Date: 23 October 2013
Reference: NIA 138/11-15
ISBN: Only available online
Committee: Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister
Together with the Minutes of Evidence, and Written Submissions
The Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister is a Statutory Committee established in accordance with paragraphs 8 and 9 of the Belfast Agreement, Section 29 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and under Assembly Standing Order 48. The Committee has a scrutiny, policy development and consultation role with respect to the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister 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 stage 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 First Minister and deputy First Minister.
Background to the Bill
1. The Intellectual Property Bill (HC Bill 102) was introduced by Viscount Younger of Leckie, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Intellectual Property, Department for Business and Skills.
2. The Bill completed its passage in the House of Lords on 30 July 2013 and had its first reading in the House of Commons on 29 August 2013.
3. The Bill's primary aim is to modernise certain aspects of the law relating to intellectual property, in order to ensure that the intellectual property system operates more efficiently, is clearer and more accessible, thus increasing legal certainty.
Purpose of the Legislative Consent Motion
4. The laying of the Legislative Consent Motion is in relation to the Freedom of Information provisions contained within the Bill (Clause 20). As Freedom of Information is a 'transferred' matter, the new provisions require a Legislative Consent Motion to be passed by the Assembly.
5. Clause 20 of the Intellectual Property Bill creates a pre-publication exemption that will bring the FOI Act 2000 in line with the equivalent Scottish legislation, and provide the assurance sought by the Higher Education sector that sensitive research information is not subject to premature release. The new FOI Act section 22A exemption will mirror almost identically the corresponding clause in the FOI (Scotland) Act 2002, with two minor differences:
- Section 22A will require the exemption to be engaged if the information will, or is likely to, cause 'prejudice', rather than 'substantial prejudice' as in the FOI (Scotland) Act; and
- Section 22A will allow public authorities, under certain circumstances, to 'neither confirm nor deny' that they hold the requested information, unlike the FOI (Scotland) Act.
6. These differences will ensure that section 22A is in keeping with the wording of the FOI Act 2000, whilst providing parity with the FOI (Scotland) Act in the protection of pre-publication research.
7. The Committee took evidence from Departmental officials Mr Alan Maitland and Dr David Lammey at its meeting on 9 October 2013. Officials gave a brief overview and explained to Members the need for a Legislative Consent Motion.
8. During the briefing, the Committee sought further information in relation to whether Further Education Colleges were included in the provisions. The Committee also sought examples of when the exemptions could be used.
9. On Thursday 10 October 2013, the Department responded to advise that Further Education Colleges would be covered by the exemption. The Department also provided further information on when the exemption has been considered in Scotland, where these provisions already exist. Copies of the responses are included in the Departmental papers.
10. At its meeting on 16 October 2013, the Committee agreed that it was content to support the Legislative Consent Motion.