Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: 06 November 2012

Venue: Room 106, Parliament Buildings

Meeting began at 5.14pm


1.1 Mrs Cochrane will join meeting late.


The Speaker sought any declarations of interest from the Commission in relation to items of business being discussed. None were declared.


3.1 Welcome to Mr Bernard Mitchell

The Speaker officially welcomed Mr Bernard Mitchell, the new SARC Independent Member to the meeting. 

3.2 Commission study visit to the Scottish Parliament

The Clerk/Director General provided details to Members of plans to incorporate the Commission Planning Day, in which they will discuss future strategic issues of the Commission, with a study visit to the Scottish parliament in January 2013. The Commission agreed to the plans and noted it is a unique opportunity and it will be of great benefit to meet with their counterpart parliamentary corporate body in Scotland.

3.3 Timings of Commission Meetings

Mrs Cochrane joined the meeting at 5.20pm.

The Commission agreed that from January 2013 meetings of the Commission will be held on the last Wednesday of every month at 1.00pm. 


The minutes of the meeting held on the 25 September 2012 were agreed.


5.1 Ormiston House – update

The Director of Facilities provided Commission Members with an update on the expressions of interest received in relation to the sale of the Ormiston House site.  The Commission agreed a deadline of 16 November 2012 for closure of sale. The Commission concurred that, if needed, the commission would have a special meeting to facilitate the conclusion of the process.

Mr Weir left the meeting at 5.34pm.

5.2 Front Door Ramps – update

The Director of Facilities provided Commission Members with an update in relation to the work progressing at the front of the building. He informed Members that the work was largely complete and that it was expected the east ramps would be functional from week commencing 12 November 2012.

5.3 Roof – update

The Director of Facilities provided Commission Members with an update in relation to the roof project. He informed Members that a Letter of Appointment had been issued to the successful Service provider for the provision of the Design team. The final award of the contract will be made following the obligatory ten day standstill period.

6. EU Project and Proposed Committee Pilot Scheme

The Speaker welcomed Ms Mageean to the meeting.  Ms Mageean provided the Commission with background relating to progress achieved through the creation of her post as the NIA European Project Manager.  Ms Mageean provided information in relation to on-going work in the development of a NIA European Action Plan and highlighted that a key element within the European Project was to support committees in scrutiny of European issues and engagement in European affairs.  The Commission noted the detail of the pilot project, proposed for the 2012-13 session, to stimulate and support committee engagement. The Commission agreed on the importance of the Assembly studying best practice of other parliaments in such projects. The Commission commended Ms Mageean for the work carried out on the project up to this point.

Peter Weir returned to the meeting at 5.50pm


The Clerk/Director General provided Members with a brief overview of key issues contained within his update report, drawing Members attention to the following:

7.1 Member Development - Update

The Clerk/Director General provided Members with an update relating to the establishment and work of the Northern Ireland Assembly Legislative Strengthening Trust (NIALST).  The Clerk/Director General highlighted that to facilitate the implementation of the Programme, the Trust had recently appointed Ms Eva Grosman as Programme Coordinator.

7.2 Corporate Strategy 2012-16 – Organisational Redesign Strategic Work Strand

The Clerk/Director General informed the Commission that the team taking forward the Organisational Redesign Strategic Work Strand had commenced its work and as part of their deliberations would be seeking to meet with the Commission in November 2012.  The Commission noted that it is the intention of the team to also meet with Party Leaders.

7.3 Management Accounts

The Director of Corporate Services provided the Commission with an overview of the management accounts for the six month period from April – September 2012 and the October Monitoring Round (2012/13).

7.4 Public Expenditure

The Clerk/Director General again drew to Member’s attention to the potential for further public sector expenditure pressures beyond the end of the current Spending Review period in 2015. The Commission agreed that decisions prior to 2015 which make commitments beyond 2015 will require very careful consideration.

Mr Cree left the meeting at 6.00pm.

7.5 Oireachtas EU Presidency Programme Support

The Clerk/Director General advised Members that HR recently circulated an invitation to Assembly Secretariat staff to apply for the role of Programme Support within the Oireachtas in relation to the impending EU Presidency which takes place from January to June 2013. The Commission agreed this Programme will be beneficial to the Assembly as it will provide a significant development opportunity for the three members of staff involved.   

Mr Devlin joined the meeting at 6.05pm.


