Minutes of Proceedings

Session: Session currently unavailable

Date: 05 September 2019

Meeting Venue: Room 106, Parliament Buildings

Meeting date: Thursday 5 September 2019

Meeting Time: 1.30pm

Commission Members:

The Speaker
Mr Jim Wells MLA
Mr Alex Maskey MLA
Mr Colin McGrath MLA
Mr Robin Swann MLA
Mr Stewart Dickson MLA

Apologies: N/A

Officials present:

Mrs Lesley Hogg, Ms Tara Caul, Dr Gareth McGrath, Mr Richard Stewart, Mr Robin Ramsey and Ms Frances Leneghan

Others in attendance: N/A

The meeting commenced at 1.35pm.

1. APOLOGIES

No apologies were received.

2. DECLARATION OF INTERESTS

The Speaker noted Members’ interests in relation to Independent Financial Review Panel (IFRP) reform. There were no other declarations of interest.

3. MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING

Draft minutes from the Assembly Commission meeting on 24 June 2019 were issued to Members on 25 July 2019 for consideration. These were agreed.

4. CHAIRPERSON’S BUSINESS

The Speaker welcomed Colin McGrath MLA to his first Assembly Commission meeting in accordance with the protocol agreed by the Commission at its June 2019 meeting.

5. MATTERS ARISING

There were no matters arising.

6. CORRESPONDENCE

6.1 Members noted the Speaker’s response to the Chair of the Women’s Caucus in relation a number of queries regarding the 2016 IFRP Determination and potential reform and a request for a meeting with the Assembly Commission.

Members agreed to consider the request for a meeting at the conclusion of the discussions on item 7.

6.2 Members noted the Speaker’s response to Kellie Armstrong MLA’s query seeking clarification regarding when the Assembly Commission might commence the appointment of a new IFRP panel.

Change to agenda running order.

8. ACTING NORTHERN IRELAND PUBLIC SERVICES RECRUITMENT

Richard Stewart, Director of Corporate Services, presented a paper on the recruitment of an Acting Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman.

Following discussion Members were content that the salary for an Acting Ombudsman should be set at £97,337 per annum, the same salary level as agreed for the position of the Ombudsman by the Assembly Commission in June 2019.

It was agreed that a suitably qualified public servant be appointed as the Acting Ombudsman and that as a suitably qualified person, the current Deputy Ombudsman be nominated to serve as Acting Ombudsman provided he is content to do so. It was however noted that the identified candidate could not take up post until the Secretary of State had acted to ensure the necessary legislative changes were made.

It was agreed that once the Deputy Ombudsman has confirmed that he is content, the Chair should write to the Secretary of State to inform him that the Assembly Commission had identified a candidate to take up the position of Acting Ombudsman.

Action: Mr Stewart to follow up with the Deputy Ombudsman in relation to his identification for nomination to serve as Acting Ombudsman.

Action: The Speaker to write to the Secretary of State to inform him that the Assembly Commission has identified a candidate for nomination as Acting Ombudsman and seek an update on the Assembly Commission’s request that the necessary legislation be brought forward.

7. INDEPENDENT FINANCIAL REVIEW PANEL: APPOINTMENT AND LEGISLATIVE REFORM

Tara Caul, Director of Legal, Governance and Research Services presented a detailed paper on the existing legislative provisions for the Independent Financial Review Panel (IFRP) and on potential areas where reforms could be considered.

The Speaker sought views from Members as to whether they wished the Assembly Commission to consider reform of IFRP at this time. Members were content that some initial work could be undertaken to seek to identify areas of agreement between the parties represented on the Assembly Commission. Members were of the view that it was important that the independence of the panel be retained, but suggested that reforms should be considered to ensure that determinations adequately reflect the work of MLAs and that terms and conditions of MLAs’ staff were in line with accepted practice in the public sector for example.

Members agreed that the paper be developed into a consultation document encompassing a range of issues and options, so that Assembly Commission Members could seek the views of their respective parties. This would enable officials to focus on developing those proposals which would have broad political support.

It was also agreed that a wider consultation with MLAs would take place once the Assembly Commission was able to identify areas of agreement and narrow down the available options.

Action: Ms Caul to develop her paper into a consultation document for distribution to Assembly Commission Members to enable them to seek the views of their parties.

9. AOB

The Speaker returned to the request from the Women’s Caucus for a meeting with the Assembly Commission in relation to IFRP. In light of the discussion in relation to IFRP, the Assembly Commission agreed that a meeting with the Caucus would be more beneficial once it had made progress in identifying areas of consensus and was ready to consult with all MLAs.

The Assembly Commission agreed that the Speaker should write to the Caucus and encourage Caucus members to engage with their parties and Assembly Commission representatives at this stage.

Action: The Speaker to write to the Chairperson of the Assembly Women’s Caucus.

There was no other business.

10. DATE OF NEXT MEETING

Monday, 7 October 2019 at 1pm.

The meeting concluded at 2.46pm.

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