Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: 21 January 2013

Venue: Room 29, Parliament Buildings

The meeting commenced at 2.30 pm in private session         

1. Apologies

There were no apologies.

2. Chairperson’s Business

There was no Chairperson’s Business.

3. Draft Minutes of the meeting of 15th January 2013

Agreed: The draft minutes of the meeting held on 15th January 2013 were agreed by the Committee.

4. Matters Arising

There were no matters arising.

5. Correspondence

The Committee noted correspondence from the Assembly Editor of Debates to the NI Council for Ethnic Minorities in relation to the Hansard transcript of Tuesday 4th December 2012.

Tom Elliott joined the meeting at 2.33pm

6. Consideration of Draft Report

The Committee considered the content of the final Report, which included draft amendments agreed in principle at the previous meeting:

Agreed: The Committee agreed paragraphs 6 -8 of the Report.

Agreed: The Committee agreed paragraph 9 of the Report as amended.

Agreed: The Committee agreed paragraphs 10-12 of the Report.

Mr Eastwood proposed that the following recommendation be included in the Report:

“The Committee recommends that an updated EQIA is formally carried out, as part of its living document status, individuals should be able to continue to respond. In addition, Northern Ireland specific data that has not been collated should be sought and used as part of the process in order to avoid any potential adverse impact on Section 75 groupings in order to fully meet equality and human rights obligations.”

The Committee divided:

Ayes    Noes   No Vote
Mickey Brady      Sydney Anderson       Trevor Lunn 
Colum Eastwood   Paula Bradley  
Bronwyn McGahan    Tom Elliott  
Caitríona Ruane  Lord Morrow  
  Alastair Ross  
  Robin Swann                                         

 

The proposal fell. 

Agreed: The Committee agreed paragraphs 13 and 14 of the Report.

Agreed: The Committee agreed paragraphs 15-18 of the Report.

Ms Ruane proposed that paragraph 19 in the Report be amended to read:

“The Committee recommends that the Regulations relating to the provisions of the Welfare Reform Bill should be introduced under the affirmative resolution procedure where there is a policy change or where an issue has been identified as having human rights or equality implications, in order to offer the Assembly a more effective scrutiny of the equality and human rights implications.”

The Committee divided:

Ayes  Noes No Vote
Mickey Brady Sydney Anderson Trevor Lunn 
Colum Eastwood   Paula Bradley  
Bronwyn McGahan    Tom Elliott  
Caitríona Ruane Alastair Ross  
  Lord Morrow  
  Robin Swann                                             

 

The proposal fell

Agreed: The Committee agreed paragraph 19 of the Report without amendment.

Agreed: The Committee agreed paragraphs 20-22 of the Report.

Agreed: The Committee agreed paragraphs 23-25 of the Report.

Agreed: The Committee agreed paragraphs 26 and 27 of the Report.

The Chairperson proposed that paragraph 28, as amended, be included in the Report.

The Committee divided:

Ayes   Noes
Mickey Brady   Sydney Anderson 
Colum Eastwood Paula Bradley
Trevor Lunn Tom Elliott
Bronwyn McGahan  Lord Morrow
Caitríona Ruane   Alastair Ross
  Robin Swann 

 

The proposal fell.

Ms Ruane proposed that paragraph 28 in the Report be amended to include the wording:

“Some Members were concerned that there was a potential lack of compliance with EU law within this provision of the Bill.”

The Committee divided:

Aye Noes
Mickey Brady  Sydney Anderson 
Colum Eastwood Paula Bradley
Trevor Lunn    Tom Elliott
Bronwyn McGahan Lord Morrow
Caitríona Ruane    Alastair Ross
Robin Swann  

 

The proposal fell.

Agreed: The Committee agreed paragraph 28 of the Report without amendment.

Agreed: The Committee agreed paragraphs 29-30 of the Report.

Agreed: The Committee agreed paragraphs 31-33 of the Report.

Agreed: The Committee agreed paragraph 34 of the Report.

