Minutes of Proceedings

Session: Session currently unavailable

Date: 24 November 2016

Meeting Venue: Room 106, Parliament Buildings

Meeting date: Thursday 24 November 2016

Meeting Time: 10.00am

Commission Members:

The Speaker
Mr Jim Wells MLA
Mr Alex Maskey MLA
Mr Ross Hussey MLA
Mr Alex Attwood MLA

Apologies:

Mr Stewart Dickson MLA

Officials present:

Mrs L Hogg, Ms T Caul, Mr G McGrath, Mr R Stewart, Mr S Welch, Mr R Ramsey, Mr J Gilsenan and Mrs J Hughes

Others in attendance:

Mr David Lynn, Head of Building Services

The meeting commenced at 10.20am.

1. APOLOGIES

An apology was received from Stewart Dickson MLA.

2. DECLARATION OF INTERESTS

No interests were declared.

3. CHAIRPERSON’S BUSINESS

The Speaker reminded Members that today’s meeting would be followed by a litigation update from Tara Caul, Director of Legal and Governance Services, in closed session.

The Speaker then advised Members that agenda items 9 and 11 would be taken before the Clerk/CE’s Key Update Report.

4. MINUTES OF MEETING

The minutes of the last Commission meeting on 15 November 2016 were approved for publication.

5. COMMISSION ACTIONS

Lesley Hogg, Clerk/CE provided Members with an update on actions from previous Commission meetings.

POLICY

9. Assembly ID Passes – Former Politicians 

Following a request from a Member to review the current position regarding passes for former MLAs, Stephen Welch, Director of Facilities provided Members with three options for consideration.

Mr Welch recommended no change to the current policy as amended and approved by the Commission in March 2016.

Ross Hussey MLA joined the meeting at 10.25am.

Following discussion, it was agreed that an amended proposal regarding provision of additional passes to Parties be brought to the Commission for consideration.

Action: Mr Welch to bring a further paper to the January Commission meeting.

Action: Mr Welch to provide Members with a copy of the policy regarding the number of passes currently issued to MLAs and their staff.

GENERAL

David Lynn, Head of Building Services joined the meeting at 10.47am.

11. Assembly Artefacts

Mr Lynn sought Members’ views regarding a request from an MLA to arrange an exhibition of artefacts belonging to the Assembly and regarding plans to reduce the cost of off-site storage for furniture and artefacts.

Mr Lynn advised Members that, for insurance purposes, all artefacts within Parliament Buildings and those held at an off-site storage facility were due to be valued within the next week. Following that, it is proposed to review and rationalise and reduce the number of items currently being stored.

Members agreed that it was not appropriate to have an exhibition at this time but would review this decision following sight of a full inventory and updated valuation.

Action: Mr Lynn to provide Members with a full inventory of all artefacts together with updated valuations and proposals to rationalise the items stored.

David Lynn left the meeting at 11.01am.

6. CLERK / CE KEY UPDATE REPORT

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

6.1 Secretariat Audit and Risk Committee (SARC)

The Clerk/CE advised Members that Mr Jim Brook has been appointed as Chair of SARC and Mr Derek Martin as the Independent Member. Both are due to take up their appointments in December 2016.

6.2 Equality Unit

The Clerk/CE informed Members that work is ongoing regarding the preparation of a paper on language for the Commission.

6.3 Centre of Excellence

The Clerk/CE advised Members that Eurest had maintained Centre for Excellence status following an annual internal accreditation assessment.

6.4 External Lighting 

Members noted that the new external lighting system is due to be installed by the end of the financial year.

6.5 Improvements to Accessibility

The Clerk/CE provided an update on improvements to accessibility within Parliament Buildings. Work has recently commenced to automate the ground floor corridor doors and upgrade the south lift. The anticipated completion date for the ongoing work to the new ramped access is February 2017.

6.6 Leaving the European Union

The Clerk/CE advised Members that the Legal and Governance Services Directorate continue to monitor the potential implications of the UK’s exit from the EU for the workings of the Assembly.