The Speaker welcomed Mr Brian Devlin to the meeting. The Director of Clerking and Reporting outlined the evaluation of the Electronic Committee Pack pilot and the proposed next steps and way forward. Mr Devlin detailed proposals to review the new Windows 8 tablet and explained the project team cannot obtain samples until the end of November. The Director of Information and Outreach Engagement advised this should still allow the project to be completed within this financial year.       

Mr Weir left the meeting at 6.13pm. Mr Ramsey, Mr McElduff and Mrs Cochrane left the meeting at 6.17pm (Assembly Division called).

Meeting was adjourned at 6.17pm as Commission was inquorate.

Mr Ramsey and Mr Weir returned to the meeting at 6.23pm. Mr McElduff and Mrs Cochrane returned to the meeting at 6.31pm.

The meeting reconvened at 6.31pm.

The Commission noted the findings of the evaluation of the Electronic Committee Pack pilot and noted the on-going engagement with the Chairpersons’ Liaison Group. The Commission further noted the recommendation to use iPads as the preferred Assembly tablet device and the proposed ICT Equipment Replacement project Plan. The Commission agreed that the project team take time to review the new Windows 8 tablet and report to the Commission without delay on its findings. The Commission thanked Brian Devlin and also Stella McArdle for the significant work carried out and noted the support the project team has given to Members throughout the pilot. 


The Director of Information and Outreach spoke to a paper which related to issues surrounding the adoption of Brown Tourism Signage for Parliament Buildings. The Commission noted the importance of the development of Parliament Buildings and the Stormont Estate as a tourism destination but agreed such an application would be expensive to the Assembly and not concurrent with the Assembly’s Corporate Plan Objectives. The Commission agreed that no further action be taken at this stage.


The Head of the Commission and Corporate Support Unit spoke to a paper which proposed a revised Language Policy and associated guidance which had been devised following consultation with Assembly Parties.  Mr Logue highlighted that the development of a Language Policy and guidance was outlined within the Commission’s Good Relations Strategy which was agreed by the Commission in May 2012.

The Commission considered the approach taken to consultation. The Commission agreed steps should be undertaken to notify Irish language medium schools that the Assembly Education Service can provide tours in the Irish language. The Commission agreed to discuss matters further following their visit to the Scottish parliamentary corporate body. The Commission noted the significant work carried out by CCSU on this issue.


The Director of Corporate Services provided background in relation to the development of a draft Protocol to provide a means of resolving a situation of conflict or dispute in which an MLA or member of the Assembly Secretariat staff considered that they had been treated in an inappropriate manner.   Mr Richard Stewart informed the Commission that the Protocol had been developed in consultation with Trade Union Side.

Following further consideration the Commission approved the draft Protocol and agreed that it should now be issued to Members and Secretariat staff.  The Commission agreed that the protocol was a necessary and innovative document and thanked the Director of Corporate Services and HR. 


The Director of Facilities/Keeper of the House spoke to a paper which provided background information in relation to the possible installation of an Electronic Access Control (EAC) system within Parliament Buildings. 

The Commission noted the proposals and way forward detailed within the paper and agreed to look at associated reports and financial information before further consideration at the next meeting.   


The Speaker’s Adviser spoke to a paper which requested the Commission’s consideration of the recommendations contained in the Report produced by the NIA Parliamentary Group on the USA (NIAPGUS).

The Commission agreed that the Northern Ireland Assembly Parliamentary Group on the USA should not continue.


14.1    Correspondence from OFMDFM

The Clerk/Director General advised the Commission a letter had been received from the Chair of the Committee of the First Minister and deputy First Minister. The OFMDFM Committee requested the Speaker’s view on the inclusion of the Commission on the list of bodies within the proposed NIPSO’s jurisdiction and in particular, the Commission’s view on any conflict of interest which could arise as a result of the Commission’s envisaged role in the recruitment and selection process and how any such potential conflict could be addressed.

The Commission agreed to be covered by NIPSO and that it did not perceive any conflict of interest, citing the similar example of the Comptroller and Auditor General. The Commission agreed to respond to the letter of 30 October 2012.

14.2 80th Anniversary - 17 November 2012    

The Speaker’s Adviser updated Members on the activities surrounding the 80th anniversary of Parliament Buildings.  He noted that the photographic exhibition had received positive feedback and much interest and that there were a high number of hits on the 80th webpage.  Members were advised that promotional material had been distributed to Assembly Members that day.


11 December 2012 at 4.00pm in Room 106   

Meeting ended at 7.35pm.

Tony Logue 
Head of the Commission and Corporate Support Unit

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