Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: 07 January 2013

Venue: Room 29 Parliament Buildings

The meeting commenced at 2.32 pm in closed session          

1. Correspondence

Robin Swann joined the meeting at 2.36p.m

Agreed: The Committee considered correspondence from the NI Council for Ethnic Minorities and agreed to write to them responding to the issues raised.

Agreed:  Members noted correspondence from the Department for Social Development in response to information requested at the Committee meeting of 11th December 2012, and agreed to request that further details of the Welfare Reform Bill Human Rights Memorandum should be forwarded to the Committee as a matter of urgency.

Noted:    The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Finance and Personnel providing clarification on queries raised regarding the relevance of Treasury Green Book guidelines in relation to the Welfare Reform Bill

Noted:    The Committee noted copies of correspondence between the Equality Commission and the Department for Social Development in relation to the Welfare Reform Bill Equality Impact Assessment.

3.06 p.m. The meeting moved into public session.

2. Apologies

There were no apologies.

3. Chairpersons Business

There was no Chairpersons Business.

4. Draft Minutes of the meeting of 10th December 2012 and 11th December 2012

Agreed: The draft minutes of the meeting held on 10th December 2012 were agreed by the Committee. The Committee suggested an amendment to the minutes of 11th December 2012.

5. Matters Arising

Ms Caitríona Ruane noted her preference for dealing with correspondence in public session.

6. Consideration of Other Evidence

Members considered the main Human Rights and Equality issues that were highlighted in the written submissions provided to the Committee with a view to reporting on the conformity of the Welfare Reform Bill.  

6.1 The Committee discussed issues around the adequacy of the Equality Impact Assessment in relation to the Bill.

6.2 The Committee discussed the level of Assembly control required for subordinate legislation relating to the Welfare Reform Bill.

Ms Ruane proposed that all Regulations should follow the affirmative resolution procedure. Mr Brady seconded this proposal

Mr Weir proposed an amendment to the original proposal, that the regulations should follow the affirmative procedure where there is a policy change. Mr Ross seconded this proposal.

There being no further proposals, the Chairperson put the question that Mr Weir's amendment be agreed.

The Committee divided:

AYES                                                 NOES            

Ms Paula Bradley                    Mr Mickey Brady

Lord Morrow                          Mr Colum Eastwood

Mr Alastair Ross                     Mr Trevor Lunn

Mr Robin Swann                     Ms Bronwyn McGahan

Mr Peter Weir                         Ms Catríona Ruane

The proposal fell.

The Chairperson put the question that the original proposal from Ms Ruane be agreed.

The Committee divided:

AYES                                                 NOES                                    

Mr Mickey Brady                   Ms Paula Bradley

Mr Colum Eastwood              Lord Morrow

Mr Trevor Lunn                      Mr Alastair Ross

Ms Bronwyn McGahan          Mr Robin Swann

Ms Catríona Ruane                 Mr Peter Weir

The proposal fell.  

6.3 The Committee discussed concerns that sanctions imposed for failure to meet benefit requirements may result in extreme hardship or destitution.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it should recommend some wording be included in relation to sanctions, to ensure that there are no infringements on the Human Rights of some vulnerable groups.

6.4 The Committee discussed how the identification of a 'Nominated Claimant' could adversely impact on certain Section 75 groups, particularly on women.

Peter Weir left the meeting at 4.18p.m

Colum Eastwood left the meeting at 4.22p.m

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the 'parent with care' should be the nominated claimant.

Peter Weir re-joined the meeting at 4.23p.m

6.5 The Committee discussed issues raised by stakeholders on how the introduction of Universal Credit may impact on Human Rights and Equality Requirements under European law.

Colum Eastwood re-joined the meeting at 4.28p.m

Agreed: The Committee agreed to highlight its concerns on the issue of migrant workers while awaiting the outcome of EU infringement proceedings. It also agreed that payment options should be offered to benefit claimants.  

Tom Elliott joined the meeting at 4.43p.m

6.6 The Committee discussed the issues raised in relation to Lone Parent Conditionality and the lack of affordable and accessible childcare.  

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content with the Department's assurances that lone parents would not be sanctioned for lack of childcare. 

6.7 The Committee considered the introduction of a Benefit Cap in Northern Ireland, based on current estimates.

The question was put that:

‘The Committee is in favour of a benefits cap at the level suggested’

The Committee divided;

AYES                                                 NOES            

Ms Paula Bradley                    Mr Mickey Brady

Mr Tom Elliott                        Mr Colum Eastwood

Mr Trevor Lunn                      Ms Bronwyn McGahan

Lord Morrow                          Ms Catríona Ruane

Mr Alastair Ross                    

Mr Robin Swann                    

Mr Peter Weir                        

The question was agreed.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 5.03pm.

Mr Trevor Lunn MLA
Chairperson, Ad Hoc Committee on Conformity of Equalities Requirements, Welfare Reform Bill
Monday 14th January 2013

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