Session: 2012/2013

Date: 19 November 2013

ISBN: Only available online

Committee: Enterprise, Trade and Investment

Remit:

The Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment (ETI) is a Statutory Committee established in accordance with paragraph 8 and 9 of the Belfast Agreement, Section 29 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and under Assembly Standing Order 48. The Committee has scrutiny, policy development and consultation role with respect to the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI or the “Department”) and has a role in the initiation of legislation.

The Committee has power to:

  • Consider and advise on Departmental Budgets and Annual Plans in the context of the overall budget allocation;
  • Approve relevant secondary legislation and take the Committee state of relevant primary legislation;
  • Call for persons and papers;
  • Initiate inquiries and make reports; and
  • Consider and advise on matters brought to the Committee by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment

Membership:

DUP - Mr Gordon Dunne, Mr Paul Frew, Mr Stephen Moutray, Mr Robin Newton

Green - Mr Steven Agnew

SDLP - Mr Alban Maginness, Mr Patsy McGlone (1) (Chairperson)

Sinn Fein - Mr Phil Flanagan (Deputy Chairperson), Ms Maeve McLaughlin (2), Ms Sue Ramsey (3)

UUP - Mrs Sandra Overend

1 With effect from 07 September 2012 Mr Patsy McGlone replaced Mr Alban Maginness as Chairperson. Mr Maginness rejoined the Committee as a member from 10 September 2012.

2 With effect from 10 September 2012 Ms Maeve McLaughlin was appointed as a Member

3 With effect from 10 September 2012 Ms Sue Ramsey replaced Ms Jennifer McCann

End of Session Report 1 September 2012 - 31 August 2013

1. This report covers the work of the Committee during the Assembly year 2012-2013, from 1 September 2012 – 31 August 2013.

2. During the Assembly year session the Committee met 36 times including 4 times in partly closed session.

Inquiries & Reviews

Innovation, Research & Development

3. Following its inquiry in the previous session, the Committee has engaged with stakeholders and advised the Department on a range of aspects of innovation and R&D.

4. The Committee hosted an event in Parliament Buildings on 12 November 2012 in conjunction with the Engineering Policy Group NI and the NI Assembly and Business Trust entitled “Developing the Northern Ireland Economy through Innovation, Research and Development”. Attendees included representatives from business and academia.

George Dorrian, Federation of Small Businesses; Patsy McGlone MLA, Chair of the ETI Committee; Robert Harkness, Aldebaran Consultants and Joanne Stuart, Chair of the Institute of Directors  

5. The Committee highlighted and promoted the benefits of the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) through engagement with businesses and other committees; through evidence sessions, and a debate in plenary. The Committee continues to monitor uptake by departments of initiatives under the SBRI. The Technology Strategy Board has welcomed the Committee’s work on the SBRI. The Initiative has shown increased interest in Northern Ireland as a result.

Gordon Dunne, Alban Maginness, Maeve McLaughlin, Patsy McGlone (Chair) and Sandra Overend meet Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers (centre) during the ETI Committee visit to Brussels

Gordon Dunne, Alban Maginness, Maeve McLaughlin, Patsy McGlone (Chair) and Sandra Overend meet Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers (centre) during the ETI Committee visit to Brussels

6. Developments with EU Framework Programme 7 and plans for Horizon 2020 have been closely followed. The Committee undertook a visit to Brussels in April and has developed a comprehensive action plan for the follow-up. The Committee has been represented at a number of events on innovation and R&D as part of the Irish EU presidency. This has put the Committee in a position to provide comprehensive, informed advice to the Minister and the Department on how to plan for Horizon 2020. It has also provided the Committee with the knowledge and understanding to fully scrutinise the Department’s strategy and action plan.

Budget Scrutiny

7. In the October 2012 monitoring round, the main adjustments were to Invest NI’s budget. £4.9m resource and £3.0m capital were surrendered in respect of programme budget. £3.9m was transferred from Invest NI to the Northern Ireland Tourist Board for delivery of ni2012, Irish Open and marketing. This resulted in a total of £11.8m reduction in Invest NI’s budget. Other adjustments included a total of £10m being ring fenced in the expectation that the issue of the EU Nitrates Directive and disposal of chicken litter would have to be addressed and a reduction of £0.9m in respect of ring fenced match funding in DETI European Support Unit.

8. The Committee asked the Department for further clarification on the £343k administration, £166k resource and for additional information on the proposal of the Nitrates Directive and was content with the Department’s response. The Committee will maintain a close scrutiny of progress by the Department so as to ensure that appropriate measures are in place by December 2014.

9. Members considered the January Monitoring round 2013 at its meeting on 13 December 2012 and were content with the information provided.

10. Members considered the June Monitoring round 2013 at its meeting on 6 June 2013 and asked the Department for an explanation to why the June Monitoring round papers were delayed and to provide assurance this information will be provided in a timely manner in the future.

Policy Scrutiny

Payday Lending

11. The Committee has given careful consideration to the impact of pay-day lending practices on vulnerable consumers. In February, the Committee hosted a round table discussion. The aim of the event was to inform the transfer of regulation of pay-day lending from the Office of Fair Trading to the newly established Financial Conduct Authority. The event included contributions from the Consumer Council, DETI and the advice and the credit union sectors.

ETI Committee Chair Patsy McGlone and Robin Newton pictured with sector representatives on payday lending

ETI Committee Chair Patsy McGlone and Robin Newton pictured with sector representatives on payday lending

Work on Roaming Charges and Inadvertent Roaming

12. The Committee continues to highlight mobile phone roaming charges and inadvertent roaming. The Chair and Deputy Chair met the Chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications, in May to agree a common approach to the matter.

