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Minutes of Proceedings

Session: Session currently unavailable

Date: 25 September 2020

Meeting Venue:        Meeting via Microsoft Teams

Meeting date:            Tuesday 25 August 2020

Meeting Time:           11.00am

Assembly Commission Members:

The Speaker
Mr Keith Buchanan MLA
Mr John O’Dowd MLA
Mrs Dolores Kelly MLA
Mr Robbie Butler MLA
Mr John Blair MLA

Apologies:     None 

Officials present:

Mrs Lesley Hogg, Clerk/Chief Executive
Ms Tara Caul, Director of Legal, Governance and Research Services
Dr Gareth McGrath, Director of Parliamentary Services
Mr Richard Stewart, Director of Corporate Services
Mr Paul Stitt, Acting Private Secretary to the Speaker

Others in attendance:

Ms Susie Brown, Head of Communications (agenda item 3)

The meeting commenced at 11.04am.

1. APOLOGIES

There were no apologies.

The Speaker thanked everyone for attending this meeting which had been called to (i) agree two additions to the 2020 Determination in relation to paternity and adoption leave and pay; (ii) agree the new 2020 Determination for publication; and (iii) agree the communications strategy for publishing the 2020 Determination.

2. 2020 DETERMINATION

The Speaker advised Members that following the last meeting on 29 July 2020, when the content of the 2020 Determination had been agreed, that two additions should be considered for inclusion in the Determination. 

Richard Stewart referred Members to a cover note provided in the meeting papers which set out the rationale for making two further additions to the 2020 Determination relating to paternity and adoption leave and pay.  It was noted that these two additions should be made in order to maintain consistency with contractual obligations.

Members agreed to include paternity and adoption leave and pay in the 2020 Determination.

The Speaker sought and received unanimous consent from Members to formally approve the 2020 Determination for publication.  Members further agreed that the Assembly Finance Office would continue to undertake rigorous verification checks on claims submitted by MLAs, without involvement from the Commission, to ensure that every Member complied with the Determination.

In agreeing the publication of the Determination, Members noted the key importance of transparency in the process and that MLA expenses would continue to be published in line with the requirements in Standing Orders.

Susie Brown joined the meeting at 11.13am for agenda item 3.

3. COMMUNICATION AND MEDIA STRATEGY

The Speaker advised Members that it was important to consider the Communications and Media Strategy regarding publication of the 2020 Determination and that there was likely to be significant public and media interest in it. 

Susie Brown referred Members to a draft Communications Strategy and associated documents in the meeting papers.

Members noted that it was proposed that all MLAs would be advised on the morning of 27 August that the 2020 Determination would be published at 12 noon that day and that they would receive a copy of the 2020 Determination, an amended 2016 Determination and an accompanying briefing note, on or shortly after the publication time at 12 noon.

Ms Brown proposed that the media would be briefed by the Director of Corporate Services and the Head of Finance.  She said that those media personnel who confirmed their attendance at the briefing would be provided with a copy of the 2020 Determination and an updated version of the 2016 Determination containing the amendments made by the 2020 Determination. She also proposed that the media be given the opportunity to ask questions.

Members agreed that they were content with the Communications Strategy as outlined.

The Speaker thanked everyone for their cooperation and efforts over a considerable period of time to agree a new 2020 Determination for publication.

Susie Brown left the meeting at 11.30am.

4. AOB

Lesley Hogg informed Members that a candidate had been identified from the recruitment merit list to fill the vacant post of Assembly Commissioner for Standards.  It was agreed that an Assembly Commission motion would be tabled for the Business Committee meeting on 2September 2020,seeking Assembly approval for the nomination of Dr Melissa McCullough at the plenary sitting on 7 or 8 September 2020. 

It was agreed that Robbie Butler MLA would move the motion in the chamber to nominate Dr McCullough for the post and that John Blair MLA would wind up the debate.

5. DATE OF NEXT MEETING

The Speaker advised Members that the next Assembly Commission meeting was scheduled for late September and that officials would be in touch to confirm a suitable date and time.  

The meeting ended at 11.34am.

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