Official Report (Hansard)

Session: 2008/2009

Date: 18 November 2008

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:
Mr Jimmy Spratt (Chairperson)
Mr Raymond McCartney (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood
Mr Simon Hamilton
Mrs Carmel Hanna
Mr Danny Kennedy
Mr Nelson McCausland
Mr Alan McFarland
Mr John O’Dowd
Mr Ian Paisley Jnr

The Chairperson (Mr Spratt):
I remind members that the meeting has returned to public session. The recording equipment is switched on, and members must ensure that their mobile phones are switched off.

The next item on the agenda is the consideration of the Committee briefing paper, which is at tab 3 of members’ packs. I invite discussion and seek agreement on the forward work programme, which is Committee briefing paper 13/08/09 at tab 3(b) of the members’ packs.

Before we proceed, I declare an interest as a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

Mr Paisley Jnr:
I declare an interest as a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

Mr McCausland:
I declare an interest as a member of Belfast District Policing Partnership.

The Chairperson:
It is important that the Committee agrees the forward work programme. Following agreement on that paper, I intend to resume discussions on the category 1 list of issues, starting at G, which was agreed previously. Following that, I want to have a short discussion on the category 2 list of issues. Such discussions will allow the Committee staff to make the necessary arrangements for inviting whoever is required to assist us with our deliberations on, for example, the financial area, as we discussed last week. I am sure that the Committee Clerk will be able to inform us whether that is required.

Mr Paisley Jnr:
I see that you want to start at G. However, I note from what we have received today that F has now been answered.

The Chairperson:
We have been tasked to go through them all formally. My understanding is that we have to read all of them into the record. As a result of what members heard earlier, some of them may require very little discussion. The process beyond that is that several issues have been parked up to G, and there may be some issues parked between G and the end, and then we must go through those issues again.

However, we must concentrate on the paper in front of us. Members will need to look at the remainder of the issues today. On Tuesday 25 November at 11.00 am, in room 144, there will be the continuation of the consideration of the category 1 list of issues, meaning those issues that have been parked. There will be continued discussion on that matter.

Mr Paisley Jnr:
I am having difficulty with the programme. It should be flexible, as we will need to accommodate the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) again following any progress it makes on the financial side.

The Chairperson:
The financial issues are in category 2. However, some discussion will be needed on that.

We must agree the forward work programme first, and we will then go into a full discussion on it. Any continuation needed on the category 1 list will be dealt with on 2 December, and there will be a conclusion of the category 1 list on 9 December. The Committee Clerk has already indicated that he will write up the issues and, on that date, there will be a preliminary report that we will be able to discuss.

The Business Committee will meet on Tuesday 6 January. It is this Committee’s intention to have the category 1 report, which was agreed last week, included in a plenary session on either of the first two days back after the Christmas recess. The final report of phase 1 on the category 1 list of issues may have to be agreed on 5 January to allow it to go to the Business Committee on 6 January. However, that decision can be made closer to the time.

The Committee Clerk:
The Business Committee schedules business two weeks ahead, as opposed to just one week ahead. That would allow for the scheduling of the debate on 19 or 20 January.

The Chairperson:
So, that is the date that we are aiming for. Are members happy with the forward work programme? It may have to be tinkered with. I will open it up now for discussion.

Mr McFarland:
I know that the previous discussion that we had about increasing our meetings was related to having to report by 18 November. Are we happy that we will need more meetings? Reference was made earlier that the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister is going to press the NIO for full financial details. I see that we are doing the same. I just wonder whether —

The Chairperson:
That is category 2.

Mr McFarland:
Finance is category 1.

The Chairperson:
No; some of it is. The main detail of it is category 2, and that is where it would be discussed.

When we discuss category 2, anyone who is required to question the NIO on that will be brought to the Committee. We have heard about the Chief Constable’s budget, and holes in other budgets were mentioned earlier. It will be for the Committee to decide when we discuss the category 2 list, and that is when the main work on that will be done.

Mr McFarland:
The First Minister and the deputy First Minister said that they are crashing off now — now — to try to identify in detail all the financial pressures. If they are going to do that, why are we duplicating the work? Presumably, by the time that we come to discuss category 2, all that detail will have been released to the First Minister and the deputy First Minister and will be available to us.

The Chairperson:
I assume that some of it will, but I understand that we will need to question that and ensure that other issues are not hurtling down. I understand that the First Minister and the deputy First Minister are already talking about some immediate pressures. The Chief Constable has made it clear that there are immediate pressures on the budget of the police service, so the First Minister and the deputy First Minister are discussing that. I have no doubt that they are discussing other pressures, and they said that they would discuss those with the Committee. I imagine that an onward discussion will take place, particularly on the finances.

Mr McCartney:
Each week, the Committee Clerk writes up what we have agreed. Therefore, the report is written as we progress. If we were to agree something on Tuesday 9 December, the Clerk would be left to write that up over Christmas before we come back to approve what he has written on Monday 5 January. Therefore, can provision be made, if required, for an extra meeting between 9 December and 16 December?

The Chairperson:
I do not think that there is any problem with that.

The Committee Clerk:
To clarify, if the Committee reaches decisions and agrees on any of the elements on the category 1 list, those will be reported in the minutes of proceedings, which will be subject to scrutiny by the Committee. Therefore, any decisions that are taken today will be reported in the draft minutes of proceedings, which members will consider and approve next week. Those minutes will then be published. The Deputy Chairperson has referred to a developing situation.

Mr Attwood:
I endorse Raymond’s comments, but perhaps I do so from a different perspective. On the basis of the process paper that has been provided by the First Minister and the deputy First Minister, and on the basis of what we have just been told, it is likely that the debate on the Committee’s first report will take place in the third week in January. If all the other process points in the paper were followed, the process would be completed, at the earliest, after summer 2009. That is unavoidable, and from the perspective of the SDLP, it does not represent an agreed time frame.

It may be that nothing can be done about that, because the parties in the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister have agreed to the process. However, under the quickest possible time frame, the process will take to the end of 2009. Therefore, any slippage will push it later than that. I agree with Raymond that, if necessary, we should seek extra meetings and longer meetings in order to complete the responsibilities that are identified in category 1, and to get those to the Floor of the Assembly at the earliest possible date. If a debate were to take place in third week of January, it would be the third week in November — at the earliest — before policing and justice could be devolved, if there were no hiccups or electoral interventions.

Mr Paisley Jnr:
We must be wary of putting any spin on dates. The DUP was not told any dates today. We can all play that game, but we can either be mature or immature. Deadlines can be set, but as has been said before, once a deadline is set in Northern Ireland, it almost becomes a macho issue as someone wants to bust through that deadline. We all know the problems that we face, and that some of those will take longer to resolve than others. However, it is immature to bait each other on the question of when devolution will take place.

