Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2013/2014

Date: 29 January 2014

Venue: Room 106, Parliament Buildings


The Speaker
Mr Peter Weir
Ms Caitríona Ruane
Mr Leslie Cree MBE
Mr Pat Ramsey
Mrs Judith Cochrane

In Attendance:

 Mr T Reaney
Mr G McGrath
Mr J Stewart
Mr R Stewart
Mr S Welch
Mr H Widdis
Mr T Logue
Mr R Ramsey
Mr C McKenna
Mrs C McGowan
Ms C Dodson
Mr Eccles was present for Item 8.

The meeting commenced at 2.05pm


No apologies were received.        


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


The Speaker welcomed Members back to the first Commission meeting of 2014.


Minutes of the meeting on the 12 Dec 2013 were agreed subject to the following amendment:

Item 7, insert ‘Ms Ruane stated that she did not accept that further savings could not be made, utilising the example of the letter from TSO discussed at the previous meeting.’      

Further to this amendment, Ms Ruane also requested that it be noted that she felt that Item 12.1 did not reflect the detail of the discussion and that further transparency on the matter was required.  The Clerk/Director General highlighted that the matter had been discussed during previous meetings of the Commission and minutes were in the public domain.  It was further agreed that copies of previous minutes where the matter had been discussed would be copied for information to Commission Members.

Mrs Cochrane entered at 2.22pm


5.1 Ormiston House - Update

The Director of Facilities provided Members with an update in relation to the recently requested independent valuation sought in relation to the Ormiston Site. Members discussed the perceived risks in relation to the matter and agreed that it was important to explore every possible avenue to seek the best price.  Members further discussed the options for progressing the sale of the site and agreed that it should be re-advertised at the reduced valuation and placed on both the domestic and commercial lists.  Members requested that a historical report be brought to a future Commission meeting detailing the timeline of all decisions taken to date in relation to the purchase and sale of Ormiston House.  

5.2 Parliament Buildings Roof Project – Update

The Director of Facilities provided Members with an update on the progress of the Roof Project in Parliament Buildings. It was agreed that a Commission meeting would be arranged to approve the recommendations flowing from the draft evaluation report from the design team.  The Director of Facilities provided the Commission with assurance in relation to the procurement process and the scoring mechanisms applied to the project.

Mr McKenna entered at 3.05pm

5.3 Accidental Damage in Upper Car Park – Advice

The Director of Legal and Governance provided Members with legal advice as requested on the Assembly Commission’s position in relation to accidental damage in the Upper Car Park of Parliament Buildings. The Clerk/DG informed the Commission that details of the incident, including points relating to signage and CCTV, had been put to the insurance company and following consideration they had responded that the matter did not fall within the remit of the policy.   Ms Ruane expressed concerns in relation to a lack of security and high standards and that the matter appeared unfair and requested that she be provided with the date the signage was placed in the Upper Car Park and the date of the installation of the CCTV system. 

Mr Ramsey also requested that the Director of Facilities explore the matter of additional lighting within the cycle parking area in the Lower East Car park.

5.4 Commission Newsletter

It was agreed that a draft copy of the Newsletter would be considered at the next meeting of the Commission.


The Clerk/Director General provided Members with an update on the key   issues arising in his monthly report namely;

6.1 Financial and Governance Issues

The Clerk/DG drew Members attention to the note of the Commission’s financial planning workshop held on 12 December 2013. Ms Ruane highlighted that she did not feel that the note reflected the detail of her discussion on the matters and it was agreed that Ms Ruane would forward her notes of the session to Mr Logue. The Clerk/DG further advised that a small number of external recruitment exercises would be undertaken over the next few months.

6.2 Commission Budget Setting Methodology

The Clerk/DG asked Members to note the Finance & Personnel Committee were considering a draft of the proposed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the Budget Process at its meeting on the 15th Jan 2014. He clarified that the Committee still had the MOU under consideration and that it had not yet been agreed. The Clerk/DG further reported that it had been suggested that a ‘dry run’ of the proposed budget setting methodology take place for 2015/16 budget process and that he would keep them advised of the process as it develops.    

6.3 Management Accounts

The Director of Corporate Services provided Members with an overview of the      Management Accounts for the 9 month period 1 April – 31 December 2013.

6.4 Meeting with the Comptroller and Auditor General

The Clerk/DG informed Members that the Comptroller and Auditor General had requested a meeting with himself following a meeting he had held with Ms Ruane.  The Clerk/DG advised that the issues raised related to voting procedures, information provided to the Commission and the Report to those Charged with Governance for 2012/13. The Clerk/DG informed the Commission that the Comptroller and Auditor General had suggested that it may be useful to review the level of information provided to Commission Members.  The Clerk/DG further reminded Members that information was currently being drawn together in relation to comparing the current schemes of delegation within other legislatures and suggested that Members may wish to consider the matter of information within the paper.  The Clerk/DG also drew Members attention to the use of ‘Common Principles’ within the Welsh Assembly and proposed that Members may also wish to consider this within the paper.  It was agreed that the Clerk/DG would seek Commission Members views on both matters prior to finalising a paper for consideration at the next Commission meeting.

Mr McKenna further assured the Commission that the Secretariat and Audit Review Committee regularly review the NIAO audit reports and have an obligation to forward any concerns should they arise to the Commission.

6.5 Corporate Risk Register

The Director of Legal and Governance provided an update for Members on the current position of the Corporate Risk Register.    The Clerk/DG informed Members that there had been a data management breach in relation to certain information relating to Members’ staff pension contributions. He assured the Commission that the matter was being fully investigated and that a full report would be brought back to an early meeting.

