Committee on Standards and Privileges minutes of proceedings

08 December 2021

Committee on Standards and Privileges

Minutes of Proceedings

8 December 2021

Meeting Location: Virtual Meeting via Microsoft Teams

Present by Video or Teleconference:
Ms Linda Dillon MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Christopher Stalford (Deputy Chairperson)
Dr Steve Aiken OBE MLA
Ms Sinéad Bradley MLA
Ms Pam Cameron MLA
Mr Stewart Dickson MLA
Mr Declan McAleer MLA
Ms Áine Murphy MLA                                 

Apologies:
Mr Patsy McGlone MLA                                                                                                                                        

In Attendance by Video or Teleconference:
Mr Shane McAteer (Assembly Clerk)
Ms Marie Austin (Senior Assistant Clerk)
Ms Karen Barry (Assistant Clerk)                                           
Mr Jim Nulty (Clerical Supervisor)
Dr Simon Gallaher (Clerical Supervisor)
Ms Alison Ferguson (Clerical Officer)                   

Agreed: The Committee agreed to commence the meeting in closed session.

The meeting commenced at 12.43pm in closed session.

1.  Apologies

As noted above.

2.  Declaration of Interests

Members were advised of the ongoing requirement to declare relevant financial or other interests as and when they arise on the Committee.

Steve Aiken declared an interest in being subject to a complaint.

3.  Draft Minutes

Agreed: The Committee agreed the minutes of the meeting held on 23 November 2021.

4.  Matters Arising

The Committee noted correspondence from Steve Aiken to the Chairperson regarding the Committee’s decision in relation to his request for future meeting agendas to be reconfigured.

Members noted that correspondence received from the Commissioner for Standards relating to a recent Committee report on a complaint case would be tabled and considered under Agenda item 8 ‘Correspondence’.

5.    Committee role in considering reports on complaints against Ministers – Legal advice and policy options

Sinéad Bradley joined the meeting at 12.57pm. 

Members received a briefing from the Committee Clerk on the policy options in relation to this agenda item.

An Assembly Legal Adviser was present for this agenda item to answer any questions from Members on the previous legal advice received on this matter.

Agreed: Members agreed to consult within their respective parties on the policy options presented and to confirm their preferred option so that the Committee can agree a way forward on the matter at its next meeting. It was noted that the existing procedural arrangements will pertain in the meantime.

6.    Referral of a complaint to the Committee for further consideration

Members were briefed by the Committee Clerk on the applicable procedures in relation to agenda items 6 and 7.

The Committee received a briefing from the Commissioner for Standards, Dr Melissa McCullough, on her correspondence dated 25 August 2021 and accompanying papers in relation to this agenda item. 

The Committee considered the complainant’s request, under sub-paragraphs 3.13 and 3.14 of the Assembly Members (Independent Financial Review and Standards) Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 (General Procedures) Direction 2021 (‘the General Procedures Direction’), that it further considers the decision by the Commissioner that the complaint was inadmissible.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that, in accordance with sub-paragraph 3.14 of the General Procedures Direction, it considered the complaint to be inadmissible as per the Commissioner’s decision.

Christopher Stalford left the meeting at 1.25pm. 

7.    Referral of a complaint to the Committee for further consideration

Áine Murphy declared an interest as being the Sponsor of the Private Members’ Bill entitled ‘Onshore Fracking (Prohibition) Bill’.

The Committee received a briefing from the Commissioner for Standards, Dr Melissa McCullough, on her correspondence dated 4 October 2021 and accompanying papers in relation to this agenda item. 

The Committee considered the complainant’s request, under sub-paragraphs 3.13 and 3.14 of the General Procedures Direction, that it further considers the decision by the Commissioner that the complaint was inadmissible.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that, in accordance with sub-paragraph 3.14 of the General Procedures Direction, it considered the complaint to be inadmissible as per the Commissioner’s decision.

Stewart Dickson left the meeting at 1.40pm. 

8.  Correspondence

Pam Cameron declared an interest in relation to the first item of correspondence, as the complainant had been in contact with her constituency office.

Steve Aiken left the meeting at 1.50pm. 

Agreed: Members noted correspondence from a complainant and agreed to consider a draft response from the Committee to the complainant at the next meeting.

Agreed: Members considered tabled correspondence from the Commissioner for Standards, which responded to an oral hearing from a Member complained about, and agreed to publish the correspondence, with any necessary redactions, on the Assembly webpages alongside the Committee’s published report on the related complaint case. It was further agreed to provide the Commissioner and the Member complained about with a link to the published correspondence.

The Committee also noted the following items of correspondence:

  • Clerking and Member Support Office memo regarding Member Development on ‘Personal Security’.
  • Letter from the Speaker providing notification that Linda Dillon MLA has replaced Sinéad Ennis MLA on the Unacceptable Behaviours Policy Working Group.

Pam Cameron left the meeting at 2.00pm. 

Committee quorum was lost at 2.00pm

9.  Any Other Business

Members discussed a proposal from the Chairperson that a review be undertaken of the procedural practices for the operation of the Committee’s adjudication role, including to ensure that these keep pace with best practice in this area. The proposed review exercise would include commissioning comparative research from Assembly Research and Information Service (RaISe) and seeking the views of the Commissioner for Standards.  It was noted that agreement will be sought for this proposal via correspondence, under Standing Order 115(9).

10.  Date, Time and Place of the next meeting

Members noted that the next meeting of the Committee will held be on Wednesday, 2 February 2022 at 12:40pm and that the meeting place/format will be confirmed in due course.

The meeting was adjourned at 2.11pm.

Linda Dillon MLA,
Chairperson, Standards and Privileges Committee
2 February 2022

Find MLAs

Find your MLAs

Locate MLAs

Search

News and Media Centre

Visit the News and Media Centre

Read press releases, watch live and archived video

Find out more

Follow the Assembly

Follow the Assembly on our social media channels

Keep up-to-date with the Assembly

Find out more

Useful Contacts

Contact us

Contacts for different parts of the Assembly

Contact Us