Mr O’Dowd:
The two witnesses from OFMDFM stated that they would do everything in their power to ensure that the process is resolved. I am surprised to hear Alex Attwood say that he does not accept OFMDFM’s time frame, because I did not know that the SDLP had its own time frame for the matter. It is news to me that the SDLP’s time frame is tighter than the one offered by OFMDFM.

The process before us is fresh and new, so we should not pick it apart at this meeting. We should continue our work programme and work to ensure that it is implemented.

Mr Attwood:
It is not immature to point out that although there has been 150 days since the last Executive meeting and we have waited two months for the witnesses from OFMDFM to appear before the Committee, the witnesses did not even outline what the process will mean. Consequently, Committee members have been left to make their own judgement about what the process will mean.

Given the length of the legislative process, both here and in Westminster, and that community consultation will have to take place, it is only reasonable for the SDLP to estimate the time frame that we are working under. The community consultation will last 12 weeks, and without it the process would be subject to a challenge by someone or some group with a vested interest — if not Mr Allister — going to court to say that the process must comply with certain requirements. If OFMDFM is not prepared to rebut the SDLP’s estimated time frame, it is even more reasonable to conclude that it is accurate.

I was pointing out that if OFMDFM says that it will move heaven and earth — or whatever language it chooses to use — to get the process over the line, the Committee should move heaven and earth to get it over the line. If that means extra meetings to accelerate the early part of the process to ensure that it does not get spun out and battered by electoral interventions and other circumstances beyond our control, it is a reasonable to make that point.

Mr McCartney:
There is a danger that Committee members will begin referring to the answers that we were given in confidence during the private session. I have neither read nor heard anywhere that there will be a formal public consultation lasting 12 weeks.

Mr Attwood:
Thank you for that clarification.

Mr McCartney:
It was not a clarification; it was an observation that I made from what I heard this morning — there is nothing to suggest that there will be a formal public consultation, and none of the witnesses said that there would be one.

The Chairperson:
The word “formal” was never used.

Mr Paisley Jnr:
As I have said before, I do not want to get involved in a dispute between two members of the same family. However, we should move on and address the material before us.

The Chairperson:
I am bringing the discussion back to that. Alex, you may have been out of the room at the time, but I said that any need for further meetings can be discussed and decided on by the Committee. Are Committee members satisfied with the work plan that is before them?

Members indicated assent.

The Chairperson:
The second issue is whether the Committee should publish its report in one or two parts. In previous discussions, Committee members indicated that we should go through category 1 and present the first part of the report to the Assembly during a plenary session in early January 2009. The Committee must formally agree on that so that the Committee Clerk can produce the report in time. Do Committee members agree to publish the report in two stages, and to present the first stage to the Assembly at a plenary session in early January 2009?

Members indicated assent.

The Chairperson:
I refer Committee members to the Committee briefing paper 11/08/09 to resume discussions on the category 1 list. I assume that we continue on the same thrust as we did on the previous list. We start at G. I will allow someone from each party —

Mr McFarland:
Can I suggest, in the interest of efficiency, we had A to F and, at the time, we did not have the information that we have now? Some of the issues were solved earlier on — they have been answered. It might be worth going —

The Chairperson:
No; we are starting off at G, which we have already agreed to do. We will then go through the rest of the list. The Committee has agreed to go back to the issues that were parked.

Mr McFarland:
Why?

The Chairperson:
I am chairing the meeting, Mr McFarland, if you do not mind?

We will start off with G, which is:

“What were the structures of the policing and justice Department and what functions should we place there and/or OFMDFM?”

Mr McFarland:
Last week, we asked for a chart to ease our understanding of all the different complex issues. Those of us who have been on the Committee for the past year know that it is a complex issue, with all the different departments. We suggested at the last meeting that it would be helpful.

The Chairperson:
I am not aware of any chart. There was a chart previously, and then the work was put into this format and agreed in this format. So, I am not —

Mr McFarland:
I mean a chart of the departments — the parts of the justice Department.

The Chairperson:
In fairness to the Committee Clerk, I am not aware of that question’s having being asked. There is no indication that that was asked for. However, if you are asking for that, I am sure that it can be worked up.

Mr McFarland:
What all the different departments are and what they all do is quite a complex issue. A chart would help us when we come to look at finance, etc. Much of how issues would transfer across was agreed in our initial report.

The Chairperson:
These are all issues that the parties, and everyone else, have raised in the category 1 list. They have been put into this format and they were agreed. We are now at G. I will go round each party, as has been the normal procedure, and I will allow up to 20 minutes of discussion on each issue. If we do not come to a consensus, the issue will be parked, and we will come back to the list as we have already agreed.

I have read G into the record. I will hear first from the DUP.

Mr Hamilton:
At this stage, the only point that the DUP wishes to raise is that we heard earlier about the agreement on judicial appointments being carried out by the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC), and we would like to have clarity on that issue. However, there may be other issues that we may wish to return to later.

The Chairperson:
OK. I will hear now from Sinn Féin.

Mr McCartney:
Sinn Féin has a fairly similar position. I am conscious of what has been said this morning about JAC, and Sinn Féin wants to hear what OFMDFM has to say in the future.

The Chairperson:
OK. I will hear now from the Ulster Unionist Party.

Mr McFarland:
Can I find out what this is about? I know that someone asked the question, but that does not mean that it is sensible. The question is:

“What would the structure of the policing and justice Department be?”

We had an entire report agreed by the Assembly as to what should devolve.

The Chairperson:
Every member of the Committee agreed that we would go through the lists, irrespective of who asked the question.

Mr McFarland:
What does it mean? What would the structure be? The structure is as it is at the moment and will devolve across according to the Assembly’s agreed report.

“What functions should be placed in OFMDFM?”

What does that refer to, specifically — whoever put it on the original list? Presumably they had a question as to what should remain with the Department and what should go to OFMDFM. Certain matters were recommended by the NIO to go to OFMDFM. I do not understand fully what we are being asked to decide here. That was why I was asking for some sort of chart, which might help us to clarify our minds as to what we are asking.

The Chairperson:
I invite the Committee Clerk to come in on the discussion.

The Committee Clerk:
I cannot say what that refers to specifically because I believe that it is a combination of contributions from parties that are represented on the Committee and other parties who sent in written submissions at an earlier stage in the process. The 28 organisations that make up the policing and justice family are identified in pages 446 and 447 of the original report. Those are identified by the Northern Ireland Office, and the detail shows the current status of each of those organisations or bodies. It also projects the NIO’s view, as it understood it, at the time that the letter was written about the future status and the future sponsor of each of those organisations. The issue for the Committee is to consider whether it is content with that.

Beyond that, there were some issues about where responsibility might rest in relation to the appointment of an attorney general and what Department the attorney general might be attached to, and about judicial appointments. However, as the members have acknowledged, that was referred to in an earlier part of the meeting that was held in closed session, so members will have been informed by the comments that were made then.

It is my understanding that the questions facing the Committee are what the structure would be and whether the Committee is content with the projections that the NIO was working on when it sent the letter back in, which was October 2007, if my memory serves me correctly.