6.6 Organisational Redesign (OR) Project

The Clerk/DG provided Members with an update on the meetings of the 24 Sept 2013 and 10 Dec 2013 of the OR Project Board.  He highlighted that he anticipated that the incremental changes in the organisational structure would be implemented on or before the 1 April 2014.


The Director of Corporate Services provided Members with an update in relation to seeking further information on the details of cases involving defamation that had been brought to the attention of the Commission in the Scottish Parliament.  He reported that to date, he had not received correspondence from the Houses of the Oireachtas.  Following discussion Members considered the options proposed on the future management of cases but agreed that the outstanding information be sought from the Oireachtas Commission prior to taking a decision.  It was further agreed that potential costs should be outlined by way of an example case, demonstrating the potential costs which may apply for each option.   It was also agreed that details on the amount the Commission has paid to date for cases of defamation would be forwarded to Ms Ruane. 


Mr Eccles joined the meeting.

The Speaker welcomed Mr Ken Eccles to the meeting.  Mr Eccles provided the Commission with a progress report with regard to Business Continuity planning arrangements following the initial agreement received by the Commission at their meeting in November 2013. This included an update on the outstanding Business Continuity Internal Audit recommendations.  The Commission considered and noted the next steps as outlined by Mr Eccles and agreed that the methodology for increasing Commission Members familiarisation with the arrangements was important in taking the process forward.  The Commission further agreed that the BCMS team now communicate approval to all stakeholders.

Mr Eccles left the meeting.


Mr Robin Ramsey took Members through his paper relating the ‘Perspectives on’ series.  The Commission considered and agreed the event as proposed to mark the outbreak of First World War.


Mr Ramsey took Members through his paper which detailed proposals for a schedule for exhibitions for the Great Hall in 2014. Ms Ruane sought clarification on the timeline for agreeing the policy and requested that all copies of previous minutes and associated papers where exhibitions schedules were discussed be forwarded to her. Following discussion in relation to the title of the exhibition in July 2014, Members proposed that the wording should be amended to reflect a variety of sports.  Ms Ruane further requested that an exhibition on the ‘Irish Language’ be considered in the future and Ms Cochrane highlighted the work being undertaken in East Belfast on the Irish Language.  It was agreed that a further discussion would be held at a future Commission meeting to explore an Irish language initiative including looking at other existing projects on the Irish language. It was also agreed that Members would receive full details on Assembly Artefacts both on display and in storage.


Mr Logue reminded the Commission that Mr Patsy McGlone MLA had written to the Speaker to request that the Commission consider a permanent memorial to Seamus Heaney within Parliament Buildings and also that Sammy Douglas MLA had written to the Speaker seeking recognition for the life and works of CS Lewis.

Mr Logue informed Members that a range of options, including the naming of sections of the library, portraits, bronzes and framed pictures with literary and biographical content had been highlighted and that Officials had entered into dialogue with Mr McGlone in relation to the Seamus Heaney tribute, taking cognisance of the views of the Heaney family. Mr Logue further reported that Officials would liaise with Mr Douglas in relation to CS Lewis tribute and that a further report will be brought to a future Commission meeting.


Mr Ramsey took Members through his paper which proposed a policy framework for recognising significant historical individuals within Parliament Buildings.  Following consideration it was agreed that Members would consult with their parties in relation to the wording; criteria, processes and forms of recognition proposed within the draft policy and forward any comments to Mr Robin Ramsey for consideration at a future Commission meeting.


Mr Logue reminded Members that at the Commission meeting of 20 November 2013 the Commission had tasked Officers to bring forward a paper detailing information on the consultation process including timeframes and ‘the way forward’ concerning the motion on the flying of the Union Flag. 

Ms Ruane reiterated her disagreement on the matter being taken forward by the Commission and stated that it was ‘anti-democratic’ and was a matter for the Assembly.  Ms Ruane raised further concerns in relation to the costs involved in the process.

Following further consideration, the Speaker called a vote on the recommendations proposed, namely:

Recommendation 1: That the Commission consider procuring an independent person/organisation to conduct the EQIA and associated consultation process.

The Commission voted as follows:

For :                Mr Weir, Mr Cree and Mrs Cochrane = 61 votes.

Against :        Ms Ruane = 29 votes.

The proposal was agreed.

Recommendation 2: That the Commission agree timings for EQIA and consultation to commence as outlined within AC2713.

The Commission  voted as follows:

For :                Mr Weir, Mr Cree and Mrs Cochrane = 61 votes.

Against :        Ms Ruane = 29 votes.

The proposal was agreed.


14.1    Gift Shop

Ms Cochrane requested further information on the process involved in the selection of suppliers for the Assembly Gift Shop and it was agreed that the Director of Facilities would meet with the Member.

14.2 Equality Scheme

Ms Ruane requested a copy of the correspondence received from the Equality Commission relating to the NIA Equality Scheme update report which had previously been provided to Members.

14.3    Correspondence issued to IFRP

The Commission noted the correspondence issued from the Director of Resources in relation to a Constituency Office Contingency Fund.

14.4    Correspondence from ECNI      

The Commission noted the correspondence received from the Equality Commission in relation to the 5 year Review of the Disability Action Plans.  Ms Ruane requested a further update on the disability action measures and activities which had to date not been achieved.   

15. Date of next Meeting

It was agreed that the next meeting would take place on 26 February 2014 in Room 106, Parliament Buildings at 2.00pm

The meeting concluded at 4.32pm

Tony Logue 
Head of the Commission and Corporate Support Unit 

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