Agreed: The Committee agreed paragraph 35 of the Report.

Ms Ruane proposed that paragraph 36 should be amended to read:

"The minority opinion held that a benefit cap set at the level currently suggested would have human rights or equality implications by denying larger families the same rights as smaller families."

The Committee divided:

Ayes  Noes No Vote
Mickey Brady   Sydney Anderson Tom Elliott
Colum Eastwood  Paula Bradley   Robin Swann
Trevor Lunn Lord Morrow  
Bronwyn McGahan Alastair Ross  
Caitríona Ruane    

 

The proposal was carried.

Agreed: The Committee agreed paragraph 36 of the Report as amended.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to include Mr Eastwood’s proposed recommendation at paragraph 37 of the Report.

The Committee considered an amendment from Mr Swann and Mr Elliott that paragraph 38 should read:

"The Committee recommends a benefit cap at the suggested level."

The Committee divided:

Ayes     Noes
Sydney Anderson  Mickey Brady
Paula Bradley Colum Eastwood
Tom Elliott  Bronwyn McGahan
Trevor Lunn Caitríona Ruane
Lord Morrow  
Alastair Ross  
Robin Swann  

 

The proposal was carried.

Agreed: The Committee agreed paragraph 38 of the Report as amended.

Agreed: The Committee agreed paragraph 39 of the Report.

Agreed: The Committee agreed paragraph 40 of the Report as amended.

Agreed: The Committee agreed paragraph 41 of the Report.

Mr Eastwood proposed that the following recommendation be included in the Report at paragraph 42.

“The Committee recommends that the Department requests medical evidence in the first instance for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) claims and notifies claimants that supporting evidence will be used to determine their eligibility for PIP, in order to avoid high levels of appeals which can often be a difficult and intimidating process for those with disabilities.”

The Committee divided:

Ayes      Noes  No Vote
Mickey Brady Sydney Anderson  Trevor Lunn 
Colum Eastwood   Paula Bradley  
Bronwyn McGahan Tom Elliott  
Caitríona Ruane Lord Morrow  
  Alastair Ross  
  Robin Swann  
     

 

The proposal fell.

Mr Elliott proposed an amendment to Mr Eastwood’s suggested recommendation at paragraph 42 that would read:

“The Committee recommends that the Department requests medical evidence in the first instance for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) claims.”

The Committee divided:

Ayes   Noes
Mickey Brady Sydney Anderson
Colum Eastwood   Paula Bradley
Tom Elliott    Lord Morrow
Bronwyn McGahan  Alastair Ross
Trevor Lunn  
Caitríona Ruane  
Robin Swann  

 

The proposal was carried.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to include the proposed recommendation, as amended, at paragraph 42 of the Report.

Agreed: The Committee agreed paragraph 43 and 44 of the Report.

Sydney Anderson left the meeting at 4.08pm

Peter Weir joined the meeting at 4.08pm

Agreed: The Committee agreed paragraphs 45-47 of the Report.

Mr Brady proposed that the following wording should be included at this section of the Report as a narrative:

“To be compliant with Human Rights obligations, social policy has to strike a fair balance between the right of the individual and the public interest. Where a policy change is detrimental to the individual, it must be shown to proportionate, and strike a fair balance between the individual and the public interest.

In the specific circumstances of the north of Ireland, the imposition of an under occupancy penalty will be both detrimental to the individual and detrimental to the public interest because it fails to take account of the legacy of segregation and the profile of our housing stock. The legacy of segregation means that while we may have similar under occupancy rates as parts of Britain, we do not have the same ability to address it.

The profile of our housing stock means there is insufficient suitable accommodation which would enable tenants to comply.”

The Committee divided:

Ayes   Noes   No Vote
Mickey Brady   Paula Bradley  Trevor Lunn
Colum Eastwood  Tom Elliott  
Bronwyn McGahan   Lord Morrow  
Caitríona Ruane  Alastair Ross  
  Robin Swann  
  Peter Weir  

 

The proposal fell.

