Minutes of Proceedings

Session: Session currently unavailable

Date: 29 September 2016

Commission Members:

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


Mr Stewart Dickson MLA

Officials present:

Mrs L Hogg, Ms T Caul, Mr R Stewart, Mr R Ramsey, Mr J Gilsenan and Mrs J Hughes

Others in attendance:

Mr Colm McKenna, Secretariat Audit and Risk Committee (SARC) Representative Mr Sebastien Mingout, Support Services Manager
Mr David Lynn, Buildings Services Manager Mr Ken Eccles, Head of Security
Maria Bannon, Equality and Good Relations Manager

The meeting commenced at 10.02am.


Apologies were received from Stewart Dickson MLA.


Ross Hussey MLA declared an interest relating to Agenda Item 13.

Commission Members' roles as serving MLAs was noted for Agenda Items 15 and 16.


The Speaker welcomed Members to the first formal Commission meeting following the Summer Recess.

The Speaker advised Members that he had recently signed a Letter of Delegation to Lesley Hogg, the Clerk/Chief Executive (Clerk/CE). The terms are identical to those approved by the previous Commission and issued to Lesley's predecessor, Trevor Reaney, in June 2014. A copy of the letter was included in the Members' meeting pack for reference. It was clarified that this did not prevent Commission Members from raising any issues of concern in the future.

The Speaker advised Members that the full agenda included a number of items requiring agreement today and acknowledged that time might need to be given for the discussion of other issues in order to give officials direction.

The Speaker also advised Members that Colm McKenna, Chair of SARC, would be giving an informal briefing to Members following the conclusion of business.


The minutes of the last Commission meeting on 23 June 2016 were approved for publication.


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

5.1 Pay Offer

The Clerk/CE advised Members that management and Trade Union Side are currently negotiating the 2016 pay award to Secretariat staff and that as in previous years, the final proposal would be brought back to the Commission for approval.

Agreed: Issue papers in relation to pay offer negotiations to Members and provide them with regular updates.

Action: Members requested sight of the NIPSA pay claim and agreed to provide officials with their views on parameters for the pay negotiation for consideration at the next meeting.

Action: Richard Stewart, Director of Corporate Services, to provide Members with copies of the NIPSA pay demand.

Action: Members to inform Richard Stewart of their thoughts on pay negotiation parameters for consideration at the next meeting.

5.2 Improvements to Accessibility

The Clerk/CE advised Members that a contractor has been appointed to automate the corridor doors on the ground floor.

She confirmed that external cabling around one interior door was for trial purposes only and that investigatory work on the lifts has determined that only one is suitable for refurbishment and upgrade to fire evacuation standard. A contractor has been appointed and the work is scheduled to commence on 7 November with a 3-week completion.

Work has commenced on the installation of a new ramped access at the former Gift Shop. It is expected that this work will be completed towards the end of November or early December. The gift and coffee shop has been re-located to rooms 13 and 14.

5.3 Litigation

The Clerk/CE provided a litigation update.

5.4 Internal Audit

Members noted the assurance levels awarded in recent audits of six business areas.

Two audits recorded substantial assurances; three recorded satisfactory assurances; and one recorded unacceptable assurance.

All recommendations in relation to the unacceptable assurance finding have been accepted and implementation is nearing completion.

5.5 SARC

The Clerk/CE advised Members that the recruitment exercise for a new Chair and a new Independent Member of the Secretariat Audit and Risk Committee (SARC) was underway.

5.7 Private Members' Bills (PMBs)

The Clerk/CE highlighted the significant increase in demand from Members seeking to submit PMBs and that current processes and procedures were not designed for this level of demand. She also noted that recent media coverage had been harsh as a greater number of bill proposals were being supported than would historically have been the case. The Clerk/CE advised that a business case was being prepared to increase staff resources, because the Speaker was keen to support the interest from Members. She added that a review of procedures had been requested by the Speaker to ensure that if an increased number of bills were supported there would be adequate time for them to be considered by the Assembly. It was anticipated that all parties would endorse an early review by the Committee for Procedures.

Members discussed the temporary pause that had been placed on the acceptance of any new PMBs. It was noted that this was a procedural issue for the Speaker and that a similar pause had occurred during the last mandate to progress initial bill proposals before supporting more. The Speaker clarified that he had no objection to the creation of a waiting list for further proposals as he had been clear that the increased interest in PMBs was a positive sign he wanted to support.


6. Draft Assembly Commission Budget Setting Methodology – Progress Update

Richard Stewart informed Members that the Department of Finance is content with the proposed methodology for setting the Assembly Commission's budget going forward subject to consideration by the Finance Minister and scrutiny by the Audit Committee.