Mr McFarland:
I am more than happy with that, but the Committee needs a chart that members can go through and discuss what they are happy with and what they are not happy with. Some issues were left in the air — for example, where it gave such and such a figure — and it would be quite useful if we could clarify those issues in our minds.

The Chairperson:
Both parties seem to have indicated that we should revisit that, so we will have that chart made available for the next meeting.

Mr McFarland:
I would appreciate it if the Committee Clerk could also identify any other areas where we were not clear about where things should go, because we have come up against such issues time and time again. There were issues that we had left with OFMDFM to be discussed after the devolution of policing and justice, and it would be quite useful if we could clarify what OFMDFM’s position is on those. Now that there is a bit of a plan about what is going to happen with policing and justice, I wonder whether we should be considering those issues before the powers are devolved. The parties were still at loggerheads when the matter was dealt with previously, and things were parked because they were going to present difficulties.

If it is the case that we have broad agreement about where we are going, it may be quite useful for the Committee to consider some of the issues that were parked because of sensitivities with political parties or in OFMDFM. Therefore, it may help if the Committee was to have a list of issues that are outstanding or that we need guidance on, as that would give people a clear idea of what the existing issues are.

The Chairperson:
Ok; will you give the UUP perspective on (g)?

Mr McFarland:
No; what I am saying is—

The Chairperson:
No; my question is that, so far, the DUP and Sinn Féin have indicated that the issue must be parked because we need to come back to it — is that what you are saying?

Mr McFarland:
It is a very detailed and complex issue, and several key decisions must be made in relation to it; therefore, we cannot deal with it now because we do not have the—

The Chairperson:
Are you saying that we need to come to back to it?

Mr McFarland:
Yes; absolutely.

Mrs Hanna:
The OFMDFM presentation has given us some indication about what they think the structures would be. I am not sure exactly what we mean by function — whether we mean power or authority. The First Minister and the deputy First Minister have given very clear views on where they believe the power or authority lies — I do not agree with their view, but that was the impression that I got from the presentation.

Mr Attwood:
There are some big issues regarding this matter, including the staffing — never mind the structure — of the policing and justice Department. Several NIO officials are retiring reasonably soon. I want to know what involvement OFMDFM will have in the appointment of the senior NIO officials who may be employed in the new Department.

I also want to find out which independent people will be recruited to help the new Ministry once it is up and running. I do not know whether the NIO, or anybody else, has any observations on those matters. There are issues beyond the actual structure of the new Department. The deputy First Minister did not have an opportunity to indicate, but I welcome that the First Minister indicated that — at this stage — he sees the policing and justice Minister as being an equal Ministry. That is not contained in the paper from the First Minister and the deputy First Minister, but it should be guaranteed that the new Minister will be equal and will have full Executive status.

The Chairperson:
The Committee can take its own decision on that.

Mr Paisley Jnr:
We were given answers that detailed the structure of the policing and justice Department, the functions that that new Department should have, and those that should remain with OFMDFM. From what we heard this morning, I took a very clear indication that a demarcation line was being drawn, which signified that there will be a hands-off approach and that a new Department will be established.

We received some fairly clear indications in relation to the status of the Minister and a very clear identity and a function for the post of attorney general. If that person is singled out and is identifiable, a structure is emerging that is much more clear cut in that it would silo into one Department, and that there will be a hands-off approach from OFMDFM. That is fairly clear from the answers that we received this morning.

The Chairperson:
Perhaps the Committee Clerk could clarify the point that Carmel Hanna made.

The Committee Clerk:
It is worth reminding the Committee that when the composite list of issues was studied — and then was disaggregated into three different categories — several issues could have gone into each of the three categories. In relation to that question, the significant word is “structure”, because, in the category 2 and category 3 lists, there are issues that relate to the functions of the new Department.

However, the issue is about how the various parts of that Department might relate to each other. If I use the term that was used earlier this morning, the structure is a “modality” issue, whereas the other relationship issues are non-modality and are either category 2 or category 3 issues. Members may understand the distinction that was being made when the list was segregated the first time round.

Mrs Hanna:
When I talked about the function, it implies power — although it obviously depends on what the function is — and authority. OFMDFM clarified that that authority or power should lie in OFMDFM rather than in the Ministry. That is why I asked about the functions. It depends on which functions and powers are being considered.

Mr McFarland:
There are relationship issues regarding how we will interact with organisations, but there are also some fairly fundamental issues about the propriety of funding. I am thinking of organisations that, perhaps, inspected parts of the criminal justice empire that we thought should not be part of that and should not be funded by that. A number of commissioners are having that argument because they are being paid by the Departments that they are supposed to be examining.

One of the thoughts was that some of them could be funded by OFMDFM in order to give them separateness and an independence of funding. All of those are on the list that has been distributed to members, but I think that they are things that we need to work through by way of a logical system, saying where we think they should go. We have parked a lot of those issues because they were too difficult to deal with at the time of the Committee’s first report.

The Chairperson:
On this particular issue, my feeling is that we should agree to park this in the meantime, because there are a number of issues that we need to come back to.

Mr Paisley Jnr:
I understand why that needs to be parked, but regarding what has been discussed on the Judicial Appointments Commission, a fairly meaty point was made that we should cherish the independence of judicial appointments. That being the case — and I do not know how the Committee feels — should we hijack that point as one of our own? It seems to be a unique selling point of something that is very special, that we could promote, deliberate on and put something out there that would make the process more unique and maybe even something that others will learn from.

The Chairperson:
How do members feel about that suggestion?

Mr McFarland:
OFMDFM is announcing this as its idea. One of the things that the First Minister said was that this was unique and groundbreaking, etc.

Mr Paisley Jnr:
I do not know whether we will get into that detail, as other issues will steal the headlines.

The Chairperson:
Can the Committee not endorse it?

Mr McFarland:
There is an issue around who funds that? Is it OFMDFM or is it —

The Chairperson:
We are not going to answer that question today.

Mr Attwood:
What has been outlined by OFMDFM needs to be probed further. I presume that what OFMDFM is talking about is not what is in law at present; namely, that the appointment of the Lord Chief Justice is made through the Prime Minister’s Office with the agreement of the Queen. As far as I can recall, that is the process for the appointment of the Lord Chief Justice. Although OFMDFM may or may not be proposing something different in respect of other judicial appointments, I would be interested to find out, particularly from the deputy First Minister, what the position is in respect of the appointment of the Lord Chief Justice, because my suspicion is that neither Downing Street nor the Lord Chief Justice, whoever that may be at any one time, would want a process other than that which was recommended by the Criminal Justice Review, even though we do not agree with that process.

I would like to know the full meaning of what they are talking about, because they have authority under the law in respect of some matters but not others. If we are going to have a wider discussion about the nomination of judges, I would welcome hearing that, but it should be in the context of how the JAC is working: does it have the right balance of membership, is it appropriate that the chair of that commission should be the Lord Chief Justice, and is there a need to rework the JAC in order to be more representative and earn more public confidence? There is no doubt that it is a step forward from the processes that have existed previously.

