Insurance Claim

The Clerk/CE informed the Commission that an insurance claim on the grounds of defamation had been received and that a further update would be provided at a future meeting.


The Director of Information and Outreach provided the Commission with a copy of the agreed BEP Project Evaluation Report. Mr Stewart highlighted that the Evaluation Report provided information on the processes employed in order to achieve the agreed objectives and provided details on the outcome of the reviews.  Mr Stewart also informed the Commission that the report makes recommendations that aim to ensure efficient service delivery and that the Assembly Secretariat continues to deliver high quality standards of service.

The Commission and Clerk/CE noted their appreciation to the Project Board and the Project Team in relation to the BEP Project and in creating a culture for continuous improvement. 


The Director of Facilities provided Members with a register of ‘Assembly Artefacts’ in the possession of the Assembly.  Mr Welch drew Members attention to the type and location of the artefacts and informed the Commission that a small number of items are on display within Parliament Buildings with the remainder housed in secure off-site storage.  Ms Ruane stated that she felt that there was an inequality in the type of artefacts held and requested that a copy of the ‘audit of inequalities’ from the Assembly’s Equality Scheme should be circulated to Members for further discussion at a future meeting.

It was also agreed that the Director of Facilities would arrange for the Commission Members to view the artefacts held in storage.  The Commission further requested details of artwork on loan from DFP to be circulated for Members information.  Members also discussed the costs involved both for storage and insurance and sought further information in relation to the insurance arrangements for those artefacts on loan from the Assembly.


Mr Logue provided the Commission with an update on a proposed increase to the days required in the procurement of an independent consultant to conduct the policy EQIA on the flying of the Union Flag at Parliament Buildings as agreed by the Commission at their meeting in January 2014.

Ms Ruane stated that she and her party were opposed to addressing the matter at the Commission, as she felt that it was a matter for the Assembly.  Ms Ruane further queried the costs involved as a waste of public money.

Following consideration, the Speaker called a vote on the recommendation proposed, namely:

‘That the Commission agree the proposed revised days, timings and associated costings in relation to the procurement of a consultant to conduct the policy EQIA on the flying of the Union Flag at Parliament Buildings.’

The Commission voted as follows:

For : Mr Weir, Mr Cree and Mrs Cochrane = 61 votes.

Against : Ms Ruane and Mr Ramsey = 43 votes.

The proposal was agreed.


The Director of Legal and Governance informed the Commission that the Clerk/CE had requested a review of the governance of the Commission’s relations with five partner bodies, namely:

  • the Independent Financial Review Panel (IFRP);
  • the Assembly Commissioner for Standards (ACS);
  • the NI Assembly and Business Trust (NIABT);
  • the NI Assembly Legislative Strengthening Trust (NIALST); and
  • the Assembly Members’ Pension Scheme Trustees (AMPST).


The Commission noted the recommendations proposed by Mr Widdis and accepted by the Clerk/CE.  Mr Widdis informed the Commission that the recommendations would now be implemented.  The Commission further endorsed the proposed principles of good governance as outlined within the paper by Mr Widdis for general application.


The Director of Facilities provided the Commission with some background information regarding the formulation of a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Northern Ireland Assembly and PSNI, in relation to the execution of searches in premises of Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly at Parliament Buildings.

Following discussion, the Commission agreed that further information would be sought from other legislatures in relation to the searching of premises used by elected representatives within those legislatures.  It was agreed that the matter would be considered again at the next Commission meeting in May 2014.


The Director of Corporate Services provided a paper which detailed a further analysis of the options previously presented for the management of future insurance cases involving defamation.  The Commission discussed the proposed options, including the likely costs / savings associated with the options and the practicalities of enforcing any agreement made between the Commission and a Member in respect of insurance cover. 

The Commission indicated the preferred option (B) to retain the cover for defamation in its current form where the referral of a future claim to the insurer is made only if the Commission is satisfied that the Member has first agreed to meet all (or part) of the excess in the event of a successful claim. It was further agreed that additional information in relation to the enforceability of such an agreement would be brought to the next Commission meeting to allow for a final decision to be taken.

12. GIRO D’ITALIA – Potential Impact on Parliament Buildings

The Speaker welcomed, Mr S Mingout, Support Services Manager to the meeting.  Mr Mingout provided Members with the detail surrounding events leading up to the Giro d’Italia on Friday 9th May 2014.  The Commission agreed that the events offered a unique opportunity to be involved in one of the cycling world’s elite and iconic events.  Following consideration the Commission approved the proposed dressing of the building and noted that further consideration would be required in relation to accessibility to Parliament Buildings on the 9 May 2014.

13. Any Other Business

13.1 Eurest Contract

Mr Cree sought further information relating to the tariff increases for purchases within catering outlets in Parliament Buildings.  Mr Cree requested that the justifications include a comparative analysis against increases applied within external businesses.


The next meeting will take place on Tuesday 13 May 2014 at 12.45pm in Room 106.

The Speaker requested that all Officials with the exception of the Clerk/CE and the Director of Corporate Services leave the meeting for the 2 remaining Business Matters.

Tony Logue 

Head of the Commission and Corporate Support Unit 

15. PAY REMIT 2014

The Director of Corporate Services presented a paper on the Secretariat staff pay award for 2014 and a pay claim made by NIPSA on behalf of its members. Following discussion, it was agreed that further information be provided for consideration at a future meeting.

Mr R Stewart left the meeting.

16. Organisational Redesign (OR) Project

The Clerk/Chief Executive presented the minutes of the OR Project Board meeting held on 10 December 2013 and the OR Project Conclusion report which were noted by Members. The Clerk/Chief Executive advised that the Project board has concluded its work and that any further issues relating to organisational redesign would be brought directly to the Commission. In response to a question relating to a gender action plan, the Clerk/Chief Executive undertook to provide an update to the next meeting on the ongoing work of the Gender Action Plan team.

Meeting concluded at 3.55pm

Mr T Reaney
Clerk/Chief Executive

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