Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 31 May 2011

Venue: Room 106


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


The minutes of the 22 March 2011 were agreed without amendment.


The Speaker expressed his thanks to Members for their attendance at the opening of the changing places facility in Parliament Buildings. He also paid tribute to those involved in assisting the Assembly in achieving the Royal National Institute for the deaf (RNID) Louder than Words best practice Charter Mark.


The Clerk/Director General presented the Commission with a copy of his update report and drew Members attention to several matters, namely:

4.1 Quarterly Reports

The Clerk/Director General informed the Commission that he intended to cease detailed quarterly reports produced on the work of the Secretariat in order to streamline future Commission meetings and would provide a monthly report on key issues at each future meeting.

4.2 Election Planning/New Mandate

The Clerk/Director General provided the Commission with a review of the arrangements undertaken on election planning. The Speaker expressed his thanks to John Stewart and his team for the work carried out which allowed a smooth transition into the new mandate.

4.3 Independent Financial Review Panel (IFRP)

The Clerk/Director General provided members with an update in relation to the interviews that took place for the appointment of members of IFPR.

He informed Members that formal recommendations for appointments for IFRP would be brought to the next Commission meeting for approval. Members noted that the Commission would have no role in the IFRP decisions and reports.

4.4 Damages (Asbestos Related Conditions) Bill

The Clerk/Director General provided members with an update and advised members that the Attorney General has withdrawn his referral to the Supreme Court of the Damages (Asbestos Related Conditions) Bill. The Speaker took this opportunity to pay tribute to Mr Widdis and his team for the work carried out on this matter.

4.5 Litigation

The Director of Legal Services provided Members with an update in relation to current litigation against the Commission.

4.6 NI Housekeeper of the Year Award 2010

The Clerk/Director General offered congratulations to Sharon Cummins (Housekeeping Manager, Eurest) who won the NI Housekeeping of the year award 2010.

4.7 Accommodation

The Director of Facilities provided an update to members in relation to accommodation issues. In relation to Ormiston House, Mr Welch informed members that further meetings have been arranged for 2 June 2011 with the planners and there had been a healthy interest from potential buyers for the Ormiston site. He highlighted that there are currently 3 environmental surveys to be completed on the site and it is anticipated these will be completed mid-August 2011. Mr McQuillan reminded Members that there was an accounting issue in respect of Ormiston which would need to be considered. For the benefit of new members Mr Welch provided an outline of the planning application. The Speaker suggested that it may be useful for Members to visit the Ormiston Site and it was also agreed that Mr Welch would provide Members with a historical note on the disposal/development of the site to date.

Mr Welch provided Members with an update in relation to car parking. He highlighted that a joint proposal with the Department of Finance and Personnel had now been accepted which would create an additional 50 car parking spaces in the Upper Cottages Car Park, located at the rear of Stormont Castle. Mr Welch also highlighted that the PSNI have confirmed their contentment with the proposal and work will commence over Summer Recess.

Members noted the work carried out in respect of the changing places facility in Parliament Buildings, the Louder than Words Charter Mark and staff movements in vacating Annexe C. Mr Welch also informed Members that a presentation outlining proposals and recommendations on the roof project for Parliament Buildings would be delivered at the beginning of the next Commission meeting in June 2011.

4.8 Secretariat Organisational Structures

The Clerk/Director General informed the Commission that he had made some changes within the Secretariat organisational structures and that it is intended that the implementation of these changes would take place during the coming weeks.

4.9 Hansard Bound Volumes

Members noted that the decision to no longer supply free copies of Hansard Bound Volumes had now been implemented and that Hansard are currently producing a CD-ROM containing all the bound volumes for the 2007-2011 mandate.

Mr P Gill joined the meeting.


The Speaker welcomed Mr Paul Gill to the meeting. Mr Gill outlined the background of the paper presented to the Commission in relation to the appointment of the NI Assembly Commissioner for Standards. Mr Gill highlighted that the Chairperson of the Committee on Standards and Privileges had requested that the Commission table a motion seeking to have the Assembly delegate to it those functions set out in section 19 (4) of the Assembly Members (Independent Financial Review and Standards) Act (Northern Ireland) 2011. Following discussion the Commission agreed to table this motion, with the intention of scheduling it for debate the week commencing 13 June 2011. It was further agreed that Mr Peter Weir would move and wind the motion. Mr Logue would provide Mr Weir with the relevant speaking notes. It was also agreed that a further paper would be brought to the Commission following the Assembly debate in respect of proposals on the appointment process for the Commissioner together with proposals on the Commissioner's terms and conditions.

