McCrea no longer committee chair

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Assembly members were told that Lagan Valley MLA Basil McCrea was no longer chairman of the employment committee, on 20 February 2013.

The committee's deputy chairman Thomas Buchanan opened the meeting saying: "Members will be aware that Basil is no longer the chair of the committee."

Mr Buchanan of the DUP said he would be filling in until the Ulster Unionist Party assigned someone else to take up the position.

The SDLP's Pat Ramsey described Mr McCrea as a "dedicated, committed and conscientious chair".

Mr McCrea said he was quitting the Ulster Unionist Party on 15 February.

His resignation, along with that of former UUP deputy leader John McCallister on 14 February, followed the DUP and Ulster Unionists' decision to back an agreed candidate to contest the Mid Ulster by-election on 7 March.

As chairman, Mr McCrea would have received an additional £11,331 per year.

Later in the meeting, officials from the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) joined in with a live telephone link to Brussels with Office of the First and the Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) official Gordon Browne to discuss European matters.

DEL officials Dave Rogers, Jim Russell and Michael Gould also spoke on Programme for Government commitments designed to help people into work.

Mr Rogers said although unemployment in Northern Ireland was rising slower than at the beginning of the recession, it remained constant at between 100 - 200 per month, meaning the current figure of those out of work was at 65,000.

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