If there is going to be some groundbreaking approach from OFMDFM in respect of its authority over these matters, let us look at what the JAC is doing. I think that the power of OFMDFM is that, if it gives it up in respect of the appointment of the judges, it would be something done for political effect, not for the real reason that it should be done, namely one of principle.

The Chairperson:
Are you proposing then that we ask OFMDFM for clarification?

Mr Attwood:
Yes; I think that we need to find out what OFMDFM’s view is on the appointment of the Lord Chief Justice.

The Chairperson:
Are members agreed that we ask for that clarification in the letter that we have already agreed to send on behalf of the Committee?

Members indicated assent.

The Chairperson:
For the record, because there a number of other issues, we are parking issue G.

We will now move to issue H:

“What arrangements need to be in place to ensure that effect is given to Recommendation 28 of the Committee’s original report that Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly should cease to be members of the Policing Board or any District Policing Partnership, at the point of devolution?”

Mr Paisley Jnr:
Could you read recommendation 28 into the record for us? I understood it to mean something slightly different; that a Member could not serve on both the Policing Board and the Assembly Committee for policing and justice.

The Chairperson:
Recommendation 28 reads:

“The Committee recommends that members of the Statutory Committee for any new department which would exercise functions relating to policing and justice matters, should not sit, simultaneously, on either the Policing Board or any District Policing Partnership.”

Mr Paisley Jnr:
So it does mean that. A major change in legislation would be required if the 10 Members of the Assembly who are appointed to the Policing Board would no longer be appointed. The question in issue H should be changed slightly.

The Chairperson:
In relation to issue H, then, where should we start?

Mr Paisley Jnr:
The matter will have to be thrashed out, but there is a question of cross-fertilisation if an MLA were to be a member of both the Policing Board and of a future Assembly scrutiny Committee — there are many conflicts there. I am happy to re-examine recommendation 28, but I got the impression that 10 members of the Northern Ireland Policing Board must be selected from the Members of the Assembly, on the basis of electoral strength.

The Chairperson:
We will have to look into that.

Mr McFarland:
We had a lengthy discussion on this matter, and an issue has arisen. If there are to be 11 MLAs on a scrutiny Committee, 10 MLAs on the Policing Board, and a Minister, that means that 21 Members of the Assembly will be involved in policing matters. That is an issue for the Committees, because we are hard pushed to staff them properly at the moment.

It is accepted that the Policing Board has an executive responsibility for matters such as personnel and buildings, and that the role of the scrutiny Committee is to bite the ankles of the Department and its Minister. One has an operational and executive role in looking after policing, and the other is a watchdog. It seemed daft to have the same people in those roles, so we eventually decided that as long as those bodies were staffed by different personnel, Members of the Assembly could sit on the Policing Board.

My party held a different view, however. It is important that the Policing Board has political input. One of the successes of the Policing Board is that it has politicians, or people related to political parties, because they can get things done much more quickly. In the longer term, it is difficult to justify having 21 MLAs involved in policing.

One of the options is that the MLAs on the Policing Board would be replaced by political appointees of the political parties, representing those parties and providing political input. Those Members who sit on the Policing Board — including you, Chairperson — know the demands that it makes. One of the Members is not here this morning because he is attending a meeting of the Policing Board. I suspect that you were under pressure to appear there as well as here.

The Chairperson:
I am under no pressure whatsoever.

Mr McFarland:
You cannot be in two places at once. That is an ongoing issue. I believe that we agreed — in order to achieve the transition — to accept that in the first instance at least, 10 MLAs would sit on the Policing Board and a different 10 MLAs would be members of the Committee. My party’s view is that, in the longer term, the Assembly could not sustain having 21 MLAs involved in policing.

Mr Paisley Jnr:
Alan outlined why it was possible to do this in the first part of his answer. The role of the Policing Board is very different; it holds the Chief Constable to account, and is charged with delivering an efficient and accountable Police Service. A justice Minister will have a much more overarching role. The issue is one of practicality; a Member could not sit on a Policing Board and its committees and serve on an Assembly Committee at the same time, even though some complementary and overarching elements come into play.

I do not think that it is an issue that the Assembly should not be doing it: it is important for the Policing Board to continue to have that independent arm also, but it should be informed by elected representatives and not just a quango of appointees. Mr McFarland may not see some of the conflicts that he is worried about; if he does not mind my saying so, he is worrying too much about that issue.

Mr McCartney:
My recollection of the report was that we had agreed that there should not be dual membership. Mr McFarland put in the caveat about whether there should be political appointees, but we did not come to any agreement. We just agreed on the dual membership issue. To answer the question about the arrangements, it should be explored whether legislation is needed to do that, or whether the procedures of Standing Orders can cover it. We need clarification and more discussion on the matter.

Mr Attwood:
Mr Paisley is correct; the question is not phrased properly. However, the answer to the right question is that there should not be dual membership. The SDLP also believes that it is essential for some MLAs to be members of the Policing Board, because there is good evidence to suggest that, to degree, the Policing Board has been marginalised on several matters over the past year or so. In part, however, the Policing Board has contributed to that marginalisation, and that is not a healthy situation. The Policing Board, as envisaged by Patten, had a very defined and significant role. The SDLP’s view is that in order to keep the architecture and the balance of relationships right, it must continue to have that substantial and defined role. As well as there not being dual membership, my party has the strong view that the 10 political representatives on the Policing Board should be 10 MLAs.

The Chairperson:
Obviously, clarification is needed on this question. Can the Committee agree to change the question slightly? I am not up to speed with the full wording, but the Committee Clerk will read it. We must see what arrangements are needed, and that can be clarified with the wording of the recommendation 28, if we can agree.

The Committee Clerk:
It might read:

“What arrangements need to be in place to ensure that members of the statutory committee for any new Department which would exercise functions relating to policing and justice matters should not sit, simultaneously, on either the Policing Board or any district policing partnership?”

The Chairperson:
— at the point of devolution?

Mr Hamilton:
I think that that makes the issue clearer.

Mr Paisley Jnr:
Should the issue be triggered by a convention among parties that they observe that, or should it be set down in Standing Orders or police legislation?

Mr McFarland:
The Committee looked at that matter before, and it was possible for it to be done under the procedures of the Assembly.

Mr McCartney:
It was also said that, with the review of public administration, the district policing partnerships would become an issue.

Mr Attwood:
There may not be a need for anything to be done. It may well be in the policing legislation that the —

The Chairperson:
We will clarify all of that.

Mr Attwood:
We need only confirm the current legislation.

The Chairperson:
Can the Committee agree the dual membership issue?

Mr McFarland:
Can one also sit on the committee?

Mr Paisley Jnr:
It is not law, Mr Attwood.

The Chairperson:
Do members agree to change issue H to that read out by the Committee Clerk?