Mr P Gill Left the meeting


Mr Logue outlined a proposed schedule and arrangements for the Commission’s upcoming corporate planning workshop. This will take place in the Dunadry Hotel on the 16 th – 17 th June 2011. Members agreed the proposed programme.


The Clerk/Director General spoke to a paper outlining the roles and responsibilities of the Secretariat Audit & Risk Committee. It was requested that the Commission nominate a member to join the SARC. Members agreed that Mr Pat Ramsey would retain his position as a member of SARC.


Mr Logue spoke to a paper which outlined draft proposals for portfolio arrangements for each Member of the Commission. The Commission approved the arrangements and agreed that the portfolio arrangements would be reviewed and rotated on an annual basis. Mr Logue agreed to liaise with Members and arrange a suitable date/ time for inductions to take place. As part of the induction process it was further agreed that meetings will be convened with Directors to provide further information in relation to each portfolio area.


The Director of Corporate Services spoke to a paper in relation to the nomination of Pension Trustees for the Northern Ireland Assembly Members’ Pension Scheme. He highlighted that there were currently five members and that traditionally members have been nominated from each of the five main political parties. Members discussed the options of seeking nominations and agreed that they would each approach their Party Leaders requesting these, it was further agreed the Commission would bring a motion to plenary to appoint the Pension Trustees by resolution of the Assembly on 27 th or 28 th June 2011.


The Clerk/Director General provided Members with an update in relation to the performance against the Corporate Plan objectives for the period 2010/11.

Mr McElduff sought clarification in relation to the Members support programme. The Director of Clerking and Reporting advised members it is the intention to meet with Party Whips in the near future to discuss and plan a needs assessment for members, so as to identify training requirements. Mr Ramsey suggested training should be provided in the area of IT to ensure that Members are able to use the new systems that have been put in place. Mr McElduff also suggested it would be beneficial if Members could receive a hard copy directory of all Secretariat staff contact details.

Mr Peter McCallion joined the meeting


The Speaker welcomed Mr McCallion to the meeting. The Director of Clerking and Reporting provided members with a brief overview of the Business Efficiency Programme, he informed members that the savings proposed by the Commission in December 2010 have been met and the next stage of the programme would be to look at efficiency reviews within the various business areas within the Secretariat.

Mr McCallion advised members that the reviews would be undertaken by cross-directorate teams facilitated by members of the project team. He highlighted that the information gathered in the reviews would be analysed with the resulting recommendations forming the basis of the reports. He informed the Commission that It was anticipated that the outcome of the business efficiency programme would be the identification of actions required to meet the target budget and staff reductions for the period and that the process of the reviews would deliver further improvements to services and reductions in cost.

Mr McElduff also requested further information in respect to the operation of the existing catering contract and it was agreed that the Director of Facilities would provide a paper for discussion at the next meeting. Mr Ramsey also requested that further consideration was required in relation to reviewing the senior management structure and the Clerk/Director General assured Mr Ramsey that all considerations would be reviewed through the development of the Corporate Plan 2012-2015 and the outworking of business efficiency reviews.

Mr McCallion left the meeting


12.1 North South Parliamentary Forum

The Clerk to the Commission briefed members on the forthcoming visit to Dublin on 23 June 2011 to meet with the counterpart group in the Houses of Oireachtas. It was agreed that Members would be forwarded further details on timings. On the suggestion of the Clerk/Director General, Members agreed that it would be beneficial to meet beforehand for a pre-brief.

12.2 Expression of Sympathy

Members expressed their sympathy to Dr McGrath following the recent death of his father.

12.3 BIPA

Mr McElduff sought further information in relation to the nomination process and timings for the next British Irish Parliamentary Association conference in Cork. It was agreed that Mr Logue would provide this information to Mr McElduff.


The next Commission meeting will take place on Tuesday 28 June 2011 at 4.00pm in Room 106

Meeting ended at 5.25pm

Tony Logue
Head of Commission and Corporate Support Unit

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