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?
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.