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

Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 27 October 2011

Venue: Millenium Room, Millenium Forum

The meeting opened in public session at 10.14am.

1. Apologies

Apologies were as indicated above.

2. Draft Minutes of Meeting 20 October 2011

Agreed: The minutes of the meeting held on Thursday 20 October 2011 were agreed as amended.

3. Chairperson’s Business

The Chairperson advised the Committee that he and the Deputy Chairperson would be attending an event on 1 November 2011 to mark the 20 th Anniversary of the Social Security Agency.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to sponsor an event on the private rented sector which will be hosted by the Chartered Institute of Housing in the Long Gallery, Parliament Buildings at the end of November 2011.

The Chairperson advised the Committee of an invite to the preview of a Departmental campaign to increase the uptake of benefits which is scheduled to take place in early November 2011.

4. Matters Arising

Agreed: The Committee agreed a draft response to the Department’s consultation on the Review of the Gambling Law.

5. Minimum Alcohol Pricing – Departmental Briefing

The following senior officials from the Department for Social Development joined the meeting at 10.19am:

Mr Liam Quinn Social Policy Unit, DSD;
Ms Caroline Hobson Social Policy Unit, DSD.

The officials briefed the Committee on the outcome of a recent Departmental consultation on the Minimum Unit Pricing of Alcohol.

Mr Mark H Durkan declared an interest as his family owns a licensed premise at 10.34am.

Members expressed concern in respect of the increased consumption of alcohol particularly within the home and welcomed any future intervention which would address this growing problem. Some Members expressed the view that any future intervention should focus not just on the price of alcohol but address the true cost of alcohol on health and social services here and its impact on family life.

However, Members were concerned that any increase in the unit price of alcohol may lead to an increased consumption of cheaper brands which may pose greater health risks and possibly lead to an increase in anti-social behaviour as individuals resort to criminal means to procure alcohol and also lead to an increase in illegal drinking premises.

Members did also express concerns about the impact of any future intervention on smaller local licensed premises which may already be struggling in the current economic climate. Members were of the view that any future intervention should be targeted at larger business who can afford to sell alcohol as loss leaders. Some Members sought clarity on legal action taken by the larger supermarkets when governments in other jurisdictions tried to introduce legislation to regulate the price of alcohol.

Members reinforced the importance of sanctions and queried how any future intervention would be policed and any possible implications for North/South trade. Some Members were of the view that when analysing the results of the survey, the Department should seek to differentiate between those who drink responsibly, those who do not drink and those who drink in excess of the recommended limits.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing.

The officials left the meeting at 10.53am.

Agreed: Members agreed to submit a response to the consultation expressing the Committee’s concerns as outlined above.

6. Regeneration Plan for Derry/Londonderry–Briefing by the Ilex Regeneration Company

The following representatives from the Ilex Regeneration Company joined the meeting at 10.55am:

Sir Roy McNulty – Chairman of Ilex;
Mr Gerard McCleave – Director, Strategy and Regeneration, Ilex;
Mr Tom McCartney – Property Director, Ilex; and
Mr Caiomhín Corrigan – Cultural Broker.

The officials provided an update on progress against key deliverables within the Regeneration Plan for Derry/Londonderry “The One Plan” and briefed the Committee on next steps.

The Chairperson thanked the representatives for the briefing.

The representatives left the meeting at 11.54am

7. Proposed Subordinate Legislation

7.1 The Social Fund (Cold Weather Payments) (General) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011

Agreed: The Committee agreed it was content for the Rule to be made.

8. Statutory Rules

8.1 SR 2011 No.291: The Social Security (Loss of Benefit) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011

Agreed: The Committee agreed to defer consideration of this Rule.

8.2 SR 2011/368 The Social Security (Work-focused Interviews for Lone Parents and Partners (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2011

Question put and agreed:

“The Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule: SR 2011 No. 368 : The Social Security (Work-focused Interviews for Lone Parents and Partners) (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2011 and subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules’ report has no objection to the Rule.”

Some Members expressed the view that the Department should consider what flexibility it has when administering sanctions on lone parents.

9. Correspondence

9.1 The Committee considered correspondence from the Department in respect of the October Monitoring Round.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department to welcome the £10 million allocation towards an affordable housing assistance scheme but highlighted that not all co-ownership houses were new build so further consideration needed to be given to other measures to assist the construction industry. The Committee also emphasised the additional issues within the social housing sector which need to be addressed in particular the long waiting list and the suspension of home improvement grants. The Committee also expressed concern about the eligibility criteria for the co-ownership scheme.

9.2 The Committee noted a number of items of correspondence from the Department in respect of the Regional Infrastructure Programme and its Fuel Poverty Strategy. The Committee also noted correspondence from the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Division.

9.3 Agreed: The Committee agreed to note the remaining items of correspondence.

10. Forward Work Programme

Agreed: The Committee agreed to note the draft Forward Work Programme.

11. Any Other Business

The Deputy Chairperson advised Members of an invite to attend a Disability Group’s AGM to speak on Welfare Reform. He advised that he will be speaking as a member of Sinn Fein and an MLA and not as Deputy Chairperson of the Social Development Committee.

12. Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 10 November 2011 in Room 29, Parliament Buildings at 10.00am.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.07pm

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