Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: 04 September 2012

Venue: Room 144, Parliament Buildings

The meeting commenced at 11.05am in closed session.        

Chairperson’s Introduction

Agreed:  The Committee agreed that the meeting should be held in closed session as the Committee would be considering correspondence from the interim Assembly Commissioner for Standards.

The Chairperson welcomed Committee Members to the meeting. 

1. Apologies

As detailed above.

2. Declaration of Interests

The Chairperson reminded Members of their obligation to declare any relevant financial or other interests before and during each Committee meeting.

3. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 5th July 2012

Agreed:  The draft minutes of the meeting held on 5th July 2012 were agreed by the Committee. 

4. Matters arising

There were no matters arising.

5 and 6.      Further consideration of Reports from the interim Assembly

Commissioner for Standards and commencement of the Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards’ Functions.

Members noted correspondence of 23 July 2012 received from the interim Assembly Commissioner for Standards clarifying an issue raised at a previous meeting of the Committee.

11.09am  Mr McCann and Mr Eastwood joined the meeting

11.10am Mr Craig joined the meeting

11.10am The Chairperson welcomed Dr Tom Frawley, interim Assembly Commissioner for Standards and Ms Marie Anderson, Deputy Ombudsman to the meeting and invited Dr Frawley to outline the background to the two Reports and to brief the Committee on the further correspondence received from him.

Dr Frawley reminded the Committee of the key points in the two Reports and clarified the position in his correspondence of 23 July 2012.

The Chairperson thanked Dr Frawley.

The Chairperson invited Dr Frawley to brief the Committee on his correspondence of 30  August 2012 which provided an update on current investigations. 

Dr Frawley updated the Committee on the issues in his correspondence of 30 August 2012 and said that, in respect of the first investigation referred to in his correspondence, he was due to interview a key witness later that day.

Dr Frawley also informed the Committee that he would be submitting to it a legacy report on his time as Commissioner.

11.22am The Chairperson thanked Dr Frawley and Ms Anderson for attending the meeting.

The Committee noted the Clerk’s paper on the commencement of the functions of the Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards and corresponding Legal Advice.

The Clerk outlined the background to this issue.

11.26am The Chairperson welcomed Mr Jonathan McMillen, Assembly Legal Adviser to brief the Committee on his Legal Advice to the Committee.

11.53am  Following discussion the Chairperson thanked Mr McMillen.

Agreed:  Following discussion the Committee agreed that it would seek to have the Assembly Commission delay the commencement of the new Commissioner’s functions until 22 October 2012, subject to the interim Commissioner’s scheduled interview with a particular witness taking place as planned.

Agreed:  The Committee also agreed that in these circumstances it should also seek to have the Committee on Procedures delay scheduling the amendments to standing orders until 22nd October 2012.

The Committee then discussed the reports on the complaints against a Member.

12.02pm Following discussion the Chairperson put the question that the Committee accepts the interim Assembly Commissioner for Standards’ conclusion that the Member named in the Commissioner’s first report had breached the Code of Conduct.

AYES                                     NOES                                     ABSTENTION

Mr Steven Agnew                   Ms Paula Bradley                    None
Mr Cathal Boylan                   Mr Jonathan Craig
Mr Colum Eastwood              Mr David McIlveen
Mr Alex Maskey                     Mr Alastair Ross
Mr Fra McCann
Mr Kieran McCarthy

The motion was carried.

The Chairperson put the question that the Committee accepts the interim Assembly Commissioner for Standards’ conclusion that the Member named in the Commissioner’s second report has breached the Code of Conduct.

AYES                                     NOES                                     ABSTENTION

Mr Steven Agnew                   Ms Paula Bradley                    None
Mr Cathal Boylan                   Mr Jonathan Craig
Mr Colum Eastwood              Mr David McIlveen
Mr Alex Maskey                     Mr Alastair Ross
Mr Fra McCann
Mr Kieran McCarthy

The motion was carried.

Following discussion Mr McIlveen proposed that the Committee should write to the Member informing him of the Committee’s decision that he had breached the Code of Conduct and telling him that he should note this outcome.

Question put:

That the Committee should write to the Member informing him of the Committee’s decision that he had breached the Code of Conduct and telling him that he should note this outcome.

AYES                                     NOES                                     ABSTENTION

Ms Paula Bradley                    Mr Cathal Boylan                   Mr Steven Agnew
Mr Jonathan Craig                  Mr Colum Eastwood
Mr David McIlveen                Mr Alex Maskey
Mr Alastair Ross                     Mr Fra McCann
                                                Mr Kieran McCarthy

The motion fell.

Mr Maskey proposed that the Committee should write to the Member informing him of the Committee’s decision that he had breached the Code of Conduct and telling him that he should apologise by means of a public statement to the Assembly.

Question put:

That the Committee should write to the Member informing him of the Committee’s decision that he had breached the Code of Conduct and telling him that he should apologise by means of a public statement to the Assembly.

AYES                                     NOES                                     ABSTENTION

Mr Cathal Boylan                   Ms Paula Bradley                    Mr Steven Agnew
    
Mr Colum Eastwood              Mr Jonathan Craig                 
Mr Alex Maskey                     Mr Kieran McCarthy
Mr Fra McCann                      Mr David McIlveen
                                                  Mr Alastair Ross

The motion fell.

Mr McCarthy proposed that the Committee should write to the Member informing him of the Committee’s decision that he had breached the Code of Conduct and telling him that he should write a letter of apology to the two complainants and a copy of the letters of apology should be sent to the Committee for inclusion in the Committee’s Report.

AYES                                     NOES                                     ABSTENTION

Mr Steven Agnew                   Ms Paula Bradley                    None
Mr Cathal Boylan                   Mr Jonathan Craig
Mr Colum Eastwood              Mr David McIlveen
Mr Alex Maskey                     Mr Alastair Ross
Mr Fra McCann
Mr Kieran McCarthy

The motion was carried.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed that should the Member not provide the Committee with a copy of an appropriate written apology to each of the complaints by 18 September 2012 the Committee would give consideration to recommending to the Assembly that a sanction be imposed.

7.  Any other business

The Chairperson reminded Members that, as discussed at a previous meeting, Sir Christopher Kelly and members of the Committee on Standards in Public Life would be visiting the Assembly on 24th September 2012 and that a joint meeting with the Assembly Commission and the Committee has been arranged for 11.50am in Room 29 to be followed by lunch in the Members’ Dining Room.

Agreed:  It was agreed that, given the demands on Members’ time, a representative from each party should attend the meeting. 

8.  Time, date and place of next meeting

Members will be informed of the date of the next meeting by Committee Office staff.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.31pm.

Mr Alastair Ross MLA
Chairperson, Committee on Standards and Privileges
Wednesday 19th September 2012

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