The Northern Ireland Assembly has been dissolved. The election will take place on Thursday 5 May 2016.

Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 29 June 2011

Venue: Room 30

The meeting opened at 10.05am in public session.

1. Apologies.

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Draft Minutes of Proceedings of 22 June 2011

Agreed: that the minutes are published on the Assembly website.

3. Matters Arising

Requests for Information from DFP

The Committee noted the table of requests for information from the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) which provided an update on any matters arising not covered elsewhere on the agenda.

Equal Pay

Members noted correspondence from members of the public relating to residual issues from the NI Civil Service (NICS) Equal Pay Settlement.

Agreed: to copy the relevant extracts from the DFP briefing paper of 13 June 2011 to those who have corresponded with the Committee on this matter.

The meeting moved into closed session at 10.07am

4. Consideration of Draft Committee Response to Treasury Consultation on the Devolution of Corporation Tax Powers

Members considered a draft submission to the HM Treasury consultation on the devolution of corporation tax powers.

Mr McQuillan joined the meeting at 10.11am.

The Committee noted correspondence from Unite the Union (Retired Members Association Northern Ireland Section) on a reduced corporation tax rate.

Agreed: to commission research on identifying the flow of taxes from Northern Ireland to Treasury, with reference to any work that was undertaken in Scotland in this regard.

Agreed: the Committee submission to the Treasury consultation.

Agreed: to copy the submission to the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister and to the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment.

The Chairperson left the meeting at 10.20am.

The Deputy Chairperson took the Chair at 10.20am.

5. Accountability Arrangements for Permanent Secretaries and the Head of the Civil Service (HOCS)

The Committee noted the response from DFP regarding accountability arrangements for Permanent Secretaries and HOCS. Members also considered correspondence from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) advising that it will also be examining this issue at its meeting on 29 June.

Mr Girvan left the meeting at 10.21am.
Mr Girvan returned to the meeting at 10.22am.

Agreed: that members will be provided with a full copy of the NICS Handbook and a copy of the Cabinet Office “Osmotherly Rules”.

Agreed: to request that DFP considers how the NICS Handbook could be updated to more fully take account of the implications of devolution, including in terms of lines of accountability to Ministers and respecting the integrity of the Assembly. This should also address the principles of engagement between civil servants and Assembly committees.

Agreed: to commission research into the disciplinary arrangements for civil servants and the principles of engagement between civil servants and legislatures in other jurisdictions.

Agreed: to copy the correspondence with DFP on this issue to PAC, advising of the above decisions taken today.

The meeting was suspended at 10.29am

The meeting resumed at 10.31am

The Chairperson returned to the meeting and retook the Chair at 10.31am.

Ms Ruane left the meeting at 10.31am.

The meeting moved into open session at 10.31am

6. Public Procurement Update

The Committee received a briefing on public procurement from the following DFP officials: Des Armstrong, Director, Central Procurement Directorate, and Aileen Edmund, Central Procurement Directorate.

Ms Ruane returned to the meeting at 10.39am.

Mr Girvan left the meeting at 11.11am.

Agreed: the DFP officials undertook to: examine the impact of public procurement on the local economy (the “multiplier effect”); consult with Centres of Procurement Expertise to determine how effective the Fair Payment Charter is operating in respect of subcontractor payments; examine the workability of the final payment proposal discussed with members; consider how the procurement exchange programme can be developed and/or facilitated by CPD; and provide the Committee with a copy of the Procurement Board’s strategic plan.

7. Land and Property Service: Overview, priorities, challenges

The Committee received an overview of Land and Property Services (LPS) and was briefed on its priorities and challenges by the following officials: John Wilkinson, Chief Executive of LPS; Alan Bronte, Director of Valuation, LPS; and Iain Greenway, Director of Operations, LPS.

Mr Girvan returned to the meeting at 11.33am.

Mr Bradley left the meeting at 11.40am.

Mr Hussey declared an interest as a Member of Omagh District Council.

Mr Bradley returned to the meeting at 11.53am.

Mr McLaughlin left the meeting at 11.55am.

Agreed: the LPS officials will provide a copy of the guidelines in respect of irrecoverable debt.

8. Consultation on Claims for Wrongful Death

The Committee received a briefing on a draft consultation paper regarding claims for wrongful deaths from the following DFP officials: Laura McPolin, Departmental Solicitors Office (DSO) and Brian Doherty, DSO.

Agreed: the DFP officials will provide a copy of the Fatal Accidents Order; and consideration will be given in the consultation paper to the position in the Republic of Ireland and relevant EU directives in respect of this matter.

Agreed: the Committee is content, in principle, that a consultation on claims for wrongful deaths is undertaken, on the provision that the finalised consultation paper is provided to the Committee in advance of its launch.

Ms Ruane left the meeting at 12.39pm.

9. Correspondence

Members noted the following items of correspondence:

  • Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists: Request to Brief Committee
  • DFP: Response to Committee regarding Legislative Consent Motion: Finance (No. 3) Bill
  • DFP: Follow up to Proposed Superannuation Bill evidence session on 15 June 2011
  • DFP: Proposed Consultation on the Building Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011
  • DFP: Consultation on Rebalancing the Business Rates System
    Agreed: to request that DFP ensures enough time is built into this and similar consultation processes to provide the Committee with an analysis of responses, in advance of any decisions being taken by the Minister or the Executive.
  • DFP: Proposal for subordinate legislation – The draft Rates (Appeals) (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2011

10. Draft Forward Work Programme

Agreed: to invite key stakeholders to provide, over the summer recess, short written submissions identifying key issues within the DFP remit, to help inform the Committee’s work programme from autumn onwards. The key stakeholders will be identified based on inputs to the previous Committee, and from Members’ suggestions.

Agreed: the Committee secretariat will prepare a paper outlining subjects for potential inquiries, for consideration by the Committee after summer recess.

Agreed: to invite the Special EU Programmes Body to give evidence after summer recess.

11. Any Other Business

Freedom of Information (FoI)

The Committee was advised that it is normal practice for committees to delegate authority to the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson during periods of recess to submit views on releasing or withholding of information in any non-routine/contentious FoI requests received.

Agreed: the Committee agreed to this delegation of authority, and will be advised of any such requests and responses at the first available meeting following summer recess.

NI Place Names Project

Agreed: to ask the Minister of Finance and Personnel what consideration he has given to reinstating funding for the NI Place Names Project.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.45pm.

Conor Murphy MP MLA
Committee for Finance and Personnel.
7 September 2011 

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