Members indicated assent.

The Chairperson:
It is now 12.55 pm, and I will adjourn the meeting for lunch. I ask members be back at 1.35 pm.

The Chairperson:
I welcome visitors back into the public gallery. We return to item I in the briefing paper that reads:

“How, and when, should the financial negotiations with the NIO be conducting, and by whom?”

Some of those questions have already been answered this morning. However, for the record, there will obviously be ongoing discussions regarding this item. We will again go around the parties, beginning with Nelson McCausland.

Mr McCausland:
I think that it is clear that the First Minister and deputy First Minister are undertaking those discussions with the Government at Westminster. Clearly there is a role for the Committee in relation to supporting, monitoring and the gathering of information. By doing that we will then be quite clear as to the actual cost of the delivery of policing and justice.

Mr McCartney:
Very much the same. The intentions were stated very clearly this morning, and the Committee will have a supporting role.

The Chairperson:
There is more work to do on it. Alan McFarland do you indicate the same?

Mr McFarland:
Yes.

The Chairperson:
Thank you. What are the views of the SDLP in relation to this item that deals with the financial negotiations surrounding the devolution of policing and justice? Members have indicated that they have been told that there have been ongoing discussions, but that there is more work for the Committee to do in this area. Alex Attwood, can you formally clarify your position?

Mr Attwood:
Is the question what we as a Committee should do?

The Chairperson:
Yes. It is how and when the financial discussions with the NIO should be conducted, and by whom.

Mr Attwood:
I do not believe that the NIO will negotiate with the Committee. We can put pressure on them, but I do not think that they will negotiate with us.

Clearly OFMDFM are going to do some negotiation. For example, tomorrow, my party’s Minister will meet her British counterpart to discuss funding matters. Similarly, as members are aware, the Policing Board is trying to get to a position where it can negotiate in a tripartite way with NIO and the police. So, although there will be several negotiating strands, the Committee will find it hard to get any standing in all of that.

The Chairperson:
I think that the Committee will have some input to category 2 discussions when it invites people to come before it to formally. Some indications were made of the shortfalls in the previous talks or whatever. For instance, we are now seeing some items appearing in the policing budget that nobody was ever told about. There is obviously some work to do there, although I do not wish to stray into category 2 matters.

My take of what has been said around the table is that there is additional work to do and that we are parking that issue, and that we need some clarification about the ongoing discussions that will obviously continue between the First Minister, the deputy First Minister and the Governments. Is that agreed?

Members indicated assent.

The Chairperson:
Moving on to item J, we have the question of whether future budgets should be ring-fenced.

Mr Hamilton:
That question is clearly allied to the previous point and its outcome. It is not something that we would want to say something definitive on at this stage, but I think everyone can see that it depends on the successful resolution of the previous point.

Mr McCartney:
The previous matter will impact on the question of whether future budgets should be ring-fenced. Sinn Féin feels that funding should be separate from the comprehensive spending review, so, in that sense, it probably should be ring-fenced.

Mr McFarland:
If we agree with the general concept of having a justice Department, with a Minister on the Executive, surely the Executive must be able to move money around. Providing that the initial deal is right, implementing it is surely a matter for the Executive. If pressures become apparent in a particular area, the Executive must be able to shift money around to meet them. The logical consequence of ring-fencing money is that, although things are great if spending stays within a budget, they are not so good if the budget is overstepped — if a budget is ring-fenced in one direction, it must be ring-fenced in the other — and one cannot ask anybody else for extra money. Therefore, it must surely be a sensible way forward to allow the Executive to use whatever money they are given as they wish.

Mr Attwood:
In principle, the SDLP believes that such funding should be ring-fenced. There are many reasons for that, such as the subject’s high profile, the public-interest and communities’ needs. In general, the SDLP believes that the policing and justice budget should be ring-fenced because the general economic situation might tempt the Finance Minister to move money around, and that might disproportionately affect the delivery of, and confidence in, policing and justice.

That is the principle that the SDLP comes from, but it is prepared to consider marginal variations — the budget could include a discretionary element. Nevertheless, on principle, funding should be substantially ring-fenced.

The Chairperson:
Given the fact that several views have been expressed around the table and given the context of our previous discussions, the matter must be parked, on the understanding that we will return to it later to conduct fuller and wider discussions. Do members agree that that is a fair assessment?

Members indicated assent.

The Chairperson:
We move to issue K, namely when should the previously agreed range of policing and justice matters identified at recommendations 2 to 17 of the Committee’s original report cease to be reserved matters?

Mr McCausland:
During the process, OFMDFM talked about building community confidence; that is the key issue.

Mr McCartney:
Chairperson, please come back to me on issue K.

Mr McFarland:
Surely this is factual; they will transfer when the powers are devolved. I do not know when that will be, but the Committee has already agreed in its report to the Assembly that those matters will be transferred on devolution.

Mr Attwood:
That is right; reserved matters should transfer at the point of devolution. Excepted matters should become reserved matters and also transfer at the point of devolution.

The Chairperson:
We will come to that later.

Mr McCartney:
That range of policing and justice matters should cease to be reserved at the point of devolution.

The Chairperson:
There is consensus around the table on issue K; those matters should cease to be reserved at the point of devolution.

We move now to item L, namely is there any requirement for a shadow Minister, a shadow Department and a shadow statutory Committee?

Mr Hamilton:
The DUP does not think that there is a need for any shadow arrangements. However, there may be benefit in identifying early the individual who will take on the position of justice Minister. That will mean that the process will run similarly to how it ran pre-devolution, when Ministers who were identified early had the advantage of trying to read themselves into their brief. I do not see any need for shadow structures.

Mr McCartney:
Group 3 of the process paper states that the candidate will be identified early. At that stage, one will be in a better position to make a judgement.

Mr McFarland:
Presumably, the plan will follow in real time rather than shadow. A shadow arrangement would, perhaps, be required if we had difficulty reaching agreement. If we have reached agreement — and there is a plan in place — people will need time to read themselves into their brief, but a formal shadow arrangement will not be required.

Mr Attwood:
Simon is not comparing like with like. First, the time between the indication of who a Minister might be, and his or her actual nomination, is short. However, the time between the indication of who the justice Minister might be and his or her nomination will be long. Therefore they are different situations; it is not comparing like with like.

Secondly, regardless of whether there is a shadow period, there should be a period in which people work through some of the issues that will arise, if and when a justice Minister is nominated. I am not saying that there should be a shadow justice scrutiny Committee, but the establishment of an ad hoc committee that will work through some legislation-related issues, policy developments and areas in which the community has heightened concerns would mean that the Minister could hit the ground running.

I believe that the lead-in time from the date on which the person is identified to the time when he or she is nominated will be extremely long. The community will not understand why the Assembly is not doing some heavy lifting in respect of justice matters during those months.