Agreed: Members agreed the budget setting methodology.

7. Assembly Commission Monthly Management Accounts

Mr Stewart presented the monthly Management Accounts for August 2016, in a new format, and highlighted three factors affecting spend for the rest of this financial year: staff salaries, administrative costs and Members' costs.

Staff Salaries

Mr Stewart stated that due to the savings delivered from the staff released under the Voluntary Exit Scheme (VES) last year, the Commission's 2016-17 budget was such that there would be no need to run a VES this year. He noted that the funds assigned for VES cannot be used for any other purpose and consequently recommended that they be surrendered to the Department of Finance in the October Monitoring Round.

Mr Stewart further noted that there is currently a forecasted underspend against staff salaries as recruitment exercises are not yet complete. However, to accommodate other staffing competitions that may arise, he proposed making a partial surrender in the October monitoring round.

Agreed: Members agreed with the recommendation not to run a VES this year.

Action: Mr Stewart to surrender VES funds at the October Monitoring Round.

Agreed: Members agreed to surrender a proportion of the forecasted salary underspend.

Action: Mr Stewart to surrender a proportion of the forecasted salary underspend at the October Monitoring Round.

Administrative Costs

Mr Stewart recommended retaining the small forecasted surplus in this budget line based on final expenditure figures for 2015/16.

Agreed: Members agreed with Mr Stewart's recommendation.

Members' Costs

Mr Stewart proposed retaining the currently forecasted surplus funds in this budget line until expenditure could be more accurately gauged following the implementation of the Independent Financial Review Panel's two 2016 Determinations.

Agreed: Members agreed with Mr Stewart's recommendation.


The Clerk /CE noted that the two business cases had been brought to the Commission because the value of each exceeded her authorisation level.

8. Temporary Workers Contract – Outline Business Case

Mr Stewart spoke to this paper seeking approval of the outline business case for a Temporary Workers Contract. It was noted that this would go to full tender and would have no impact on recruitment for permanent positions.

Agreed: Members approved the business case for the Temporary Workers Contract

Action: Mr Stewart to proceed to competitive tender on the Temporary Workers Contract.

Mr Mingout joined the meeting at 10:45am.

9. Support Services Contract 2017 – Full Business Case

Mr Mingout spoke to this paper seeking approval of the full business case for the Support Services Contract 2017.

Mr Mingout outlined the scope of the current contract and the variety of work undertaken throughout Parliament Buildings. The current contract ends in July 2017. He also outlined plans for growing the hospitality offering for events such as wedding receptions.

Various options for going forward were outlined together with contract pricing structures. These options include do nothing, bring services in-house, and go to tender (a range of tender options were also discussed).

Due to the diversity, range and level of services required in Parliament Buildings Mr Mingout recommended a bundled tender exercise for the full range of support services.

Agreed: Members approved the business case for the Support Services Contract 2017 covering the full range of services.

Mr Lynn joined the meeting at 11:05am.

10. External Lighting of Parliament Buildings

Mr Lynn spoke to this paper seeking approval to proceed with the installation of a proposed new digital lighting system for Parliament Buildings. He noted that recommendations from the Central Procurement Directorate (CPD) are included in the proposal.

The existing system is nearing the end of its life and is not appropriate for lighting the buildings with a colour wash in recognition of events and charities as detailed in the lighting policy. The work had originally been scheduled as part of the recent roof project, but the contractor was not able to proceed within the original cost estimate.

Members noted the revised external lighting infrastructure proposals for Parliament Buildings and the updated capital installation costs.

Agreed: Members approved the business case for the external lighting of Parliament Buildings

Members requested that the existing policy which deals with lighting requests be reviewed once the new digital system is installed.

Action: Mr Welch to proceed to mini tender through existing CPD framework.

Action: Mr Welch to produce a paper for the Commission, reviewing the existing lighting policy, once the new digital system is installed.


11. Naming of the NIA Gift Shop

Mr Mingout spoke to this paper seeking agreement on the name for the new Assembly gift and coffee shop facility. This follows a recent exercise to suggest a short list of names from permanent building users.

Following discussion Members agreed to name the newly located gift and coffee shop 'Speaker's Corner' to reflect the purpose of the building.

Members also discussed the potential in future to consider a wider range of Assembly branded gifts in the new shop.

Action: Mr Welch to develop branding proposals for the Speaker's Corner gift and coffee shop.

Mr Mingout left the meeting at 11:23am. Mr Eccles joined the meeting at 11:23am.


