The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) met travel, subsistence and accommodation costs for Mr Sidoti in his capacity as former chair of the Bill of Rights Forum to attend various roundtable discussions and workshops in relation to work on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. The commission met the costs using external funding.
The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) was consulted on the proposals to access external funding. This was approved by the Secretary of State, which included £17,000 for “roundtable discussions, including venue hire, flights and accommodation for participants from outside Northern Ireland”. Full details of the proposals are available in the Library of the House.
And, after a bit of searching in the online Library, I uncovered the relevant letters [zip file]. And the full extent of the external funding from Atlantic Philanthropies (£110,000) for the NIHRC’s latest programme of work on the, now, suspended NI Bill of Rights. From the 11 June 2009 NIO letter
I can also confirm that the Secretary of State has approved your request to access £110,000 of additional funding from Atlantic Philanthropies for a set of projects relating to work on a Bill of Rights. The Secretary of State considered that the proposed projects were consistent with the statutory functions of the Commission and that the receipt of such funding would be consistent with the conditions set out in the Commissions management statement. However, as you have already discussed with [name redacted], it is our view that production of a draft Bill would be nugatory work if a decision is taken to legislate on a Bill of Rights, any legislation would need to be drafted by Parliamentary Counsel so we suggest that you submit an alternative project for our consideration, within the scope of the total grant.
The above extract comes from the 11 June 2009 reply by the NIO to a letter from the NI Human Rights Commission which set out the proposed programme of work to be funded by Atlantic Philanthropies.
Programme of work to be funded by Atlantic Philanthropies
10. The programme of work to be funded by AP is to enable the Commission to disseminate its advice to a wider audience and enhance the NIO consultation process. While consulting on a proposed Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland is the authority of the Secretary of State, the Commission wishes to assist and support that process by ensuring consultees are sufficiently informed of the advice we have provided so that they are able to engage in a meaningful deliberation.
11. The following activities / outputs are planned:
Summary document the advice on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, which the Commission provided to the Secretary of State, is a technical legal document and may not be readily understood [by] many prospective consultees. Therefore, we plan to produce an accessible summary version of the advice, directed toward assisting the broad constituency of government and nongovernment bodies, outside of the human rights sector, who may wish to respond to the consultation.
Newspaper supplement in order to raise wider public understanding of the Commissions advice provided to the Secretary of State, we plan to produce a supplement for insertion in the three daily Northern Irelandwide newspapers (Belfast Telegraph, Irish News, News Letter) to further assist the consultation process. This supplement will provide a resume of the Commissions advice, rather than summarise any proposals made by government.
Easy Read version in order to make the Commissions advice even more accessible, we plan to produce an easy-read version, which will be used as an explanatory facilitation tool and disseminated to those organisations who work with people with learning disabilities.
Dissemination at Westminster with the legislative passage of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland being through the Houses of Parliament, it will be important to ensure that the Commissions advice is fully understood at Westminster. We plan to undertake this part of the dissemination of the Commissions advice through facetoface contacts by Commissioners and staff with MPs, Lords and Civil Servants in Westminster, which will incur significant travel and subsistence.
Facilitating political engagement given the constraints on Parliamentary time, we plan to provide opportunities for wider discussion between those responsible for the progression of a Bill of Rights through a series of round tables separately engaging local political party representatives; Westminster MPs and Lords; and officials from relevant devolved and central government departments, to help ensure that the Commissions advice is fully understood and debated. We also plan to facilitate a least one similar round table for nongovernmental organisations.
Draft legislation the Commissions advice to the Secretary of State on the Bill of Rights is not draft legislation. Rather, it is a series of recommendations specific enough to provide clear direction to government on the possible content. To further progress the discussion, and assist government in its consultation and subsequent deliberations, the Commission proposes to engage a parliamentary legislative draftsperson, on a consultancy basis, to produce an example of how, in the Commissions view, its advice might be translated into statute.
Ensuring the currency of the Commissions advice to ensure that the Commission remains fully informed of any legislative changes, domestic or international jurisprudence that could affect the content of its advice, it would be of particular benefit to engage an independent legal adviser for regular updates over the next 12 months as the consultative and legislative processes are progressed by government.
Evaluation in line with APs contractual requirements, the Commission will need to evaluate outcomes of the above activities and outputs. This will include audited accounts.
And the funding requirements of that programme of work
12. The Commissions funding requirements to undertake the programme of work set out are above are estimated as follows:
Summary document, including production costs and legal proofing [5,000 copies] £17,000
Newspaper inserts, 8 pages x 3 newspapers, plus design and print [195,000 copies] £24,000
Easy Read version, includes commissioning costs and design/print [1,000 copies] £7,000
Westminster engagement £22,000
Legislative draft of Bill, including consultancy costs for parliamentary draftsperson [15 days] £9,000
Roundtable discussions, including venue hire, flights and accommodation for participants from outside Northern Ireland [3 meetings] £17,000
Legislative and jurisprudence update, including consultant legal adviser [10 days] £6,000
Evaluation, including audited accounts £8,000