Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2014/2015

Date: 11 November 2014

Venue: Room 106, Parliament Buildings

1.            DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

The acting Chairperson sought any declarations of interest from the Commission in relation to items of business being discussed.  No items were declared.

2.         PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS EXTERNAL LIGHTING

The acting Chairperson reminded Members that they had agreed to defer a paper relating to the development of an external lighting project for Parliament Buildings until today to allow for some queries raised on 22 October to be answered.

The Director of Facilities/Keeper of the House provided the Commission with an update in relation the queries raised on procurement, proposed savings and timescales for the project.  Ms Ruane requested a copy of the procurement advice from the Assembly’s Head of Procurement in writing and it was confirmed that this would issue by correspondence.  She emphasised that she was unwilling to agree without further scrutiny of the information supplied.

Mr Welch informed Members that the project would be part of the wider roof project and if agreed would be completed within the same timescale of May 2015.  Ms Ruane highlighted that she was unhappy that the project was being amalgamated into the current roof project; however, Mr Welch confirmed that the ‘updating of lighting’ as an project element had existed as a specified measure within the contract from initiation and in order to achieve completion within the agreed timescale set for the roof project, a decision would be needed as soon as possible.  Mr Welch further highlighted that there would be additional costs involved if updating the external lighting was removed from the roof contract and treated as a separate tender.

Following further consideration Mr Weir proposed, seconded by Mr Ramsey that

‘The Commission agrees to proceed with the work required to install a lighting system for Parliament Buildings, subject to confirmation from the Assembly’s Head of Procurement that the work meets with all regulations and is an acceptable variation of the existing contract’

The Commission voted as follows:

For:                 Mr Weir, Mr Gardiner and Mr Ramsey = 68 votes

Against:         Ms Ruane and Mrs Cochrane = 37 votes

The proposal was agreed.

The acting Chairperson sought Members agreement that if the written information from the Head of Procurement was not acceptable to Members, then the matter would be further ratified at the meeting of the Commission on the 26 Nov 2014.

Members then considered the detail of the draft policy and agreed the policy subject to minor amendment to highlight the monitoring of the system in terms of number of days and events supported during each month.    

Decision:

The Commission agreed to proceed with the work required to install a lighting system for Parliament Buildings, subject to confirmation from the Assembly’s Head of Procurement that the work meets with all regulations and is an acceptable variation of the existing contract.

Actions:

  • Confirmation from the Head of Procurement to be sought in writing and circulated for Members information by correspondence.
  • Policy agreed subject to the following amendments
    • (policy statement and responsibilities) – para 5 (c ), 1st line  insert ‘up to’ prior to ‘another 8 days’; and
    • Add a monitoring paragraph to the policy to include the management for lighting up the buildings to ensure that no more than 2 events are supported within any given month.

 

3.                     REVIEW OF EVENTS POLICY

The Acting Chairperson reminded Members that again they had agreed to consider the review of the events policy at this meeting to allow Members opportunity to receive a copy of the equality screening report and responses to a range of queries relating to provisions within the policy as requested at the meeting on 22 October 2014. 

The Director of Facilities/Keeper of the House provided the Commission with an update in relation the queries raised at the previous Commission meeting on 22 October 2014.  He highlighted that a copy of the equality screening report was now attached for information.  Mr Welch further highlighted the historical basis and rationale for the introduction of the 3 signature rule demonstrating cross-designation support as agreed by the then Commission in 2008. 

Mr Ramsey highlighted his contentment with proceeding with the policy and guidance on events as outlined within the paper and emphasised that the 3-signature rule ensured that no group could hold an event which could be deemed as contentious. 

Mr Ramsey left the meeting.

Ms Ruane highlighted her dissatisfaction with the equality screening exercise and sought assurance that the screening report had not been written as a follow up to the Commission’s discussions on the 22 October 2014.  Mr Welch assured Ms Ruane that the screening had been undertaken at the beginning of the review in 2013 and conducted in line with the guidance provided by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland. 