We will have a full shadow Ministry to some degree, because, subject to nomination in accordance with the Nolan principles, there will be a shadow justice Minister. That person will be in a pretty invidious position for six, eight, 10 or 12 months — or whatever period — while the world makes up its mind about whether he or she is the right person for the job. The person may have future responsibility, but he or she will not actually have a particular role in the meantime.

The Chairperson:
Three parties seem to indicate that there is no need for a shadow Ministry. The SDLP hold a slightly different view. As the majority seem to agree that there is no need for a shadow period, is that the Committee’s consensus?

Members indicated assent.

Mr McCartney:
The identification of that person will inform our decision.

The Chairperson:
We are agreed for the purpose of the report.

I remind members and visitors in the Public Gallery to switch off their mobile phones, because it affects the recording equipment. Thank you.

We now move to item M, namely is there a need for further clarity of the powers to be devolved? If so, should they include matters relating to the Public Processions Act ( Northern Ireland) 1998, flags and symbols and recruitment to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI)?

Mr Paisley Jnr:
Taking those in reverse order, recruitment is already handled exclusively by the PSNI, as far as I am aware.

Mr Attwood:
It refers to 50:50 recruitment to the PSNI. It is code.

Mr Paisley Jnr:
Is that what it is about; the actual detail of it? We will have to take guidance on that. Most of that legislation will probably flow to Northern Ireland, but we should park it and return to it when we can get guidance that tells us what powers remain to be devolved. I cannot see why they would not be devolved.

Mr McCartney:
Recruitment is an operational matter for PSNI. We want further clarity on the other matters. We want to come back to it.

Mr McFarland:
The parades issue is ongoing. I think that the Ashdown report is due; it is a live issue —

The Chairperson:
Sorry to interrupt, but there is a later question about that.

Mr McFarland:
Yes, but it is the same issue of parading and processions, etc. That clearly will need more discussion.

It strikes me that we could experience enough agitation, or difficulties, when devolving policing and justice powers without having legislative powers on flags and emblems devolved. In a previous general discussion on that the feeling was that that matter should be left where it is.

Surely the legislation on PSNI recruitment will run out in 2010? When it ceases to exist recruitment will fall into a normal pattern of appointment based on merit.

The Chairperson:
Therefore, we need to come back to those matters.

Mr Attwood:
You are correct Chairperson. We will have to come back to that matter. The SDLP’s view is that all those sensitive powers that are currently held by the British Government need to be devolved, including powers on 50:50 recruitment to the PSNI and the Chief Constable’s appeal against a decision of the Parades Commission. All those powers should be devolved, but there must be cross-community safeguards. Decisions should not be made according to the whim of one individual. In that regard, recruitment to the PSNI is not a matter for the PSNI; it is a matter on which the House of Commons must legislate. Alan’s point is quite right. In the St Andrews agreement, which some people claim ownership of, the British Government made a commitment that the 50:50 recruitment policy would end in 2010-11.

The Chairperson:
We will park those issues and move to item N:

“What needs to be done to ensure that attention is given to having appropriate measures in place to address issues such as community safety; attacks on the elderly and other vulnerable groups; anti-social behaviour generally; sentencing policy within the judicial system; community confidence in policing; the role of the security services; and all-Ireland policing arrangements?”

Mr Hamilton:
That came initially from Sinn Féin’s submission. I would hope that any justice Department anywhere in the world would endeavour to deal appropriately and would have the powers to deal with issues such as attacks on the elderly, community safety and antisocial behaviour. Those are standard issues on which any justice Department would potentially be able to legislate. The last two issues, the role of the security services and all-Ireland policing arrangements, stray into the territory of category-2 debates, so those are best left at this stage. Any justice Department must be responsive to the people who elected us, and I hope that our justice Department will be as responsive as all other Departments in the Northern Ireland Executive.

Mr McCartney:
Simon is right; that item came from Sinn Féin’s submission that outlined what we felt would be the broad role of, and some of the aspects of, a justice Department. In many ways we agree that maybe not all of those matters should be discussed now; a future justice Department will come up with some of the answers. If members were content, that question could be removed as it is too broad.

Mr Hamilton:
It is hard to answer such a question.

Mr McCartney:
Yes, there are too many aspects to it.

Mr McFarland:
Most of that is a list of what the Department will do. The security service, however, is an excepted matter and a national issue, and the all-Ireland policing arrangements are an ongoing North/South issue. Some of the issues are to do with the Chief Constable, others are to do with the Policing Board, and others will be to do with the justice Minister when he or she takes over.

Mr Attwood:
Between now and the time of the nomination of the justice Minister, work must be done in this Building in order to work through such issues to find out what action needs to be taken with regard to legislation or policy when the justice Ministry is established.

Some of those issues cross over into category 2, but whatever category they belong to, we must get our heads around them. A motion on the Omagh bombing achieved all-party agreement on the Floor of the Assembly. During that debate, all the parties said that the British Government’s review of intelligence arising from the Omagh bombing at the hands of the Intelligence Services Commissioner was inadequate. Ian Paisley Senior spoke bluntly in that debate, and he and others went much further than that.

In the run-up time to the nomination of a justice Minister, we must get our heads around the fact that that is the view of all the parties in this Building on that matter. Reassurance cannot be given that the same situation will not transpire in respect of other security issues, so consideration must be given to whether there are mechanisms about which we can advise or can put in place to ensure the security service in Northern Ireland does not have a role similar to that which led to every party in the Assembly voting the way they did on the Omagh motion.

Similarly, with regard to all-Ireland policing and justice arrangements, we have a long time in which to ensure that a new North/South justice agreement is in place when devolution happens, given that substantial parts of the present agreement will fall when devolution happens.

The Chairperson:
The security services and the all-Ireland policing arrangements will be discussed as category 2 items. Raymond indicated that the remaining issues are normal functions of a Department and, perhaps, can be removed from the question.

Mr McCartney:
I was commenting on what Simon said — the question quotes almost word for word from Gerry Adams’s letter. Alex said that the final two aspects of that question are category 2 items. Sinn Féin agrees with that, and, as Alan McFarland said, the remainder are the functions of the Department. That series of questions does not necessarily require attention.

The Chairperson:
One option is that the new Department and Minister will establish policies to deal with those issues. Do Members agree with that route and that the security services and all-Ireland policing arrangements will be covered in category 2?

Members indicated assent.

The Chairperson:
We will move to the next issue, namely what procedures and protocols will there need to be between the Minister and Assembly Committee and any newly established Department and its associated agencies?

Mr McCausland:
It is a work in progress. We should return to the detail of it at a later date.

Mr McCartney:
There must be protocols and procedures. Perhaps we need to tease out the exact details. However, Sinn Féin believes that the protocols and relationships should be the same as in other Committees, notwithstanding any sensitive issues. A justice Minister may be unable to disclose information to the Committee, and we must establish protocols to address that issue.

Mr McFarland:
The protocols and procedures should be normal. If we provide the money, we should be able to scrutinise its use. However, handling the judiciary and determining who will answer for the Lord Chief Justice, among others, is an issue that came up in our report. As Raymond said, how will the Committee handle more sensitive issues?

