Public Affairs

Taking decisions

Following the introduction of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Act 2018, Northern Ireland’s departments are now required to prepare a monthly summary report of decisions taken by senior officials using the guidance. Below are the decisions taken so far in 2019.

Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs

As well as the formal adoption the DAERA Knowledge Framework as a departmental strategic policy, which provides a formal context for stakeholder engagement and educational policy, the Department initiated a consultation on proposed additional measures for the Nitrates Action Programme (NAP).

The Department sought an extension of the scope of Northern Ireland’s participation in the UK Environment (Principles and Governance Bill) in relation to producer responsibility, air quality, environment strategy and recycling collection measures. As well, a decision was taken to lay the second Northern Ireland Climate Adaption Programme in the Assembly.

Department for the Economy

A public consultation was published for a five-year Equality Scheme and Action Plan, Disability Action Plan and Audit of Inequalities for 2016-202. A decision was also taken to introduce an InterTradeIreland Brexit Start to Plan Voucher Scheme 2019-2021.

The Department opted to proceed with making and laying the Gas (Designation of Pipelines) Order (Northern Ireland) 2019, which will designate a section of new high pressure gas pipeline in the west for the purposes of the common tariff under Article 59 of the Energy (Northern Ireland) Order 2003. The order came into operation on 4 February 2019.

Extension to the contract for delivery for the ApprenticeshipsNI programme and the Training for Success programme were secured until 31 July 2020. Both contracts had been set to expire in July 2019. The contract for Social Enterprise NI was also extended by one year with effect from April 2019. A decision was also taken to provide financial contribution towards a two year extension to the Public Service Obligation route from the City of Derry Airport to London.

Department for Communities

A decision was taken to allow the recovery of Social Fund debt, maintaining parity with DWP around debt recovery policies and processes. A decision was also taken in relation to pensions and ensuring that pension schemes will continue to function on a UK-wide basis. Decisions were taken to make the Pension Scheme Act 2015 (Judicial Pensions) (Consequential Provision) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2019 and the Pensions Schemes Act 2015 (Transitional Provisions and Appropriate Independent Advice) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2019.

An extension to the temporary ‘de minimus’ period in relation to regulation 54A(2) of the Universal Credit Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016 was secured, ensuring parity with GB on social security matters.

Eight Statutory Rules were made to change regulations in relation to houses of multiple occupation and four annual Statutory Rules were made to ensure the maintenance of sustainable and efficient public services and to maintain parity between GB and Northern Ireland. These were: The Guaranteed Minimum Pension Increase Order (Northern Ireland) 2019; The Automatic Enrolment (Earnings Trigger and Qualifying Earnings Band) Order (Northern Ireland) 2019; The Summary of Decisions Taken in February 2019 Social Security Revaluation of Earnings Factors Order (Northern Ireland) 2019; and The Pension Protection Fund and Occupational Pension Schemes (Levy Ceiling and Compensation Cap) Order (Northern Ireland) 2019. 

Department of Education

A number of decisions were taken in relation to Development Proposals, allowing changes to the design of education provision. As well as changes to approved admission and enrolment numbers at a number of schools, five decisions were taken that will result in the closure of four rural primary schools in north Tyrone and their amalgamation to establish a new Catholic Maintained co-educational primary school from September 2019.

Department of Finance

In-year allocations to departments of £17 million Resource departmental expenditure limits (DEL) and £22 million Capital DEL, as part of 2018-19 In-year Monitoring. A decision was also taken to provide formal finance approval for a new 2018 Northern Ireland Prison Service pay award.

Department of Health

As well as an extensive list of public appointments, the Department scheduled Pregabalin and Gabapentin through the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Amendment) Order 2018 and the Misuse of Drugs (Safe Custody) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2019, to maintain parity with changes to the equivalent legislation in GB.

Department of Justice

Decisions were taken to make The Judicial Pensions (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2019, to enable the Department to continue taking member contributions from 1 April 2019; The Civil Legal Services (General) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2019; and The Civil Legal Services (Financial) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2019, to facilitate the transfer of function to the Legal Services Agency (LSA), thereby supporting the development of a more integrated approach to the delivery and administration of legal aid whilst maximising efficiencies as recommended in the Access to Justice Review Report.

Decisions were made to amend the fees paid to Tribunal Judiciary and Lay Magistrates (in line with GB and with Department for Communities / Department for the Economy proposals); for basic and standard checks and registration with AccessNI (reducing the fees charged for basic and standard checks and increasing the fees for registration with AccessNI), with effect from 1 April 2019.

A decision was also taken to commence the process for departmental nominations to the Court of Judicature Rules Committee and the Family Proceedings Rules Committee, thereby ensuring that rule making powers can be exercised to facilitate the efficient and effective conduct of court business.

Department for Infrastructure

A decision was taken to make, with an operative date of 27 March 2019, The Planning (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (NI) 2019 to update planning legislation to confirm the Department for Infrastructure as the competent authority for planning functions unintentionally transferred to DAERA under The Departments (Transfer of Functions) Order (NI) 2016. This reflects the original intention of the Executive at the time of the 2016 Order.

Decision notices granting planning consent for a number of projects including a turbot fish farm in Kilkeel; closure of works and reprofiling of a former landfill site in Newbuildings; and Grade A office space as part of the wider City Quays project in Belfast. A decision was also taken to issue a Notice of Opinion refusing planning consent for a wind farm near Swatragh and a Stop Notice in relation to an unauthorised quarry operated by Kelly’s Sand and Gravel Limited, Old Bridge Road, Strabane.

A decision was taken to request that the Planning Appeals Commission convenes a Public Local Inquiry into a proposed 33 turbine wind farm in Doraville, near Draperstown. A new Statutory Rule (The Road Vehicles Lighting (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2019) was made to update legislation in respect of the Roads Vehicles Lighting Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000 and The Drivers’ Hours and Tachographs (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2019) was made to include transposition provisions for drivers’ hours and tachographs following EU exit.

In February 2019, a decision was taken to amend by negative resolution, with an operative date of 11 March 2019, the Motorways Traffic (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2019 to make changes to bus lane provision on the M1 and M2 motorways, and on a purpose built length of carriageway at the Duncrue Street off-slip of the M2 Motorway.

A decision was also taken to make, with an operative date of 15 March 2019, The Railways Infrastructure (Access, Management & Licensing of Railway Undertakings) (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2019. These regulations are required to implement EU Directive 2016/2370 on rail infrastructure matters, introduced in respect of the Market Pillar requirements of the 4th Rail Package, and which was due for implementation before the UK’s declared leaving date.

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