6.7 Politics Plus

The Clerk/CE also informed Members that:

  • the Women in Public Life Programme (II) concluded on 4 November 2016;
  • the Experts in Residence Programme is continuing; and
  • the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus had re-convened in October.

6.8 Responses to Written Questions to the Commission

Lastly, the Clerk/CE informed Members that a number of MLAs have raised the issue of late answers to written questions. The Business Committee is currently reviewing the figures.

Agreed: In line with the policy previously agreed by the Commission on 4 November 2015, Members confirmed that if the assigned Member is unable to respond to an AQW to the Commission, another Member can approve the response to ensure that it is answered within the required time limit.

FINANCE

7. Assembly Commission Monthly Management Accounts

Richard Stewart, Director of Corporate Services presented the Management Accounts for October 2016, highlighting the revised forecast budgets for each of the categories of expenditure within the Assembly Commission’s overall budget.

Mr Stewart advised Members that the January Monitoring round is the last opportunity to formally adjust the Commission’s budget and that offices will be reporting back their position in the first week of December. The significant underspend on Members’ costs was again noted.

The Clerk / Chief Executive informed Members that she is meeting with Directors and the Finance Office to review the budget figures prior to the December monitoring deadline. The funding of Private Members’ Bills will also be considered.

8. Pay Award 2016

Mr Stewart reminded Members of the initial pay claim for Secretariat staff made by NIPSA and the subsequent without prejudice offer. Members’ views were sought on various elements of the pay awards.

As requested at the last Commission meeting, Mr Stewart provided Members with comparative pay structures for the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly for consideration.

Following discussion, it was agreed to give Members more time to consider one of the proposals and reconvene to reach agreement.

Agreed: Members agreed, in principle, to five aspects of the pay claim.

Agreed: Members agreed to a single item agenda Commission meeting to agree one further aspect.

Action: Mr Stewart to provide Members with details of the split of staff across the various pay points within each pay scale.

Mr Attwood MLA requested a paper providing details on monies surrendered at Monitoring rounds during the last mandate on all categories of expenditure within the Commission’s budget, together with details of the terms and conditions of employment for staff in relation to working practices such as job sharing, working from home, flexible working, etc.

Action: Mr Stewart to provide Members with a breakdown of monies surrendered at Monitoring rounds over the course of the 2011-16 mandate.

Action: Mr Stewart to provide Members with details of current terms and conditions for staff relating to working practices.

GENERAL

10. Decade of Centenary Events to be marked during the Mandate

Robin Ramsey, Adviser to the Speaker/Head of Corporate Support spoke to this paper seeking agreement to the marking a number of anniversaries during this mandate.

Mr Wells MLA noted the positive work undertaken to date under former Speakers Hay and McLaughlin.

Mr Hussey MLA proposed including an event to commemorate the Battle of Messines in June 1917.

Agreed: Members agreed in principle with the list of Centenaries to commemorate but agreed to consult with party colleagues on further proposals and issues of wording before agreeing a final list.

Action: Members agreed that commemoration of the parliamentary centenaries of the first sittings of the Dáil and the Northern Ireland Parliament should also be considered.

Action: Mr Ramsey to bring an updated paper to a future Commission meeting.

Mr Attwood MLA also suggested that the Commission consider whether the relevant parliamentary commemorations should be marked in conjunction with London or Dublin. Mr Ramsey informed the Commission that he intended to consult with other institutions on their plans.

12. AOB

Mr Ramsey reminded Members that Oral Questions to the Commission will be on 29 November 2016

He also advised Members that he would be writing out to MLAs in smaller parties reminding them of the option they have to allocate their vote to parties represented on the Commission.

Mr Attwood MLA asked whether membership of the Commission should be considered at some stage to include the smaller parties in light of recent discussions relating to the Business Committee. Mr Ramsey clarified that the size of the membership of the Commission was specified in legislation but that he was happy to confirm the details at a future meeting.

13. Date of Next Meeting

The next meeting will be held on 26 January 2017 at 10am in Room 106.

The meeting moved into closed session at 12.19pm.

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