Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 11 October 2011
Venue: Room 21
1.34pm The meeting opened in public session.
Mr Jim Allister
Mr Samuel Gardiner
Mr George Robinson
2. Minutes of the meeting held on 13 September 2011
Members agreed the minutes of the meeting held on 13 September 2011.
3. Committee Stage of Bills
The Committee considered a paper from the Research and Information Service on the Committee Stage of Bills in other legislatures.
Mr Maginness declared an interest, as a family member had prepared the Research paper.
The Clerk was asked to obtain information relating to the commencement dates for Bills following Royal Assent.
Agreed: It was agreed to keep a watching brief on the passage of legislation in this mandate and review the need for an inquiry at a later date.
4. Legislative Consent Motions
The Chairperson advised Members that, as agreed at the last meeting, the latest draft of the proposed Standing Orders 42(A) and 42(B) had been issued to stakeholders, including Clerks of committees that have dealt with Legislative Consent Motions in practice.
Agreed: As a number of stakeholders had requested further time to consider this matter, it was agreed that an updated draft of the proposed Standing Orders should be considered at the next meeting scheduled for 8 November 2011.
5. Standing Orders regarding Committee for Justice – 49A and 59(4A)
1.40pm The meeting moved into closed session.
1.41pm Jonathan McMillen from the Assembly Legal Services Office joined the meeting and briefed the Committee on the legal advice he had provided in relation to the proposed amendments to Standing Orders 49A and 59(4A).
Agreed: As the legal advice had just been tabled, it was agreed to defer making a decision on these issues until the next meeting scheduled for 8 November 2011.
6. Consideration of Standing Order 27 – Voting/Divisions
The Chairperson explained that the Legal Services Office had been asked to provide legal advice on this matter, however, due to urgent, unexpected business in the Legal Services Office, clearance on the legal advice was not available in time for issue with the papers for the meeting.
Agreed: It was agreed to defer this item until the next meeting scheduled for 8 November 2011.
7. Amendment to Standing Order 65(6) – Suspending a sitting in the case of grave disorder
1.47pm Jonathan McMillen from the Assembly Legal Services Office briefed the Committee on the legal advice he had provided in relation to the proposed amendment to Standing Order 65(6). This was followed by a question and answer session.
During the Committee’s deliberations, it was suggested that the proposed amendment to Standing Order 65(6) should possibly include a reference to make it clear that suspension of a sitting could be only until a later point of that day’s sitting.
Agreed: It was agreed that that the Legal Services Office should give some further consideration to this matter, and provide further advice at the next meeting scheduled for 8 November 2011.
The Chairperson thanked Mr McMillen for the briefing.
1.50pm Mr McMillen left the meeting.
1.50pm The meeting moved back into public session.
8. Assembly Questions / Questions for Priority Written Answer
The Committee considered a letter from the Speaker, expressing some concerns of the Business Committee about the extent to which members may be making use of questions for priority written answer, and asking the Committee on Procedures to consider this issue.
The Committee also considered a paper from the Research and Information Service on how questions for priority written answer are dealt with in other legislatures.
Agreed: It was agreed that the Clerk should obtain statistics in order to determine if there is any abuse in relation to the extent to which members are making use of questions for priority written answer.
9. Attorney General participation in proceedings of the Assembly
The Chairperson updated members in relation to consideration of the Attorney General’s participation in proceedings of the Assembly. The Chairperson advised members that the Terms of Reference for the Department of Justice consultation into the scope and remit of the Attorney General’s office would be presented to the Committee for Justice in late October or early November 2011.
Agreed: In view of this, it was agreed that the Clerk should maintain a watching brief on this matter and report back to the Committee at the start of 2012.
10. Family friendly practices and impact of late sittings
The Committee discussed the issue of family friendly practices and the impact of late sittings and also considered a paper from the Research and Information Service on family friendly sittings in other legislatures.
Agreed: It was agreed to keep a watching brief on the passage of legislation in this mandate. It was also agreed to forward the Research paper to the Speaker, asking him to bring it to the attention of the Business Committee.
The Committee agreed that the Assembly should aspire to having family friendly sittings, and asked the Clerk to explore whether this aspiration could be reflected in Standing Orders.
The Committee noted correspondence from the Speaker regarding a number of changes to the Members’ Bills system, following a wide-ranging review of the process undertaken by the Bill Office.
12. Forward Work Programme
The Committee was content with the Forward Work Programme.
13. Extension to drafting contract
The Chairperson advised members that the legislative draftsperson, Mr Ronan Cormacain, had been awarded the contract for Standing Order drafting services following a procurement exercise in 2008, and that the contract provided for an initial period of three years with an option to extend for a further year if required. The previous Committee on Procedures agreed on 18 January 2011, that subject to an acceptable level of service being maintained and indicated in the annual contract review, that the contract should be extended for the further period of a year, up to October 2012.
The Chairperson informed members that the review had taken place on 5 May 2011, where it was agreed that an acceptable level of service had been maintained.
Agreed: In view of this, members agreed to ratify the decision of the previous Committee, and was content for the Clerk to take forward the necessary arrangements.
14. Any other Business
As ‘Budget Scrutiny’ was an issue on the Forward Work Programme, the Chairperson reminded members of the event being hosted by the Committee for Finance and Personnel on 18 October 2011, in relation to the public expenditure system and the Executive’s Review of the Financial Process.
15. Date, time and place of next meeting
It was agreed that the next meeting of the Committee would take place on Tuesday, 8 November 2011 at 1.30pm in Room 21, Parliament Buildings.
2.05pm The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.