Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 05 November 2012
Venue: Room 106
The meeting began at 6.32pm.
1. Welcome and introduction
1.1 The Speaker welcomed members to the special meeting of the Business Committee, and advised that it had been called following a request to suspend plenary business on Tuesday 6 November in light of the funeral arrangements for Mr David Black.
1.2 The Speaker reminded members that the Assembly had already paid its respects formally at the start of the sitting through the Matter of the Day and the minute of silence. He advised that, while the Assembly suspended for an hour following the death of a Member of the House in 2007, there was no precedent for adjourning a sitting, or suspending business, for a funeral, or in other similar circumstances, no matter how tragic the event. The Speaker recommended that members carefully consider the consequences of setting new precedents that would affect the proper business of the Assembly, and which might have unwanted repercussions in the future.
2.1 The following issues were considered during the discussion of the options of adjourning the sitting or suspending business for a period:
a) The importance of sending a clear message that the business of the Assembly would not be disrupted by violent attacks;
b) The practicalities of accepting that there would be an impact in the Chamber, as Members and Ministers would wish to attend the funeral;
c) The option of rescheduling business to another plenary day;
d) The implications of setting a precedent with regard to future events; and
e) The desire of all parties to reach a unanimous decision.
2.2 Following discussion, the UUP offered to reschedule their motion on a ‘Child Poverty Action Plan’, if this would allow the House to suspend business at 12.30pm as usual, and resume for Question Time at 4pm.
3. Arrangements for business on 6 November 2012
3.1 Members unanimously agreed that plenary business on Tuesday 6 November should be suspended from 12.30pm until 4pm to allow Members and Ministers to attend Mr Black’s funeral, whilst ensuring that Assembly business would resume as soon as practicable.
3.2 Members agreed that the UUP motion on a ‘Child Poverty Action Plan’ should be rescheduled at the next available opportunity, but that all other plenary business scheduled for Tuesday 6 November would remain, with Question Time to begin at 4pm.
3.3 Members agreed a revised Order Paper and revised indicative timings for plenary business on Tuesday 6 November.
3.4 It was suggested that, rather than the suspension being considered to have set a precedent, Whips might consider the potential for developing other arrangements for dealing with situations where a number of Members might wish to absent themselves from the Assembly in similar circumstances.
4. Date and Time of next meeting
4.1 Members agreed that the normal meeting would take place as planned at 12.30pm on Tuesday 6 November 2012.
The Chairperson brought the meeting to a close at 7.02pm.