Agreed: The Committee agreed paragraph 48 of the Report as amended.

Agreed: The Committee agreed paragraph 49 of the Report.

The Committee had some discussion around the formal procedures for publication of a Committee Report.

Mr Elliott proposed that the standard procedure for publication of a Committee Report should be adhered to.

The Committee divided:

Ayes  Noes
Paula Bradley   Mickey Brady
Colum Eastwood Bronwyn McGahan
Tom Elliott  Caitríona Ruane
Trevor Lunn  
Lord Morrow  
Alastair Ross  
Robin Swann  
Peter Weir  

 

The proposal was carried.

Ms Ruane noted her concern that the final report would be signed off without further sight of the document.

Mr Brady, Ms McGahan and Ms Ruane proposed that the following paragraphs be added to the report in relation to the summary of the Human Rights Memorandum provided by the Department:

“Some Members would remind the department that the provision of a detailed human rights memorandum to accompany bills is established best practice, a practice which allows the kind of informed democratic scrutiny of human rights compatibility, rendering enacted legislation more robust to withstand judicial challenge.

Some Members queried whether such a memorandum is subject to legal privilege and therefore for the Minister’s eyes only. At the request of the Committee, the Minister released a summary of the memorandum “provided under legal privilege” and urged the Members to treat it “in confidence” as Executive colleagues will not have sight of this material”.

Firstly an almost word for word version of the memorandum provided by the Minister, appears in the Westminster bill’s explanatory notes and has been available for over a year on the Westminster website. Secondly, the status of that memorandum has already been robustly admonished as inadequate to the task by the British government’s own scrutiny committee.

A full human right memorandum is not a general statement of compliance referenced only to Britain but a detailed clause-by-clause consideration undertaken by the department with data-backed reference to specific circumstances within the north of Ireland.  The Committee regrets the department failed to meet this obligation.”

The Committee divided:

Ayes  Noes  No Vote
Mickey Brady Paula Bradley Trevor Lunn
Colum Eastwood       Tom Elliott  
Bronwyn McGahan Lord Morrow  
Caitríona Ruane  Alastair Ross  
Robin Swann    
Peter Weir    

 

The proposal fell.

The Chairperson put the question that:

“An agreed wording that would reflect the concerns of the minority opinion, on the issue of the summary of the human rights memorandum, be included in the Report.”

The Committee divided:

Ayes   Noes
Mickey Brady Sydney Anderson 
Colum Eastwood  Paula Bradley
Trevor Lunn    Tom Elliott
Bronwyn McGahan  Lord Morrow
Caitríona Ruane Alastair Ross
  Robin Swann

 

The proposal fell.

Ms Ruane noted her concern that the Report would not adequately reflect the views of the minority.

The Committee considered the Executive Summary of the Report.

Agreed: The Committee agreed paragraphs 1 and 2 of the Report.

Mr Elliott and Mr Swann proposed that paragraph 3 of the Report should include the following wording:

“The Committee invited the Equality Unit of OFMdFM to present or give evidence but no official response was received to this request.”

Agreed: The Committee agreed paragraph 3 of the Report as amended.

Agreed: The Committee agreed paragraph 4 of the Report.

Ms Ruane proposed that paragraph 5 be amended to read:

“The Ad Hoc Committee, after due consideration of all the evidence presented to it, concluded that the provisions of the Welfare Reform Bill are not in conformity with the requirements for equality and observance of human rights.”

The Committee divided:

Ayes      Noes    No Vote
Mickey Brady    Paula Bradley    Trevor Lunn 
Colum Eastwood  Tom Elliott  
Bronwyn McGahan Lord Morrow  
Caitríona Ruane Alastair Ross  
  Robin Swann  
  Peter Weir  

 

The proposal fell.