Mr Attwood:
It is a very big question. Given the long lead-in time, the SDLP believes that good work could be done to remodel the relationship between, for example, a scrutiny Committee and the Public Prosecution Service (PPS). Under the current proposal, the model will allow a Director of Public Prosecutions to appear before a Committee to discuss management issues only. That is not a credible in this day and age when there is heightened public interest in the Public Prosecution Service. Therefore, the SDLP believes that the relationship between the Assembly and PPS — and, perhaps, one or two other Departments in the justice sector — must be remodelled. Given that we have so much time to deal with those matters, we could also consider in-house arrangements for PPS.

There is an argument that the PPS requires a management board. The same could apply to the Northern Ireland Court Service, where various proposals have been outlined by the chief executive, the NIO and the Lord Chief Justice. We need to see any and all protocols that will exist post-devolution, because the NIO and other agencies are working up protocols and memorandums, not least in respect of the sharing of security service intelligence. We have been asking to see those memoranda for some time, but we have not seen anything. We must see those source documents in order to get a picture of what devolution of justice will really look like.

The Chairperson:
The NIO has those documents. Are you formally proposing that the Committee writes to the NIO to ask for those documents?

Mr Attwood:
Yes, subject to what the Committee Clerk says. We have asked to see those documents, but have yet to see anything.

Mr Hamilton:
When we first categorised the issues, and slotted this one into group O, the point was made that that work would be better placed in the second category.

The Chairperson:
I suspect that we are getting ahead of ourselves. From the confessions of the Committee Clerk, I suspect that we will be returning to those issues.

Mr Hamilton:
Is he looking for absolution?

The Chairperson:
I will let the Committee decide whether to grant that. Obviously, we will need to discuss issue O further. Is the Committee content to again try to seek some clarification, in writing, from the NIO on that particular issue?

Members indicated assent.

Mr Attwood:
Carmel and I have to be excused for five minutes; we will return after that. I do not think that that will affect proceedings.

Mr Chairperson:
Will the interview last only five minutes?

Mr Attwood:
Something like that.

Ms Hanna:
More or less.

The Chairperson:
Ok, the Committee will breeze on with its business.

Issue P deals with whether the “triple lock” within the Executive should apply to the decisions of a policing and justice Minister.

Mr Paisley Jnr:
I suppose —

Mr McFarland:
Can we not find out what those are?

Mr Paisley Jnr:
Do you not know they are?

Mr McFarland:
I am simply asking for those to be clarified for the record. An outsider who reads the Hansard report might not know what we mean by “triple lock”.

The Chairperson:
It is clearly laid out in the St Andrews Agreement.

Mr McFarland:
I know, but for the purpose of the Hansard report that should be clarified.

The Chairperson:
Mr McFarland must be assuming that people will read —

Mr Paisley Jnr:
Even I will not be reading the Hansard report.

The issue will depend on the standing and status of the policing and justice Minister. If the Minister is a full member of the Executive, will he or she be subject to the same rules, regulations procedures and ministerial code to which the other Ministers are subject or will he or she be subject to different ones? We must, first, clearly establish the standing and status of that Minister.

Once that is established, the answer will be straightforward. I assume that the powers and the standing of that Minister will be the same. However, if, for whatever reason, the policing and justice Minister’s status is different to that of other Ministers, he or she may be subject to more stringent rules. The status and standing of the new Minister must be clarified. That part answers the question raised in issue P.

Mr McCartney:
Notwithstanding the way in which the question is framed, I agree with Ian; once the status of the Minister and the Department is established, we would say that there should be the same standards and application of rules.

Mr McFarland:
I think that issue must be parked until we work out what the game is. Will the Minister be a full-role member? Will he or she be allowed to talk about only policing and justice? What guidelines will he or she follow?

The Chairperson:
Are members content to revisit the issue?

Members indicated assent.

The Chairperson:
For the record, the SDLP Committee members have left the room.

Issue Q deals with whether there is any requirement to seek to have any excepted matters devolved.

Mr Paisley Jnr:
Not at this point — definitely not security services.

The Chairperson:
Raymond McCartney?

Mr McCartney:
Yes.

Mr McFarland:
No. Those are national issues. We live in a sovereign country that just happens to have part of its Government devolved. Excepted matters deal with national issues and should, therefore, stay at Westminster.

The Chairperson:
We have a diverse view, so, if members are agreed, we will park that and come back to it. That issue will be revisited and we may come to a vote at some point.

We come now to confession time. The Committee Clerk has indicated that an oversight has occurred. It is not the fault of the Committee Clerk, but there are five other matters to be included in the list of issues that we have developed. Those matters have arisen from recommendations in the Committee’s original report, and might be regarded as category 2 or category 3 issues. The Committee Clerk will take us through those issues; it is good to confess.

The Committee Clerk:
Thank you, Chairperson. It is entirely my fault; during the original development of that list, the main concentration was on the contributions from the parties. In disaggregating the composite list of issues, I tried to keep an eye on the report, but, as the Chairperson says, I overlooked five issues.

We have touched on at least some of those matters in previous discussions. Most recently, we touched on a critical one, concerning what the status and independence of the Public Prosecution Service should be. That comes from recommendation 27 of the original report, and it was one of those peculiar ones that the Committee decided should be considered both before and after devolution. That issue can go into category 2 or category 3. However, the sense of the discussions so far is that it should be given at least some consideration as a category 2 issue.

The next issue — and this was touched on by the Committee before lunch — concerns the arrangements for appointments to the Policing Board, and that those appointments be distinct and discrete from appointments to the Policing Board and to any new statutory Committee. Recommendation 29 clearly points toward looking at that in a post-devolution situation. Therefore, that issue falls into what has been described as the category 3 list.

The next issue arises from recommendation 30, and concerns what the arrangements for appointments to the Police Ombudsman’s office should be. On the face of it, that is a category 2 issue.

The final two recommendations — and I hope that I have not overlooked others — are recommendations 33 and 34. Those recommendations deal respectively with matters raised previously by the Northern Ireland Law Commission, and the Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission. It seems to me that those would fit into the category 3 list of issues, and essentially, are probably issues that would be picked up on, after devolution, by the statutory Committee for policing and justice. The submissions that both those organisations made to the original enquiry include fairly detailed comments.

The Chairperson:
I thank the Committee Clerk for drawing those five issues to our attention. Do members agree that the status and independence of the Public Prosecution Service would fit into issue H in category 1?

The Committee Clerk:
Should that not be in category 2?

The Chairperson:
We add those issues to G, H, I and J in category 2. On the category 3 list there are already issues A and B, so the final two outstanding matters, concerning the Law Commission and the Legal Services Commission, will become issues C and D.

