Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 04 December 2012
Venue: Room 106, Parliament Buildings
1.1 Apologies were noted from Ms Caitríona Ruane and the Speaker welcomed Mr Raymond McCartney in her place.
2. Minutes of the meeting held on Tuesday 27 November 2012
2.1 The minutes were agreed and signed by the Speaker.
3. Matters arising
3.1 There were no matters arising.
4. Finalisation of Order Papers for plenary meetings in week commencing 10 December 2012
4.1 Members noted that in addition to the Executive Business agreed previously, the following statements were expected to be scheduled on Monday 10 December:
- North South Ministerial Council meeting in Trade and Business Development sectoral format (DETI);
- North South Ministerial Council meeting in Tourism sectoral format (DETI);
- North South Ministerial Council meeting in Health and Food Safety sectoral format (DHSSPS); and
- Salmon Conservation (DCAL).
4.2 Members noted that the indicative timings, which would issue on Thursday 6 December, would confirm that the statements had been scheduled and the order in which they would be taken.
4.3 Members noted that, in addition to the Executive Business agreed previously for Tuesday 11 December, a statement from the Minister of Justice on the Intergovernmental Agreement on Co-operation on Criminal Justice was expected.
4.4 Members also noted that the text of the motion on the Draft General Register Office (Fees) Order had been added to the Order Paper for Tuesday 11 December; and a Legislative Consent Motion from the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment on the Mental Health (Discrimination) (No 2) Bill was also scheduled for that day.
4.5 There was no change to the Committee Business already agreed.
Private Members’ Business
4.6 Having considered the Speaker’s letter to Ms Ruane setting out the background to his decision not to allow the motion on ‘The Ballymurphy Massacre’ to be debated while the proceedings in the coroner’s court are active, Sinn Féin sought the Speaker’s view on whether a revision to the wording of the motion would allow it to be debated.
4.7 The Speaker advised that, before coming to his decision, he had considered all the circumstances, including whether there was any extent to which he could allow a debate on any matter related to the deaths at Ballymurphy to take place. He advised that he could not envisage any circumstances in which it would be possible to debate the subject matter without the deaths, and the causes of the deaths, being referred to in the Chamber which would be a clear breach of Standing Order 73, as long as the coroner’s proceedings remain active. The Speaker reminded members that it is his responsibility to protect the Assembly and its Members from committing an inadvertent contempt of court while carrying out their public duties.
4.8 Following further contributions from other parties, Sinn Féin agreed to consider selecting a new motion, and to inform the clerk later that day. Note: the following motion was selected after the meeting:
- ‘Interest Rate Swap Agreements’ (Mr D McKay; Ms M Fearon; Mr M McLaughlin).
4.9 Junior Minister Bell confirmed that all relevant Ministers were available to respond.
4.10 The draft Order Papers were agreed.
5. Any other business
5.1 The Speaker referred to his letter to all MLAs setting out his concerns about withdrawn questions and non-attendance at Question Time. He reminded Whips of their responsibility to ensure that Members are in their places for all plenary business in which they are involved, and suggested, in particular, that parties should look at their own arrangements for submitting names for the Question Time ballot.
5.2 The Speaker drew attention to his new ruling that questions should only be withdrawn in exceptional circumstances, for example, where events cannot be predicted, such as illness or attendance at a funeral; and that questions cannot be withdrawn after noon on the day of Question Time. Members not in their places would be referred to by the Chair. The Speaker further advised that the situation would be monitored closely.
5.3 There was a discussion about the possibility of sanctions, and it was suggested that parties themselves would be best placed to consider what sanctions might be appropriate and effective. The Speaker urged Whips to consider the matter.
5.4 The impact of Assembly Committees meeting during plenary was raised, and Mr Dickson suggested that it would be helpful to be able to view the Annunciator in Committee rooms to allow Members to monitor progress of business. The Speaker agreed to give consideration to this suggestion.
5.5 The Speaker also sought the co-operation of Whips in respecting the long-standing convention that Members who wish to participate in debates should be present to listen to other contributions.
5.6 Mr Kelly enquired about why a Matter of the Day tabled by Sinn Féin that morning had not been accepted by the Speaker. The Speaker reminded all parties of the need to ensure that topics to be raised as Matters of the Day are as specific as possible to ensure that there is no opportunity for them to be open to misinterpretation in the Chamber.
6. Date and Time of next meeting
6.1 Members agreed to meet at approximately 12.30pm on Tuesday 8 January 2013 in Room 106, when business will be scheduled for the weeks beginning 14 and 21 January.
The Chairperson brought the meeting to a close at 1.03pm.