Minutes of Proceedings

Session: Session currently unavailable

Date: 25 September 2017

The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission

Meeting Venue: Room 106, Parliament Buildings
Meeting date: Monday 25 September 2017
Meeting Time: 2.00pm

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

Officials present:
Mrs Lesley Hogg, Ms Tara Caul, Dr Gareth McGrath, Mr Richard Stewart, Mr Robin Ramsey, Ms Frances Leneghan and Mrs Janet Hughes

Others in attendance:
Mr Derek Martin – Secretariat Audit and Risk Committee (SARC) Representative
Ms Alice McKelvey – Legal Adviser
Mr Brian Devlin – Head of Information Systems

The meeting commenced at 2.07pm.


No apologies were received.

The Speaker welcomed Derek Martin, SARC Representative to his first Commission meeting.


There were no declarations of interest.


The minutes from the last Commission meeting on 5 July 2017 were approved for publication.

The Speaker referred Members to two issues that were raised under Any Other Business at the last meeting in relation to a further plenary sitting and the extent to which some of the external inter-parliamentary bodies can operate during the current period. The Speaker stated that although these were not particularly areas of Commission responsibility, he wanted to reassure Members that he had taken them forward with party whips.


Lesley Hogg, the Clerk/Chief Executive, provided Members with an update on the key issues which had arisen since the last Commission meeting namely:


Mrs Hogg informed Members that following the suppression of the Director of Facilities post, SMG carried out a review of the organisational structure. Members noted the revised organisational chart with effect from 1 October 2017.

Corporate Strategy & Organisational Development Strategy

Mrs Hogg advised Members that work was progressing in the development of a new Corporate Strategy and a new Organisational Development Strategy, in preparation for a new Commission.

2017/18 Budget Update

Mrs Hogg updated Members on the Commission’s budget position for 2017/18.

Management Accounts

Mrs Hogg referred Members to the Management Accounts for August 2017, and asked Richard Stewart, Director of Corporate Services to update Members.

Mr Stewart advised Members of the current financial position and the forecast expenditure for the remainder of the financial year.


Mrs Hogg informed Members that SARC had met twice in the current year and that the next meeting was planned for 18 October 2017.

General Data Protection Regulation

Mrs Hogg advised Members that the Commission, as a data controller, is required by law to be fully compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation when it applies in the UK from 25 May 2018. She confirmed that Assembly Officials would be providing guidance to Members on this issue in due course.

Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) Inquiry

Mrs Hogg updated Members that a Memorandum of Understanding had been agreed with the RHI Inquiry to cover the areas where the Commission was providing support.

Paintings in the Senate

Members noted that the painting of the First Sitting of the Northern Ireland Parliament had been removed from the Senate Chamber for re-glazing and that the painting of the ‘The House will Divide’ would also be removed shortly for glazing. On return to the building the paintings will be relocated to the area adjacent to the Great Hall while the RHI Inquiry takes place.

Letter of Intent – Liaoning Provincial People’s Congress of China

Mrs Hogg updated Members on the Letter of Intent that had been signed and the next steps in relation to the production of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Assembly and the People’s Congress of Liaoning Province, China.

Upcoming UK-China Regional Leaders Summit

Members noted that a third UK-China Regional Leaders Summit was to be hosted in Northern Ireland in early December 2017 and that a number of Assembly Officials were currently contributing to a working group led by the Executive Office and the NI Bureau China to develop a series of events over the course of the summit, with the possibility of at least one major event being held in Parliament Buildings.

Charity of the Year

Mrs Hogg advised Members that the Cedar Foundation’s period as the Assembly’s Charity of the Year was due to end in early October 2017, but that given the delay in appointing a new charity due to current circumstances, and the support given to the charity by staff, SMG agreed the extension of the Cedar Foundation’s term by a further six months. She explained that following this, if the political situation had not changed the position would be reviewed and the Commission consulted in relation to how to proceed.


Richard Stewart, Director of Corporate Services, presented this paper, providing Members with an update on further work that had been carried out by business areas, to confirm the number of staff likely to be required to maintain the activities that will continue in Parliament Buildings, based on the assumptions agreed at the last Commission meeting of 5 July 2017.

Mr Stewart advised Members of the number of staff available for redeployment based on the recent analysis.

Members noted the range of voluntary redeployment opportunities that had been notified to staff and the uptake of those opportunities to date.

Mr Stewart advised Members that following consultation with Trade Union Side (TUS), the Mandatory Temporary Redeployment Policy had been agreed. He recorded his thanks for the constructive approach adopted by TUS during consultation.

Members’ approval was sought for the implementation of the Policy with effect from 16 October 2017.

Members recognised the difficult position which staff were in and the commitment of staff to supporting the Assembly. The Commission also recognised that it was important to support staff through the redeployment process.

Members commended Assembly staff and TUS on the work that had been undertaken in relation to the detail within the paper and development of the Mandatory Temporary Redeployment Policy.

The meeting went into closed session at 2.42pm for ten minutes to consider the position regarding legal advice.

(SARC representative and officials, other than the Clerk/Chief Executive and Directors withdrew from the meeting at 2.42pm and re-joined at 2.52pm)

Agreed: Members agreed to the implementation of the Mandatory Temporary Redeployment Policy with effect from 16 October 2017.