The Committee Clerk:
Essentially, the issue of the Policing Board seems to be a category 3 issue. If it will help members, I will rework the lists so that they are clear. I may also use the opportunity to identify the issues on those lists on which consensus has been reached. I will compile a further document to enable members to keep up to speed with what has and has not been agreed.

The Chairperson:
Are members agreed?

Members indicated assent.

The Chairperson:
We have now exhausted the category 1 list; we will discuss that list again at the next meeting, alongside the résumé of what has been agreed — quite a few of them have been parked, and we are seeking further clarification on others.

We will now move to a discussion of the category 2 list. At the last Committee meeting there was a discussion about what financial assistance, and other support, might be needed. The Committee staff have been in discussions regarding that, and regarding what expertise might be needed. I ask members to allow the Committee staff to consider those issues.

Members have received a briefing paper, which I assume everybody has had a look at. The Clerk will now take us through that paper, as it raises some issues, and questions that the Committee might ask, in regard to what expertise may be needed, and in what area.

The Committee Clerk:
I will follow the order of the briefing paper. There are three fairly discrete issues in the category 2 list as amended, relating to judicial appointments — the Attorney General and so on —to relationships, both North/South and east-west, and to finance. When the Committee considered the category 2 list of issues, there seemed to be a sense that there might be a requirement for some form of wider consultation, possibly of a limited nature. On the other hand, it was felt that decisions taken by the Committee in relation to category 1 issues could be resolved in the Committee without much — or any — wider consultation.

There is a general requirement that the Committee should be given some advice and information on the finances that would be necessary to allow a Department of policing and justice to function. It is clear that there is a need for some sort of help and assistance, and I have opened up discussions in the secretariat on that front. However, the Committee may have heard references today to things that are going on concurrently. If the Committee has a role to fulfil in relation to finance, then perhaps one of the things that it might do is try to gather information from those organisations presently providing the range of policing and justice services and invite them to comment on the other two components of the category 2 list, the North/South and east-west relationships, and the issue of judicial appointments.

In many respects, the second page of that briefing paper is almost a draft letter that I suggest that the Committee might consider sending to the 28 organisations that have been referred to. However, it may be important — before going into the detail of those questions — to consider the context. If the Committee were inclined to take that course of action, it would probably need to get some indication that the Secretary of State and the Northern Ireland Office will co-operate by encouraging those organisations to supply information in the form in which it is requested.

I sense that the Committee wants issues, particularly of finance, “quality-assured”. That is my best guess of what I believe the Committee would wish to see. I can continue that discussion with the Assembly’s Research and Library Service, particularly if there is to be a discussion based on the briefing paper, and in the event of the Committee clarifying its thinking — either to affirm what is suggested in the paper or to come to a different conclusion. In essence, to begin work on the category 2 list and the forward work programme, any gathering of information must take place before the Committee meets in January for detailed consideration of those category 2 issues.

Mr McFarland:
When the NIO previously appeared before the Committee, it indicated that extremely detailed work was being done on every aspect of the handover. It stated that all the detail would be ready when the flare went up. The NIO showed the Committee some of it, and it was quite complicated and detailed. My understanding was that that work was going on. There were lots of memoranda being written. Before the Committee hurtles off on its own track, it may be better to allow the NIO to provide an up-to-date briefing on the current position. If the NIO and agencies have agreed on what will happen and when, and that is tied up with memoranda, it would be useful for the Committee to be aware of that earlier rather than later, when agencies are invited to give evidence.

The Chairperson:
Do members have any other comments on that, or the letter? I thank the Committee Clerk for the amount of work that he has done. The Committee must make decisions around research and particularly finances. It already knows that matters have been raised in other budgets that the Committee was not aware of and that are coming out of the woodwork.

Mr Hamilton:
In relation to point F in the letter; is there a requirement for the justice sector of the North/South Ministerial Council to meet? I appreciate and understand that the Committee will discuss that issue; however, there is almost a political element to it, and, I want to secure a non-partisan, independent-of-any-agency approach.

If members wanted to tease that out during evidence sessions, there is, obviously, nothing anyone could do to stop them. However, I am not sure whether we should ask those questions.

Mr McCausland:
Chairperson, that point is even clearer with regard to the next issue. Why would you ask agencies about the strategic review of parading? It seems odd. The key information that we need from agencies is costs. We need to get that information as quickly as possible so that it can inform our discussion with Westminster.

The Chairperson:
I am aware that packs were distributed late. That was not the fault of the Committee Clerk’s Office, because we needed to get a clear understanding of what was happening today. I suggest that members take another look at the finance issue.

Mr O’Dowd:
I agree with sentiments that have been expressed across the table. Several questions are political in nature. Statutory agencies cannot answer those questions, and should not be asked to do so. The letter should not be delayed. Its content should be broken down to financial implications for each of the Departments and agencies, and then it should be allowed to go ahead. Any question that is not financial should be taken out.

The Chairperson:
Are there any other comments? OK. We can agree on the contents of the letter up to the elements that relate to financial issues. We will ask agencies to prepare to present their evidence under category 2 to the Committee.

The Committee Clerk:
I must caution the Committee that, before the letter is sent, those questions need to be “quality-assured” in order to ensure that they are the correct questions. Subject to that quality assurance, therefore, the letter could be sent.

The Chairperson:
That takes us back to the point about the financial adviser or researcher — I am not sure which is the correct term. At the next meeting, can you provide clarification on whether that service will be bought in — for want of a better term — or brought in?

Mr O’Dowd:
The Committee has made its sentiments known. Can the Chairperson or deputy Chairperson not sign off on, or quality-assure, the letter if necessary?

Mr Paisley Jnr:
I would be happy with that.

The Chairperson:
Can I assume that necessary advice can be obtained reasonably quickly in order to enable us to do that?

Mr Paisley Jnr:
We can trust you on that one.

The Committee Clerk:
Having listened to the conversation, I can certainly go back to Research and Library Services, elaborate on the Committee’s views, and take it from there. In particular, if parties take the paper away and consider it further, it may be that they will come back with more information at next week’s meeting.

Mr McFarland:
Chairman, I suggested that we chat to the NIO first. Has that idea been completely abandoned?

The Chairperson:
No, we will request that. My take on that suggestion is that, in tandem, we will also go down the route of circulating questions and putting someone in place to assist us with that work.

Mr McFarland:
I think that it is good to get somebody in place, but do we not need the Secretary of State’s agreement for us to approach agencies?

The Committee Clerk:
The Secretary of State does not necessarily need to agree for us to approach agencies, although it might be valuable to encourage him to get them to co-operate. Equally, he could be prevailed upon to invite the Lord Chancellor to do likewise with regard to justice organisations.

The Chairperson:
OK members, are we agreed on that approach — that the deputy Chairperson and I will examine the letter and judge whether it is best to bring the matter back to the Committee? I assume that it will take a few days to carry out any work that is required and to determine which expert is needed to carry it out. I will send a letter to NIO. Are we agreed?

Members indicated assent.

The Chairperson:
OK. Thank you, members.

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