Official Report (Hansard)

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 01 February 2012

Committee for the Office of the First Minister and the deputy First Minister

Draft Programme for Government

The Deputy Chairperson:  The next item on our agenda is the Committee response to the draft Programme for Government.  The response is focused mainly on OFMDFM's commitments.  The draft response brings together issues raised during the evidence sessions with Ministers and with the commissioners whom we took evidence from.  Members will recall that we asked Statutory Committees in their response to us to focus on three key areas:  gaps in the PFG; milestones and outcomes; and progress monitoring mechanisms.  We hope to have most, if not all, the responses from other Committees available for members' consideration at next week's meeting.  Do members have any comments on the draft response from this Committee as it stands at the moment?  Are any changes necessary or have there been any omissions or deletions that we need to consider? 

Ms Ruane:  I have just a couple of points.  I think that good work has been done by officials, and I welcome that.  However, I think that we need to distinguish between our specific responsibilities as the OFMDFM Committee, and all the other Departments.  We have to do that because we could be straying across a line that is not ours to stray across.  I think that some of the things in the response could possibly do that.  Health, education and various other aspects are not within our remit.  Our remit is to ensure that there is a co-ordinating role, that Departments work together, and to encourage that.  We need to be careful.  We also need to distil our response down into those matters that are within our remit.  We should highlight the importance of our co-ordinating role. 

Sinn Féin's position is that a longer document is not necessarily a better document.  Sometimes, it is better to have a concise, short, sharp document that does not include everything.  We are not against inclusions or mentions, but, if it becomes too lengthy and big, it will become confusing.  We suggest that it should be kept short and sharp and that the detail should then be put into the departmental operational plans and work plans.  Those operational plans will be important and should be scrutinised by each Committee.

The Deputy Chairperson:  I think that the intention is that the specific commitments for OFMDFM will be front and centre of our response and that the other Committee responses that we receive will be appended to our submission.  Clerk, is that correct? 

The Committee Clerk:  Yes. 

Mr Eastwood:  I am happy enough with that.  The response is not that lengthy, and most of the stuff that I can see in the document — unless I have missed something — is within our remit.  I am happy for us to report the comments of other Committees in an appendix to our response. 

The Deputy Chairperson:  It is intended that the Committee will play a co-ordinating role in passing on the other Committee's responses.  Are Committee members content at this stage? 

Ms Ruane:  What does "content" mean?  Are we agreeing this? 

The Deputy Chairperson:  No.  We will await the responses from the other Statutory Committees and include those in the report.  We will give further consideration to that next week.  Clerk, is that correct? 

The Committee Clerk:  Yes.  Are there specific issues that you would like to run through? 

Ms Ruane:  I suppose that I have some questions about the child poverty targets in paragraph 4.1.  I know that there is some discussion about outcomes modelling, and I think that we need to hear what other people are saying about that.  I have some questions about how those percentages are looked at and used.

I also have some questions about salaries in the North of Ireland and those in England, Scotland and Wales.  Further discussion needs to be had, and I would like to hear what other Committees say.

The Deputy Chairperson:  Are there any other comments on specific points in the Committee's draft response? 

Ms Ruane:  Sorry; there was one other thing that I forgot to raise.  I think that we should put something in about gender targets.  I am not sure exactly what we should put in, and I would welcome some advice.  The Committee is responsible for scrutinising the issue of gender, and there are appalling gaps at every level.  It would be remiss of us not to recommend something in that area, whether on women in public life, women in the Assembly, etc. 

The Deputy Chairperson:  As there are no other comments, we will collate the responses from the other Statutory Committees for further consideration next week. 

The Committee Clerk:  If we can come up with recommendations, we will track the changes and circulate it on that basis so that everyone can see it.  You may want to wait to see the responses first. 

Mr Molloy:  As a preamble to our response, it may be worth making the point that the Programme for Government does not deal with every minute issue.  It is an overarching document, and that should be reflected.  The Commission for Victims and Survivors commented that there was insufficient reference to victims and survivors.  In some cases, an overall reference is all that is required as recognition, and it does not need to be included in the detail.  That will give people a sense of it.  If something is not raised, that does not mean that it has been left out.  It will be in the Programme for Government. 

The Deputy Chairperson:  OK.  If members can have a — 

Mr Eastwood:  I would like to see the wording of that beforehand because we need to be specific in our aims and objectives.  The Government do, anyway.  However, I am happy to leave it and we will look at it when it comes back. 

The Deputy Chairperson:  If members can fully read the latest draft for next week, we will get into those specifics and nail down some of the wording then. 

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