Action: Mr Stewart to issue Members with supporting documentation for the Policy including forms, guidance and FAQs etc.

Action: Voluntary redeployment opportunities to be re-issued prior to the Mandatory Redeployment Policy being implemented.

Alice McKelvey, Legal Adviser, joined the meeting at 2.55pm for agenda item 6.


Mr Stewart presented this paper, referring to the Commission’s decision made at the Commission meeting on 30 May 2017, to extend the current Support Services Contract for a period of up to six months from July 2017 and to re-visit the issue again in September/October 2017.

Mr Stewart provided Members with an update on the options for the Support Services contract that were discussed at the meeting on 30 May 2017.

In accordance with the planning assumptions of Retaining Readiness and Maximising Use of Public Resources and the issues highlighted in the paper, Option 2, to carry on with the competition, award the contract to the preferred Service Provider and vary the contract to reflect the circumstances in January 2018, was recommended as the preferred approach.

Agreed: After consideration Members agreed to proceed with the option to carry on with the competition, award the contract to the preferred Service Provider and vary the contract to reflect the circumstances in January 2018 as recommended.

Alice McKelvey left the meeting at 3.09pm.


Mr Stewart presented this paper, providing Members with an update on two of the Commission’s other significant contracts and also on the corporate support systems, that were discussed at the meeting on 30 May 2017.

Members agreed with the four recommendations in the paper namely:

a. that the Broadcasting contract be amended downwards by 7.5% for a period up to 10 January 2018 on the basis that a 7-day notice period of a return to normal Assembly business would be provided to the supplier;

b. that discussions continue with the PSNI about the cost and range of cover provided in the building;

c. that corporate support systems are maintained; and

d. that the contractual position will be reviewed for all contracts in light of emerging political developments.

Mr Stewart also confirmed that officials would continue to monitor the contractual position for all contracts in light of emerging political developments.

Please note, change of agenda order, item 9 taken ahead of item 8.

9. PAY CLAIM 2017

Mr Stewart presented this paper, seeking the Commission’s comments on the pay claim submitted by NIPSA and its direction on a pay remit for officials to negotiate with TUS.

Members considered the seven elements of the NIPSA pay claim and requested additional analysis of the likely cost and industrial relations implications of pay award options at the next meeting in order to discuss the position further.

Action: Mr Stewart to provide additional information on the pay claim for the next Commission meeting.

Brian Devlin, Head of IS, joined the meeting at 3.32pm for agenda item 8.


Mr Devlin presented this paper, seeking approval from the Commission to procure and implement the replacement of Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) televisions throughout Parliament Buildings, and also that, upon resumption of normal Assembly business to approve the replacement of the existing tablet computers.

Following discussion, Members agreed to defer decisions on both the procurement of replacement CRT televisions and the replacement of the existing tablet computers on resumption of normal business, in order to have further discussion at the next Commission meeting.

Members requested separate costings in relation to replacement CRT televisions for the public areas only.

Action: Brian Devlin to provide costings for replacement CRT televisions in the public areas of Parliament Buildings.

Brian Devlin and Alex Attwood left the meeting at 3.45pm.

10. AOB

Robin Ramsey, Adviser to the Speaker, reminded Members that written questions to the Assembly Commission could still continue to be submitted from MLAs and that Commission staff would contact them should any questions be received.

Mr Stewart Dickson MLA asked about the Memorandum of Understanding between the Northern Ireland Assembly and Politics Plus. Dr Gareth McGrath, Director of Parliamentary Services, confirmed that the matter was going to be discussed at the next Secretariat Management Group meeting on Wednesday, 27 September 2017.

In response to a query from Mr Dickson MLA regarding mileage payments to MLAs, it was agreed that officials would contact MLAs to ask whether each MLA wished to continue to receive the Assembly travel allowance during the period when the Assembly is not fully functioning, in order to avoid the potential of some MLAs having to repay an element of the Assembly travel allowance at the end of the financial year.

Mr Jim Wells MLA, stated that he had been in contact with a member of staff within the Members’ Finance Services Team recently and that they had issued him with helpful information in relation to mileage payments.

Action: Mr Stewart to arrange for letters to issue to all MLAs in respect of the Assembly travel allowance.

Mr Robin Swann MLA raised a query about Assembly Recess periods. Mrs Hogg advised that due to the current circumstances a Business Committee had not yet been appointed by the new Assembly and no recess dates had been agreed.

Mr Wells MLA, recorded his thanks in relation to the cleaning of the inscription on Lord Craigavon’s tomb as per his request at the July Commission meeting.

Mrs Hogg advised Members that at a recent party whip meeting, the issue of communicating with MLAs on Secretariat staff redeployment was discussed. Mrs Hogg advised Members that she intended to write to all MLAs explaining the situation and would share a draft with Commission Members in advance.

Action: Mrs Hogg to draft a letter to MLAs, for clearance by Commission Members, outlining the situation in relation to Secretariat staff redeployments.


The Speaker proposed that the next meeting be provisionally scheduled for the end of October, but that this would kept under review and an earlier meeting arranged should the need arise.
The meeting concluded at 3.50pm.