Minutes of Proceedings

Session: Session currently unavailable

Date: 15 November 2016

The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission

Meeting Venue: Room 106, Parliament Buildings

Meeting date: Tuesday 15 November 2016

Meeting Time: 1.30pm

Commission Members:
The Speaker
Mr Jim Wells MLA
Mr Alex Maskey MLA
Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Mr Stewart Dickson MLA

Mr Ross Hussey MLA

Officials present:
Mrs L Hogg, Ms T Caul, Mr G McGrath, Mr R Stewart, Mr S Welch, Mr R Ramsey,
Mr J Gilsenan

Others in attendance:
Mr Colm McKenna, Secretariat Audit and Risk Committee (SARC) Representative

The meeting commenced at 2.40pm following a litigation update in closed session.


An apology was received from Ross Hussey MLA.


Members’ roles as MLAs were noted for agenda item 9.


The Speaker noted that the meeting agenda was the same as the meeting scheduled for 27 October and subsequently postponed. Some papers had been dealt with by correspondence for the sake of efficacy.

The Speaker reminded Members that Oral Questions to the Commission are scheduled for 29 November and that questions would be issued to Members as soon as possible after they have been received from the Business Office on 17 November.


The minutes of the last Commission meeting on 29 September 2016 were approved for publication.

Action: CCSU to publish minutes.


The Clerk/CE provided Members with an update on the key issues in her monthly report namely:

5.1 Budget setting methodology

The Clerk/CE advised Members that she and Richard Stewart, Director of Corporate Services, appeared before the Audit Committee on 26 October 2016. The Audit Committee agreed that, “subject to considering any views from DoF to the contrary, the Executive's Budget document should make provision for NIAC having a Resource budget of £38.414m and a Capital budget of £890K (TBC) in 2017-18”.

Members were issued with a copy of a letter from the Committee to the Minister of Finance following the meeting on the 26 October 2016.

5.2 IFRP Reform

The Clerk/CE informed Members that as requested following previous discussion regarding IFRP reform Members were issued with correspondence on 28 October. The correspondence included a consultation document.

Members have been asked to provide their Parties’ views on the key issues identified in the consultation document by 13 January 2017.

5.3 Audit and Risk Committee

Lastly, the Clerk/CE informed Members that offer letters had been issued to the successful candidates in the recruitment competition for the positions of Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee and Independent Member of the Audit and Risk Committee.

It is anticipated that, subject to formal acceptance, both posts will be filled from 1 December 2016.


6. Management Accounts

Richard Stewart updated Members on the Management Accounts and drew Members’ attention to the significant underspends for MLA’s costs.

Mr Stewart noted that the last monitoring round for the current financial year is January 2017 and that returns would be due in early December 2016, although the date has not yet been notified.

7. Pay Award 2016

A letter from Alex Attwood MLA to the Chair of the Commission was tabled.

Following discussion, during which a range of considerations were discussed, Members agreed that additional information would be helpful for their deliberations.

Action: Richard Stewart to bring a paper to the next Commission meeting with relevant pay data from comparable jurisdictions.

Jim Wells MLA left the meeting at 2.55pm


8. Revised Exhibition and Arts Engagement Policy

Gareth McGrath, Director of Parliamentary Services, spoke to his paper recommending a change to the Exhibition and Arts Engagement Policy which would enable the Speaker, rather than the Commission, to approve exhibitions in the Great Hall.

A draft two year programme of exhibitions was also considered.

Agreed: That the Speaker approve future exhibitions.

The proposed two-year programme of exhibitions

9. Insurance Coverage

Richard Stewart, spoke to this paper. Members had asked previously for costs to provide MLAs with insurance cover for employment-related disputes.

Mr Stewart confirmed that such cover for legal costs and awards was available through the Commission’s existing insurance broker. However, any amendment to the policy would only cover future claims and MLAs would be required to provide details of past disputes to enable insurers to provide a quote. It was proposed that this information would be obtained via a short questionnaire issued to all Members.

Agreed: Questionnaires to be issued to MLAs.

In principle, to purchase insurance cover for employment related disputes subject to acceptable exemptions and an acceptable premium.


10. Progress Update on Gender Action Plan (2016-18)

Richard Stewart spoke to this paper noting that this was the first six-monthly update on the 2016-18 Gender Action Plan.

Members noted the update.

11. Items Cleared by correspondence

The following items were issued in advance of the meeting:

11.1 Good Relations Action Plan. Approved.

11.2 Briefing paper for the Audit Committee provided by the Clerk /Chief Executive and Director of Corporate Services and subsequent letter from the Committee to the Minister of Finance. Noted.

11.3 Outline Business Case for Legislative Drafting Contract. Approved.

11.4 Paper proposing not to charge fees for objections to Hybrid Bills. Approved.

12. AOB

The Speaker thanked Mr Colm McKenna for his service initially as a Member and subsequently as Chair of the Secretariat Audit and Risk Committee. He added that Mr McKenna’s guidance to the current and previous Commissions was greatly appreciated.

13. Date of Next Meeting

The next meeting will be held on 24 November 2016 at 10am.

The meeting ended at 3.05pm.