Mr Elliott and Mr Swann proposed that paragraph 5 of the report be removed and that paragraph 6 should be amended to read:

"The Committee believed that its scrutiny had revealed a number of areas of concern and accordingly it made recommendations which it considers will promote the continued monitoring of equality and human rights considerations in the on-going introduction of Welfare Reform. The Committee, however, concluded that it cannot identify any specific breaches of equality or human rights aspects of the Welfare Reform Bill. This decision was reached by majority vote."

The Committee divided:

Ayes      Noes
Paula Bradley    Mickey Brady
Tom Elliott Colum Eastwood
Trevor Lunn Bronwyn McGahan
Lord Morrow  Caitríona Ruane
Alastair Ross  
Robin Swann  
Peter Weir  

 

The proposal was carried.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to remove paragraph 5 of the Report.

Agreed: The Committee agreed the amended wording for paragraph 6 to be inserted at paragraph 5 of the Report.

Ms Ruane proposed that the following wording should be added to paragraph 4 of the Executive Summary:

“Concern was expressed by some members that a document released to the ad hoc committee by the Minister was treated as privileged whereas the information contained in the document had already been published on the Westminster website for over a year, and that incorrect information was provided to the committee.”

The Committee divided:

Ayes Noes  No Vote
Mickey Brady Paula Bradley   Trevor Lunn
Colum Eastwood  Tom Elliott  
Bronwyn McGahan Lord Morrow  
Caitríona Ruane  Alastair Ross  
  Robin Swann  
  Peter Weir  

 

The proposal fell.

The question was put that:

"The Committee agree the Executive Summary of the Report."

The Committee divided;

Ayes   Noes   No Vote
Paula Bradley Mickey Brady   Trevor Lunn
Tom Elliott  Colum Eastwood  
Lord Morrow Bronwyn McGahan  
Alastair Ross   Caitríona Ruane  
Robin Swann    
Peter Weir    

 

The proposal was carried.

The Committee considered the Introduction and Key Issues of the Report.

Ms Ruane proposed that the following wording should be added after paragraph 64 of the Introduction:

“Concern was expressed by some members that a document released to the ad hoc committee by the Minister was treated as privileged whereas the information contained in the document had already been published on the Westminster website for over a year, and that incorrect information was provided to the committee.”

The Committee divided:

Ayes Noes No Vote
Mickey Brady Paula Bradley Trevor Lunn 
Colum Eastwood    Tom Elliott  
Bronwyn McGahan   Lord Morrow  
Caitríona Ruane    Alastair Ross  
  Robin Swann  
  Peter Weir  

 

The proposal fell.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the Introduction and Summary of Key Issues should stand as part of the Report.

Caitríona Ruane left the meeting at 5.27pm

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the Appendices should stand as part of the Report.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that a copy of the minutes of proceedings of today’s meeting be agreed by the Chairperson and included in the Report.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the Report be ordered to print.

Caitríona Ruane re-joined the meeting at 5.30pm

The question was put that:

"The Committee agree the Report."

The Committee divided:

Ayes  Noes
Paula Bradley Mickey Brady
Tom Elliott Colum Eastwood
Trevor Lunn Bronwyn McGahan
Lord Morrow   Caitríona Ruane
Alastair Ross  
Robin Swann  
Peter Weir  

 

The proposal was carried.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the submission provided by Sinn Fein would be included in the Written Submissions Appendix of the Report.

7. Committee Motion

Mr Ross proposed that the Motion as drafted be agreed by the Committee.

The Committee divided:

Ayes  Noes  No Vote
Paula Bradley Mickey Brady Colum Eastwood
Tom Elliott Bronwyn McGahan  
Trevor Lunn Caitríona Ruane  
Lord Morrow    
Alastair Ross    
Robin Swann    
Peter Weir    

 

The proposal was carried.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the motion as drafted should be laid in the Business Office.

8. Any Other Business

There was no other business.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 5.35pm.

Mr Trevor Lunn MLA
Chairperson, Ad Hoc Committee on Conformity with Equalities Requirements, Welfare Reform Bill
Tuesday 22nd January 2013

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