Ms Ruane also highlighted that she felt that the screening exercise had not taken account of any adverse impact on equality of opportunity, especially in relation to political opinion.  Ms Ruane further indicated that political events appeared to have less rights than other events within Parliament Buildings and again reiterated her discontent with the current policy position in relation to the use of political or Party stands.  She highlighted that in her opinion the policy was censoring Political Parties.  Ms Ruane requested a further paper detailing the process followed by staff undertaking the equality screening process and further requested that a copy of every equality screening report be included as an annex to every proposed, existing or amended policy which comes before the Commission for consideration.

Mr Welch reminded Members that in essence the review was a consolidation of three existing policies which had been agreed previously at Commission meetings and merged the previous event related regulations into a single reference document for improved understanding.  He highlighted that apart from minor revision, the only additional element was the introduction of terms and conditions which outlined the expectations of all parties involved, and of which organisers would be required to agree to in advance of holding their event in Parliament Buildings.

The Commission also discussed the list of individuals named within the policy who were eligible to sponsor tours and events at Parliament Buildings and agreed that the only individuals with this entitlement should include the Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, The Speaker, the Clerk/Chief Executive and Directors of the Assembly.  The Commission agreed that requests from the Examiner of Statutory Rules, Comptroller and Auditor General, Attorney General and Assembly Ombudsman would be considered by the Commission on an ad-hoc basis. Ms Ruane also requested that a list of all events sponsored by Officials would come before the Commission on a monthly basis.

Mr Welch also highlighted that the rationale for detailing responsibility for translation to the primary signatory sponsor was based on the fact that at present the office was not structured to provide an in-house service.  He further stated that based the current statistics for requests for translation, namely 1 – 2 annually, that it would be cost prohibitive to provide a full translation service.  Mr Welch did highlight that events staff always work with event organisers to provide translation services information or relevant contacts and had even on occasion asked current secretariat staff with a second language to support them during tours were language barriers had been an issue.   Following consideration, the Commission requested that as an alternative measure to full translation, that the Director of Facilities explore the feasibility of providing tour brochures and tour scripts in a range of languages to assist visitors to the building.

In conclusion, the Commission approved the amalgamation of the existing policies and inclusion of the terms of reference.  The Acting Chairperson stipulated that, as agreed by the Commission in 2008, the politically sensitive elements of the policy would need to be considered and reviewed in more detail by the Commission as part of their wider discussions on Good Relations.

Decision:

The Commission approved the amalgamation of the existing policies and inclusion of the terms and conditions.

 Actions:

  • Further paper to be drafted for consideration at the next Commission meeting detailing the equality screening process;
  • Equality screening reports to be included as annexes within every proposed, existing or amended policy which comes before the Commission for consideration;
  • Policy to be amended (para 1.1.1) to remove the ESR, CAG, Attorney General and Assembly Ombudsman from having direct  eligibility for booking events and tours;
  • Individuals to be notified of the Commission’s decision to amend the policy;
  • Policy to detail that these requests would be considered on an ad-hoc basis by the Commission;
  • List of all events sponsored by Assembly Officials to be brought to the Commission on a monthly basis;
  • Director of Facilities to explore the feasibility of providing tour brochures and tour scripts in a range of languages; and
  • The politically sensitive elements of the policy to be included within a future discussion of the Commission.

 

4.         ANY OTHER BUSINESS

4.1       BBC Spotlight Programme

Following a query from a Commission Member, the acting Chairperson indicated that as far as she was aware, the screening of the programme would take place on either the 18 or 25 November 2014.

4.2       Condolences to the Clerk/Chief Executive

The Commission recorded their condolences to Mr Reaney in relation to his recent family bereavement.

5.         DATE OF NEXT MEETING

The next meeting to take place on Wednesday, 26 November 2014 at 2.00pm in Room 106, chaired by Mr Weir MLA.

The meeting concluded at 10.26am

Mr Tony Logue
Head of the Commission and Chief Executive’s Office

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