Economic Policy Advice (NICEP)

13. The Committee agreed to engage the services of an advisor who can provide the Committee with independent advice on economic policy. A new unit has been established in the University of Ulster called the NI Centre for Economic Policy. The Committee has agreed to receive a briefing from its head, Neil Gibson to consider whether this would be an appropriate source of independent economic advice.

Engagement with Secretary of State

14. The Committee has followed up on efforts during the previous session to highlight and promote the issue of devolution of corporation tax varying powers. The Chair has engaged with the Secretary of State with a view to keeping the issue on the agenda at the centre of government.

Patsy McGlone (Chair) meets with Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers

Patsy McGlone (Chair) meets with Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers

Farm Safety and Health & Safety

15. Following tragic accidents on farms during the session, the Committee has engaged with the Health and Safety Executive to scrutinise policy in this area. The Committee undertook a farm visit to a health and safety focus farm to see on-farm health and safety practice in action.

16. During the session the Committee considered an SL1 on the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences (RIDDOR). Following representations from concerned stakeholders, the Committee received oral evidence from HSENI, RoSPA and ICTU on the matter. As a result of Committee concerns on the matter, the Department agreed not to bring forward proposals to amend RIDDOR.

Committee Scrutiny of Retail Fuel Pricing

17. The Committee is currently undertaking a comprehensive scrutiny of retail fuel pricing policies. Due to the rural nature of much of Northern Ireland, people here travel greater distances to work and for work than in, for example, the south of England or other largely urban areas. Large supermarket chains are drivers of local fuel prices in any given locality where they have a presence. Therefore, the Committee believes supermarkets have a key responsibility to lead the market and provide fair and transparent fuel pricing policies to consumers. The Committee has agreed to receive oral briefings from the major supermarkets and from representatives of the independent motor fuel retailers.

Electricity Policy Review

18. Having taken evidence from key stakeholders, the Committee agreed to undertake a review of electricity policy including both electricity pricing and security of supply.

19. The Committee continues to engage with business and consumer representative bodies, suppliers and the Utility Regulator on the issue of electricity pricing for businesses and consumers and on the issue of security of supply. Northern Ireland has amongst the highest electricity prices and the Committee has a key role in ensuring that fuel pricing policies are fair and appropriate and fully consider the needs of both consumers and the electricity transmission, distribution and supply industries.

Engagement – Informal meetings/events

SME Development Event

20. A two-day conference, attended by Alban Maginness and Maeve McLaughlin, was held on 10-12 June as part of the Ireland’s EU presidency. The conference highlighted and discussed SME development policy in the context of transition from EU Framework Programme 7 to the new Horizon 2020. The meeting focused on implementation plans for Horizon 2020 incorporating next generation programmes concerning research, innovation, financing, market penetration and business expansion support structures.

Oireachtas Visit

21. The Deputy Chair attended a meeting of the Chairpersons of EU Employment, Enterprise, Innovation and Social Affairs Committees in Dublin Castle on 28-29 April as part of the parliamentary dimension of Ireland’s EU Presidency.

City of Culture event

22. The Committee held a working breakfast in the City of Culture on March 14. This event drew together business leaders to understand the key challenges faced by businesses, areas where government and the Committee could provide support and opportunities for business to come together. The Committee then held its meeting in the Council offices.

Visits and meetings outside Parliament Buildings

23. The Committee undertook six visits outside Parliament Buildings between September 2012 and June 2013. Three of these included formal Committee meetings. Visits included BT Tower Belfast, Titanic Belfast, Harland & Wolff, Bombardier PLC, a Health & Safety Focus Farm in Armagh and Dunbia Ltd in Dungannon.

Members of the ETI Committee during their visit to Titanic Belfast

Members of the ETI Committee during their visit to Titanic Belfast

Committee motions

24. The Motion for Plenary debate on 26 November 2012 on Awareness of Small Business Research Initiative.

25. The Official Report on the debate can be found at: http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/Assembly-Business/Committees/Enterprise-Trade-and-Investment/Committee-Motions/Small-Business-Research-Initiative-Motion/

26. The Motion for Plenary debate on 18 February 2013 on Supporting Growth in the Sustainable Energy Sector .

27. The Official Report on the debate can be found at: http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/Assembly-Business/Committees/Enterprise-Trade-and-Investment/Committee-Motions/Sustainable-Energy-Sector/

Subordinate Legislation

28. The Committee has responsibility to consider subordinate legislation that originates from the Department. The purpose of the legislation varies from business legislation (e.g. insolvency, administration, employment) to energy (electricity and natural gas), tourism and health & safety. The Committee considered and supported the approval of 33 items of subordinate legislation in the aforementioned categories.

Likely key priorities for the next session

29. The likely priorities for the next session include contribution to the development and scrutiny of primary legislation including the Insolvency Bill; the Energy Bill, the Common Arrangements for Gas Bill and the Credit Union Bill. The Committee will continue its review of electricity policy and will follow up on progress with Horizon 2020, fuel pricing, the agri-food strategy, measures being taken to encourage access to finance, particularly through the Enterprise Guarantee Scheme; and monitoring the Department’s Programme for Government and Economic Strategy Delivery Plans.

ANNEX A

Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment

Expenditure for the period 1 September 2012 – 31 August 2013

Budget area

Details

Expenditure

Committee Travel - committee members and staff travel and subsistence in relation to visits and meetings outside Parliament Buildings

Includes the cost of committee visits and meetings outside Parliament Buildings.

£10728.63

Printing of committee reports

No reports were printed during this period.

£0

General expenses

Cost of refreshments for committee meetings, working lunches, seminars, room hire, witness expenses, gifts provided by the committee during visits and conference fees for members.

£2904.93

Total Expenditure

£13633.56

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