Page 3182 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 19 August 2008
environment committee and the work that it should do, and as someone who has, on and off, been a member of the planning and environment committee for about four years, it is a great sorrow to me to have to stand here today and essentially complain about the processes and the behaviour of the chairman of the committee. The chairman’s draft for this draft variation arrived in my office at about lunch time on Friday. Because of the absence of some of my staff who were out of the office on business—the other one being ill—I did not receive a copy of the chairman’s draft before I turned up to a 1.30 meeting last Friday.
In the course of the meeting that commenced at 1.30, we had a general discussion—actually, a fairly detailed discussion—where the chairman basically talked the members of the committee through his chairman’s draft. We dwelt on the recommendations but did not have a page-by-page read through of the committee report. We made some recommendations, we made some changes to some recommendations and we were promised a track-changes copy in the course of the afternoon. I said that I was very happy with that process but that I was not ready to sign off even after the track-changes version arrived because I had not, at that stage, had an opportunity to read the report from beginning to end and I may want to make other changes and perhaps make other recommendations.
There was a discussion about when we should meet to sign this off. There was a bit of a push for having it that we should meet on Monday—that is, yesterday—to sign this off. I said to the committee members and the secretary that I would not be available—that Monday was very difficult for me and that I would not be available—but that I would accommodate members as far as possible on other days.
I was surprised when my office was approached later in the afternoon to meet at 1.30 on Monday, since I had said that I would not be available. My office made it clear to the committee secretary that I was unavailable: that I was unable—not unwilling, unable—to meet with the committee on Monday to sign off on this and that at that stage I had not read it and therefore it would not be possible to sign off on it on Monday. Imagine my surprise when, just before 11 o’clock yesterday, I received a phone call that said, “Mrs Dunne, are you coming to this 11 o’clock meeting of the P and E committee?” I said, “There is no 11 o’clock meeting. It is not in my diary. I have no notification of it and I am unavailable.” “Oh, well, you have to come because we are signing off on the report.”
First of all I raised this matter with the Clerk. It is not appropriate for a committee secretary to tell me, as a member of the committee, when I am going to sign off on a report. I made the point that I had some substantive comments as well as some editorial comments. “Oh, well, if you have got some substantive comments, you had better raise them with the chairman.”—which I thought I would do. I was not able to attend the meeting. I was about to sit down to contact the chairman to make some substantive comments when I discovered that not only had the committee met but the committee had decided to agree to the report. I expressed my dissatisfaction to the committee chairman, who, when I came down at 10.30, had not responded. Soon after that, I discovered that not only had the report been signed off but it had been published.