Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 25 May 2011
Venue: Room 30
The meeting opened at 10.09 in public session.
There was one apology as recorded above.
Agreed: that all Committee meetings should be held in open session, unless there was a particular reason for individual agenda items to be held in closed session.
2. Committee Membership
The Chairperson welcomed all members to the first meeting of the Committee.
3. Staff Contact Details
Members were introduced to the Committee Office staff and noted their contact details.
4. Declaration of interests procedures
Members noted the procedures in relation to declaration of interests. No Member declared an interest relevant to today’s proceedings.
The Committee noted the following guidance papers:
- Guide to the Powers and Operation of Statutory Committees for Chairpersons and Members;
- Guide to the Role of Committee Chairperson;
- Guide for Members to the Role and Functions of the Committee Office;
- Arrangements for Committee Meetings; and
- Timescale for Interaction between Assembly Committees and Departments.
The Chairperson made the following statement in relation to the rules relating to privilege:
“Under section 50 of the NI Act 1998, for the purposes of the law of defamation, absolute privilege applies equally to –
- the making of a statement in proceedings of the Assembly; and
- the publication of a statement under the Assembly’s authority.
This privilege also extends to meetings of the Committee.”
Members noted that privilege does not extend to press conferences or statements made to the press.
The Chairperson made the following statement in relation to the rules relating to sub-judice:
“Sub-judice falls under Standing Order 73 and applies from when a criminal charge (or charges) is brought, or from when notice of an appeal is lodged to the time that the verdict and sentence have been announced, or from when a civil action is listed for trial until judgement is given. In such cases, the matter awaiting adjudication should not be prejudiced by comment in a public session of a committee meeting.”
6. Introduction to Assembly Research and Information Services
The Committee received a brief overview from Assembly Research and Information Services (RaISe) on services provided by them, both to Assembly committees and to individual members.
Agreed: to publish all research papers commissioned by the Committee on the Committee’s website once the associated briefing has been received.
7. Subordinate Legislation: delegation of technical scrutiny to the Examiner of Statutory Rules
The Committee noted the paper “Guidance on Handling Subordinate Legislation (Statutory Rules) for Chairpersons and Members of Statutory Committees”.
The following motion was agreed by the Committee:
That the Committee for Finance and Personnel, under Standing Order 43, resolves to delegate to the Examiner of Statutory Rules the technical scrutiny of statutory rules referred to the Committee under the above mentioned Standing Order.
The Committee further resolves that in carrying out this function the Examiner shall be authorised to report his technical findings on each statutory rule to the Assembly, and to the relevant Department, as well as to the Committee itself and to publish his report.
8. Legacy Report of Predecessor Committee 2007-11
The Committee noted a copy of the Legacy Report of its predecessor Committee and agreed to consider this further at the next meeting on 1 June 2011.
9. Department of Finance and Personnel Overview, Priorities and Business Plan 2011-12
Members received an overview briefing from Sammy Wilson, Minister of Finance and Personnel, MP, MLA; Stephen Peover, Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) Permanent Secretary; and David Orr, Director of Corporate Services, DFP, which set out the priorities for and challenges facing the Department. Topics discussed included: in-year monitoring and concerns regarding the Budget Exchange Scheme as a replacement for End-Year Flexibility; asset realisation and additional revenue raising by departments; the Review of the Financial Process; DFP’s Budget 2011-15 position; and Land and Property Services.
The Minister advised that he will keep the Committee updated on negotiations with HM Treasury on the Budget Exchange Scheme.
10. Overview of Public Expenditure System
Members received an overview briefing on the public expenditure system from Michael Brennan, Head of Central Expenditure Division, DFP; Agnes Lennon, Central Expenditure Division, DFP; and Joanne McBurney, Central Expenditure Division, DFP.
Agreed: the DFP officials will provide the Committee with the timetable for the Review of the Financial Process.
11. Draft Forward Work Programme
The Committee noted the draft work programme containing a schedule of business until summer recess which DFP had indicated it would wish to bring to the Committee.
Agreed: that the following additional items of business are included in the work programme:
- Briefings from Assembly Research and from DFP officials on the UK Treasury’s consultation on “Rebalancing the NI Economy”, which places a focus on the case for devolving corporation tax powers. The briefings will enable the Committee to determine whether to make a submission to the consultation;
- A briefing from DFP officials on all forthcoming proposals for primary legislation and the associated timescales; and
- Briefings from each of the Department’s two Executive Agencies (Land and Property Services and NI Statistics and Research Agency).
Members noted the following items of correspondence:
- Letter from the Minister to the Chairperson regarding the Budget (No. 2) Bill (NI) 2011.
- Letter from the Minister to the Chairperson regarding an amendment to the GB Finance (No. 3) Bill.
Agreed: to copy the correspondence to the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development and the Committee for the Environment for information given the cross-cutting relevance of the issue.
- Letter regarding equal pay for PSNI civilian staff.
Agreed: to request Department to provide a briefing paper setting out the concerns raised by the various categories of employees omitted from the terms of the equal pay settlement and the up-to-date DFP position in each case.
- Departmental Financial Planning 2011/12 – June Monitoring Position.
Agreed: the Committee will not require a briefing on the DFP June Monitoring position from DFP officials on 1 June 2011given that the Department would not be making any bids or reduced requirements in this monitoring round.
13. Date, time and place of next meeting.
The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, 1 June 2011 in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.56pm.