1 November 2016

The Committee on Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs - What does it do and how does it work?

What is the purpose of the Committee?

The Committee for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs is a new Committee, established just after the 2016 elections. As well as having responsibility for farming and rural issues; the environment and environmental policy is now part of the new Committee’s overall remit. The Committee is further tasked with advising and assisting the Minister on all matters within their responsibility.

An important element of the Committee’s work is to undertake a scrutiny, policy development and consultation role with respect to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. It also plays a key part in the consideration and development of legislation.

How does it work?

At the beginning of each new Assembly session, the Committee meets to discuss and develop a forward work programme. This is an opportunity for Members to examine some of the Department’s key areas of responsibility, and to research matters that are of particular interest to Members or that they believe may require further scrutiny.

Once the Committee has established its work programme, it will look at how it will approach each issue. This could involve consulting with relevant stakeholders, establishing their concerns and determining how best these issues should be tackled and resolved. The Committee will also examine all legislation brought forward by the Department and advise on what it believes is necessary to ensure that all laws are robust and fit for purpose. Throughout the year, the Committee will also examine and monitor Departmental policy, conduct inquiries and produce reports into areas of interest.

A further important component of the Committee’s work is to analyse the Department’s budget and proposed spending. The Committee does this through what are known as ‘Quarterly Monitoring Rounds’, when the Department will prepare and produce reports in June, October and January, outlining its expenditure. The reports detail how the Department has spent its monies to date, if there is any unused money that could be reallocated to the overall Executive budget, if it intends to make any spending changes or if it needs to bid for additional funding.

The Committee invites the Minister and Departmental Officials to attend meetings on a regular basis to update and inform Committee Members on the implementation of current and future policies. This is also an important opportunity for Committee Members to directly question the Minister and Departmental Officials on their work.

Who sits on the Committee?

There are 10 MLAs on the Committee for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs
Committee. The Membership is currently:

Committee Chairperson: Ms Caoimhe Archibald (Sinn Féin) East Londonderry
Deputy Chairperson: Mr Oliver McMullan (Sinn Féin) East Antrim
Mr Sydney Anderson (Democratic Unionist Party) Upper Bann
Mr Maurice Bradley (Social Democratic and Labour Party) East Londonderry
Mr David Ford (Alliance Party) South Antrim
Mr William Irwin (Democratic Unionist Party) Newry and Armagh
Mr Edwin Poots (Democratic Unionist Party) Lagan Valley
Mr Patsy MGlone (Social Democratic and Labour Party) Mid Ulster
Mr Harold McKee (Ulster Unionist Party) South Down
Mr Robin Swann (Ulster Unionist Party) North Antrim

How can I get involved with the work of the Committee?

There are lots of ways you can get keep up to date with the work of the Committee.


The Committee for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs meets each Thursday at 10.00am, when the Assembly is in session.

Watch/listen live

You can watch the Committee’s meetings live via our website, or if you missed it, the video/audio file will be available for viewing by the next working day.

Subscribe to the Committee’s newsfeed


Subscribe to the Committee’s newsfeed and get a weekly update on the work of the Committee, direct to your inbox.

Give evidence

Committees carry out inquiries into specific areas of interest. You can contribute to any of the Committee’s Inquiries by providing evidence during the consultation period.  Information on how and when to do this will be advertised in newspapers, via the Committee’s twitter page, in the weekly Committee newsletter and on the Committee’s webpage.


You can follow the Committee on Twitter ‎@NIAAgriEnvRA


Write to the Committee Clerk:

Stella McArdle
Room243, Parliament Buildings,
Ballymiscaw, Stormont,
Belfast, BT4 3XX

Tel: (028) 90 521475

Email: Committee.AgriEnvRural@niassembly.gov.uk  

You can also contact any of the Committee Members.

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