Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 27 February 2013
Venue: Crumlin Road Gaol
Meeting began at 1.13pm
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. MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETINGS
The minutes of the meeting held on the 30 January 2013, adjourned until the 5 February 2013 were agreed.
3. MATTERS ARISING
3.1 Parliament Buildings Roof
The Commission received an update from the Director of Facilities prior to the beginning of the meeting. Mr Welch informed the Commission that a design team, led by Hamilton Architects had been appointed and were working on proposals for the technical solution for the roof, with considerations being given to the potential noise and disruption that may occur. Mr Welch also highlighted that the design team were also considering the construction of a contractor's yard to the rear of the building which would serve as storage and delivery area and that initial contact had been made with the Planners and NIEA with regard to the proposals. Mr Welch further highlighted that discussions have taken place with the Department of Finance and Personnel with regard to potential decant facilities and confirmed that the construction start date is still estimated to be late 2013 / early 2014. Mr Welch concluded by informing Members that a Project Support Group had been established and initial communication had been issued to all building users.
3.2 Ormiston House
The Clerk/Director General informed the Commission that work was ongoing to consider and agree an appropriate claw back clause to be included in the contract.
3.3 Proposals for Electronic Access Control
The Commission agreed that this matter should be deferred for consideration until the Commission meeting in March 2013.
3.4 The use of Art/Artefacts-Update
The Head of the Commission and Corporate Support Unit, Mr Logue provided Members on an update in relation to communication between his office and the Community Arts Partnership. It was agreed that the Partnership would be invited to attend the next meeting of the Assembly Commission to explore the possibility of working in collaboration to develop a piece of art which reflects the diverse nature of society in Northern Ireland.
3.5 Members Financial Services Handbook – Update
The Director of Corporate Services, Mr R Stewart informed the Commission that the matter had been resolved with the Member. Mr Stewart was questioned about financial probity and provided assurance on the matter.
4. CLERK/DG KEY UPDATE REPORT
The Clerk/Director General provided Members with a brief overview of key issues contained within his update report, drawing Members attention to the following:
4.1 Commission Strategic Planning Event
The Clerk/Director General highlighted the useful nature of both the Commission's recent visit to the Scottish Parliament and noted the benefits of the information exchange which had taken place at the Commission's strategic planning event which had taken place prior to this meeting.
4.2 Good Relations –Update
The Commission agreed to hold a future meeting to discuss the matters of Equality, Good Relations and Language.
4.3 E-Committee Project
The Director of Information and Outreach provided Members with an update in relation to the implementation of the E-committee Project and the procurement of tablet computers. It was agreed that a further paper on this topic will be brought back to a future meeting of the Commission.
4.4 Management Accounts- January 2013
The Director of Corporate Services took Members through the management accounts for the 10 month period 1 April – 31 January 2013.
4.5 Litigation Update
The Director of Legal Services provided members with an update in relation to the current litigation matters.
The Clerk/Director General provided Members with an update on the progress of the work to date on the Memorandum of Understanding between the respective institutions in respect of research and IT services.
5. BUSINESS EFFICIENCY PROGRAMME: CLERKING AND REPORTING/ OUTREACH AND EDUCATION – RECOMMENDATIONS
The Clerk/Director provided Members with an update in relation to the Business Efficiency Programme and sought Members views on the recommendations contained within the review of Outreach and Education. The Commission briefly considered the detail of the report and noted their support for the Assembly's education and outreach activities. Following further discussion, Members requested detail, including a cost analysis, relating to the range of weekend events that have taken place in the last 12 months. In conclusion, it was agreed that Members would take the paper away for consideration and discussion at the next meeting.
6. DRAFT LANGUAGE POLICY AND GUIDANCE
The Head of the Commission and Corporate Support Unit, Mr Logue provided the Commission with some background relating to the development of a draft language policy and associated guidance. Mr Logue highlighted that to date limited progress had been achieved to taking forward the matter. The Speaker suggested that the Commission consider holding a further separate meeting to address the issue. It was also agreed that all submissions received from Parties would be collated and issued in advance of this meeting.
Mr Logue also drew Members attention to correspondence he had received from Ms Ruane in relation to the provision of bi-lingual responses to Questions to the Assembly Commission for written answer. Ms Ruane highlighted that she would wish to respond bi-lingually to any question relating to her current portfolio responsibilities. The Speaker confirmed that current custom and practice was to respond to the Member in the language which had been used to ask the question.
Following discussion, it was agreed that Ms Ruane would meet separately with the Speaker to consider the matter further, before the issue would be reviewed at the next meeting. It was further agreed that the Speaker would write to the Members whose responses remain outstanding. Mr Weir also requested an update in relation to the provision of sign language courses for Party staff and it was agreed that an update would be provided.
7. EXTERNAL RELATIONS STRATEGY
The Director of Information and Outreach, Mr J Stewart presented a paper for consideration on the development of an External Relations Strategy. Mr Stewart informed the Commission that the Strategy sought to ensure that the Assembly and its work is accessible to all and communicated widely. Mr Stewart highlighted that the main strands of the strategy related to local relationships, the European Union, Kosovo, the USA and further opportunities. Following consideration, the Commission agreed the draft External Relations Strategy and that the Director of Information and Outreach should proceed to the next stage of undertaking a mini consultation with key stakeholders.
8. MEMBERS SURVEY 2012
The Director of Clerking and Reporting, Mr McGrath provided Members with an update on the results of the recent Members Survey that was carried out. The Commission noted that although the response rate for this survey was relatively low the overall levels of satisfaction with services provided by the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission are high with 32 out of 43 services scored satisfaction ratings of 90% or above. Following discussion Members agreed that a further options paper should be drafted for a future Commission meeting detailing comparative approaches to engagement within other legislatures.
Mr Pat Ramsey left the meeting 5pm
Mr G McGrath left the meeting 5pm
9. PENSIONS ADMINISTRATION AGREEMENT
The Director of Corporate Services, Mr Stewart provided Members with an update in relation to the administrative support to the Trustees of the Assembly Members Pension Scheme. Mr Stewart provided the background information and outlined the proposal of the introduction of an administration agreement to replace the Memorandum of Understanding that is currently in place. Following discussion Members agreed to proposed change.
10. YOUTH ASSEMBLY
The Director of Information and Outreach, Mr J Stewart provided Members with an update on the current position of the establishment of a pilot Youth Assembly. Members noted the progress made to date and reaffirmed their commitment to the establishment of a Youth Assembly for Northern Ireland. The recommendations as outlined in the paper presented were agreed.
11.1 Assembly Commission Oral Questions Session 3rd March 2013
Members noted the date and time for the next Assembly Commission Oral Questions session. It was agreed that the Head of the Commission and Corporate Support Unit would liaise with Members to arrange briefing sessions on Monday 11th March 2013.
Meeting concluded at 5.15pm
12. DATE OF NEXT MEETING
It was agreed that the next meeting would take place on Wednesday 20 March at 1.00pm in Room 106