12. PSNI 2010 & 2015 Security Reviews of Parliament Buildings

Mr Eccles outlined to Members a number of outstanding recommendations from the 2010 and 2015 PSNI security reviews of Parliament Buildings and the rationale for these. He sought direction from Members. It was noted that the previous Commission had authorised officials to take forward a number of recommendations which have now been implemented but agreed that others required further discussion.

A discussion followed on Electronic Access Controls (EAC); hostile vehicle mitigation; windows and glazing and searching people entering Parliament Buildings.

Agreed: Electronic Access Controls was not considered necessary and it was agreed that these should not be pursued to maintain the current openness of Parliament Buildings.

A decision on hostile vehicle mitigation will be held in abeyance. Based on the current level of threat.

Applying anti-shatter film to windows was rejected on the grounds that it would not provide suitable protection.

Searching all Members entering Parliament Buildings was rejected on the grounds that it does not currently happen in other jurisdictions

The Clerk/CE reiterated the advice of Officials to proceed with EAC and hostile vehicle mitigation measures. Failure to agree to these recommendations posed a risk to Parliament Buildings as previously advised to the Commission and supported by external recommendations. In not proceeding with these measures the Commission was carrying an unnecessary risk and vulnerability.

Mr McKenna stated that the lack of EAC was a significant risk and would continue to remain on the Risk Register.

Mr Eccles left the meeting at 11:48am. Mr Lynn left the meeting at 11.48am.
Mrs Bannon joined the meeting at 11:48am.


13. Draft Disability Action Plan 2016-21: Post-consultation

Mrs Bannon spoke to this paper seeking approval from Members on the response drafted to the sole consultee and on the Final Disability Action Plan 2016-21 for submission to the Equality Commission.

Agreed: Members approved the consultee response for issue and the Final Disability Action Plan 2016-21 for submission to the Equality Commission.

14. Draft Good Relations Action Plan 2016-2021: Post-consultation

Mrs Bannon spoke to this paper seeking approval from Members on the consultee responses to the Draft Good Relations Action Plan 2016-2021. If agreed the intention was to bring a draft of the final Action Plan to the Commission for approval in October 2016.

Agreed: Members approved the responses to consultees for issue subject to minor amendments.

Discussion took place regarding the proposal from one of the consultees to expand a section of the Draft Action Plan to include definitions of Good Relations in a guidance note to Northern Ireland Councils from the Equality Commission. There is no definition of Good Relations in Northern Ireland law.

Agreed: Members requested that the Plan should include a commitment for the Commission to consider a language policy within three months.
Action: Mr Stewart to bring the updated Good Relations Action Plan to the October Commission meeting.

Action: Mr Stewart to bring a paper on a language policy to the Commission meeting in January 2017.

Mrs Bannon left the meeting at 12:00 noon.

Note change to agenda running order, item 16 was taken before item 15.

16. Review of Implementation of IFRP Determination

Mr Stewart spoke to his paper.

Recognising the need to make progress on this issue, Members agreed that there should be a one or two month's period for them to consult with their parties and formally submit positions to the Commission. It was agreed that a consultation request outlining key questions to be considered would be issued to Commission Members.

Independent Financial Review Panel (IFRP)

15. IFRP: Reform

Ms Caul sought Members' approval that the issues addressed in her paper be used as a basis for consultation with Commission Members and their Parties covered under the previous item.

Action: A consultation letter to be issued to Parties seeking views on IFRP reform.

17. Current Insurance Coverage 2016-17

Mr Stewart spoke to this paper advising Members on the coverage of the combined insurance policy held on behalf of the Commission and Members.

Action: Provide costings for the possible inclusion of cover for employment related disputes into existing Commission Insurance policy.

Action: CCSU to circulate legal advice issued to Clerk/CE to Commission Members.

18. Correspondence

Members noted a response from the Speaker in relation to a letter received on the subject of the impact of the IFRP 2016 Determinations on the staff of Members.

19. Cleared by correspondence

An external lighting request from Pancreatic Cancer Action was cleared by correspondence during the Summer Recess.

20. AOB

Members requested that consideration of passes for former Members is included in a future Commission agenda.

Requests to light Parliament Buildings were received from:

The Cedar Foundation, building to be lit on 15 October 2016; and
The Women's Rural Network, building to be lit on 16 and 17 November 2016. Agreed: Members approved both requests to light Parliament Buildings. Action: Mr Welch to light the building as requested by the Cedar
Foundation and the Women's Rural Network.

21. Date of Next Meeting – 27 October 2016

The next meeting will be held on 27 October 2016 at 10am. The meeting ended at 12:20pm.

All officials left the meeting for the Chair of SARC to provide his annual confidential briefing to Members.

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