Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 28 February 2012

Venue: Room 144

1.00pm  The meeting opened in public session.

1. Apologies

None.

2. Draft Minutes of the meeting held on 17 January 2012

Agreed : Members agreed the draft minutes of the meeting held on 17 January 2012.

3. Amendments to Standing Orders – Justice

The Chairperson explained why a small amendment to Standing Order

26(1)(a) was necessary.

Agreed: It was agreed that amendments to Standing Orders should be drafted for consideration at the next meeting.

4. Standing Order 76 – Remuneration and Pensions

The Committee considered a letter from the Speaker, on behalf of the Assembly Commission, outlining amendments it believed should be made to Standing Order 76, in light of the Assembly Members (Independent Financial Review and Standards) Act (NI) 2011.

Agreed:           The Committee agreed the motion to amend Standing Order 76.

5. Standing Order 27 – Voting/Divisions

1.04pm  Mr Maginness joined the meeting.

1.05pm  Mr Storey joined the meeting.

The Committee considered a response from the Speaker, expressing the views of the Business Committee in relation to suggested amendments to Standing Order 27 on Voting/Divisions.

Agreed: It was agreed that Standing Orders should be amended to give the Speaker, in consultation with the Whips, discretion to dispense with the three minutes before putting the question a second time, where more than two divisions relating to the same subject were to be held in succession.

Agreed: It was agreed that amendments to Standing Orders should be drafted for consideration at the next meeting.

6. Assembly Questions

a) Departmental performance on Written Questions

The Committee considered statistics on each department’s performance on answering Written Questions, including the period for which the answers were late.

Mr Allister referred to his recent correspondence with the Speaker in relation to this matter.  Copies of the correspondence were handed to the Chairperson and then distributed to Members.

The Clerk was asked to find out if Westminster imposed any sanctions in dealing with late answers to Written Questions. 

Agreed: It was agreed that a letter to the Speaker, expressing the Committee’s concerns about the statistics on departmental performance, should be drafted for consideration at the next meeting.   

The Chairperson advised Members that it was likely to be May 2012 before the report on a pilot exercise by the Procedure Committee of the House of Commons into this matter becomes available.

Agreed: It was agreed to give further consideration to the issue at the meeting following receipt of the report on the House of Commons pilot exercise.

b) Use of Adjournment Debates

The Committee noted a paper on Adjournment Debates.

c) Topical Questions

The Committee considered the merits of introducing a system for asking Topical Questions, and also considered a paper by the Research and Information Service on other legislatures that have this facility.

1.22pm  Mr Storey left the meeting.

Agreed: It was agreed to conduct a mini inquiry into Topical Questions. The Clerk was asked to prepare an inquiry plan for consideration at the next meeting.

d) Written responses to Oral Questions – Standing Order 20(9)

1.25pm  Mr Storey rejoined the meeting.

The Committee considered a paper by the Research and Information Service, outlining the procedures in other legislatures when a Member is not present to ask their question.  The Research Officer answered Members’ questions on the paper.

The Committee also considered a briefing paper, and discussed the merits of a number of options outlined in the paper.

1.30pm  Mr Lyttle joined the meeting.

Agreed: It was agreed that further research should be undertaken into option (e) i.e. another Member asks the question on the Member’s behalf.

Agreed: It was agreed to consider this matter further at the next meeting.

7. Review of Standing Order 30 – Types of Bills

The Committee considered a procedural advice paper from the Bill Office in relation to the types of Public Bills referred to in Standing Order 30.

1.39pm  Mr McMullan left the meeting.

Agreed: It was agreed that there should be no change to Standing Order 30.

8. Use of electronic devices in the Chamber

The Committee considered a paper by the Research and Information Service, outlining the rules and procedures in other legislatures regarding the use of electronic devices in their Chambers.  The Research Officer answered Members’ questions on the paper.

Agreed: It was agreed to write to the Whips seeking Party views on the use of electronic devices in the Chamber, and any restrictions that might be placed on their use.  A draft letter to the Whips was agreed.

9. Family friendly practices and impact of late sittings

The Committee considered a paper by the Research and Information Service, outlining the position in other legislatures regarding time restrictions on  debates on legislation. 

The Committee also considered statistics showing the number of Assembly sittings which adjourned after 6.00pm in each month since 2007, along with the adjournment times for those sittings where adjournment was after 6.00pm.

Agreed: It was agreed to maintain a watching brief on the passage of legislation in this mandate.

As the Speaker had raised this issue, the Chairperson advised Members that he would inform the Speaker in writing of the Committee’s decision.

10. Forward Work Programme

The Committee was content with the Forward Work Programme.

11. Correspondence

There was no other correspondence.

12. Any other Business

None.

13. Date, time and place of next meeting

It was agreed that the next meeting would take place on Tuesday, 27 March 2012 at 1.00pm in Room 144, Parliament Buildings.

1.58pm  The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.

Gerry Kelly
Chairperson, Committee on Procedures
27 March 2012

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