Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: 20 March 2012

Venue: Room 106

Meeting began at 4.08pm

1. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

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

2. CHAIRMAN’S BUSINESS

2.1 Visit to Kosovo

The Speaker informed Members that Judith Cochrane would be travelling to Kosovo to represent the Assembly Commission following an invitation he had received from the President of the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo inviting a delegation from the Northern Ireland Assembly.

2.2 Internal draft Good Relations Report

Members agreed that a meeting should be convened before Easter Recess to discuss the Internal draft Good Relations Report in conjunction with Holywell Consultants.

2.3 Archived Assembly Reports, Journals and Proceedings

Copies of a CD-ROM containing archived Assembly Reports, Journals and Proceedings were distributed to Members. The Clerk to the Commission informed Members that a subscription for this service was available to all Members, should they wish to avail of this service they could pay for the subscription out of Office Cost Expenditure.

3. MINUTES

The minutes of meetings held on the 28 February 2012 were agreed.

4. MATTERS ARISING

4.1 Assembly and Executive Review Committee (AERC)

The Clerk/Director General asked the Commission to note that he, together with the Clerks and Chief Executives from a number of other Parliaments and Assemblies had been invited to make a submission to the Committee as part of the stakeholder consultation and that he would take part in an evidence session to the Committee on 20 March 2012.  He highlighted that the submission would focus on the professional and procedural aspects of the AERC’s review.

5. CLERK/DG KEY UPDATE REPORT

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

5.1 Independent Financial Review Report

The Clerk/Director General provided Members with an update in relation to the Report of the Independent Financial Review Panel (IFRP).  He highlighted that all Members had received written correspondence from the Clerk/Director General in regards to the implementation of the Report. The Clerk Director also informed Members that he was available to meet with any Member to discuss any issues arising out of the Report. 

5.2 Vetting Procedures

The Clerk/Director General asked Members to note the changes to the current vetting procedures for prospective and existing employees, agency workers and contractors. He highlighted that the changes would be incorporated in the staff handbook. 

5.3 Litigation Update

The Director of Legal and Governance Services provided Members with an update on current litigation matters.

5.4 Management Accounts

The Director of Corporate Services provided an overview of the management accounts for the period April 2011 – Feb 2012.

6. INFORMATION MANAGEMENT PROGRAMME

The Director of Information and Outreach spoke to a paper which outlined the Strategic Business Case for the Information Management Programme and provided the linkage with the Programme and the Commission’s Corporate Strategy 2012-16. He highlighted that the Programme brings together a number of ongoing projects together with a number of new projects which, when implemented would achieve the vision for information management. Following discussion Members approved the recommendation within the paper to proceed to the development of a Programme Definition Document.

Ms McArdle and Mr Devlin joined the meeting

7. ELECTRONIC COMMITTEE PACKS PILOT PROJECT

The Speaker welcomed Stella McArdle and Brian Devlin to the meeting. Ms McArdle took Members through a paper on the Electronic Committee Packs Pilot Project, the progress that had been made and some of the key issues that were still to be addressed.  Ms McArdle highlighted that the testing of the creation of the electronic Committee Packs by the Committee teams was now complete and the next stage would involve the actual application for three committees.  She highlighted that Committee members would be utilising tablets including Ipads, Androids and devices that support Microsoft Windows. Ms McArdle also informed the Commission that the pilot project was due to end in April 2012 and that a report on the findings would be available following Easter Recess and presented for the Commissions consideration in due course.

Commission Members discussed some of the issues that still needed to be addressed, namely, the logistics of identifying those Members who need to avail of the appropriate training, whether the Assembly should provide Members with tablets and the limited Wi-fi network currently available within Parliament Buildings.

The Speaker paid tribute to the work achieved by Mr Devlin and Ms McArdle in taking this project forward.

Mr Devlin and Ms McArdle left the meeting

8. HISTORIC ANNIVERSARIES

Mr Ramsey spoke to a paper regarding the proposal to plan an event to mark the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic. He highlighted that following agreement from the Commission in February 2012, the Speakers Engagement Liaison Group had met on a number of occasions to prepare proposals for the dates of historic anniversaries to be marked during this mandate and to make proposals for events to be held during 2012.

Mr Ramsey highlighted that the first of these anniversaries is the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic.  Following consideration, Members agreed to hold a Titanic Memorial Service in the Senate Chamber on the 16th March 2012.  It was agreed that the Event would be led by the Speaker and that Commission Members would facilitate with readings based on literature and documentation surrounding the Titanic.

In conclusion, the Commission agreed that a further paper would be brought back to the next Commission meeting to include proposals for marking further centenaries and historic events.

9. WORKPLACE PENSION REFORM: AUTO ENROLMENT

The Director of Corporate Services outlined a paper to Members on pension changes that are due to start in October 2012, whereby all employers, including Members, must enroll their staff into a qualifying pension scheme and make contributions to that pension. Mr Stewart informed Members that there would be no impact for the Commission in respect of Secretariat staff as the Commission already provide access to a qualifying occupational pension scheme for staff.

He highlighted that Assembly Members who directly employ their own staff to assist them in carrying out their Assembly duties would have to ensure that they met the new requirements under the new legislation. Following discussion it was agreed that further papers would follow to the Commission as the timetable for auto enrolment becomes clearer and as IFRP makes final decisions on how much financial and administrative support would be provided to Members, to assist them in fulfilling their requirements under the legislation.

10. ORMISTON HOUSE:REVIEW OF COSTS

The Director of Facilities spoke to a paper in relation to Ormiston House and the on-going costs of maintenance and security at the site. Commission Members considered the options available and agreed to proceed with the continuation of the provision of 24 hour security but with a reduction in staff.  It was further agreed that monthly updates would be provided to Commission Members in relation to the Ormiston Site. 

11. ASSEMBLY CHARITY POLICY

The Director of Outreach and Information spoke to a paper in relation to the Assembly Charities Policy. This policy was approved by the Commission in March 2010, following approval and implementation a charity is appointed. Members were provided with a shortlist of five possible charities that qualified under the selection process. Following discussion Members agreed that Action Mental Health would be the selected charity for one calendar year from 1st April 2012.

12. ANY OTHER BUSINESS

12.1 Assembly Commission Oral Question Time

The Head of the Commission and Corporate Support Unit informed the Commission that the next Oral Question Time for the Assembly Commission had been scheduled for Tuesday 27 March 2012 and that he would ensure that Members received a full list of questions electronically on 16 March 2012.   It was further agreed that Mr. Logue would liaise with Members to agree suitable dates for briefing sessions prior to Tuesday 27 March 2012.

12.2 Visit from the Canadian Parliament

The Head of the Commission and Corporate Support Unit reminded Members of the dinner arrangements for the visiting delegation from the Canadian Parliament.

13. DATE OF NEXT MEETING

24 April 2012 at 4.00pm in Room 106 

Meeting ended at 5.35pm

Tony Logue
Head of the Commission and Corporate Support Unit

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