Special Spotlight


A studio audience puts questions to Jeffrey Donaldson, Declan Kearney, David McNarry, media commentator Steve Hewlett and journalist Dearbhail McDonald. Noel Thompson presents.

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Hello and welcome to this Spotlight Special where our studio audience


have the chance to put their questions and voice their concerns


directly to our panel. Among them the politicians who take the


decisions that shape all our lives. On tonight's panel, Jeffrey


Donaldson - The DUP's Member of Parliament for Lagan Valley.


Declan Kearney - Sinn Fein's national chairperson and a long-


standing member of the party leadership and negotiating team.


He's been engaged in reaching out to Protestants, whether they like


it or not. The Dublin-based journalist and


author Dearbhail McDonald. Born in Newry, she's the legal editor for


the Irish Independent newspaper. Steve Hewlett is a former editor of


BBC Panorama, and among the many strings to his current bow, he


presents Radio Four's Media Show and is a columnist for The Guardian.


And the Strangford MLA David McNarry, who after a lifetime as an


Ulster Unionist, joined the UK Independence Party in October,


since when UKIP's fortunes have risen, but that is probably down to


other factors than David's membership. I must also said that


David has a very fine choice in l'Equipe this evening. Excellent! -


- in a neck where this evening. And that's our line-up for


tonight's Spotlight Special. And you at home have your part to


play. We want to know what you think about the burning issues of


the day. You can text your comments


throughout the programme to 81771. You can also phone and email us,


and you can tweet your comments to us at: #spotlightni. The details


are on your screen now. Calls cost up to 5p per minute from


most landlines. Calls from mobiles may cost considerably more. Texts


will be charged at your standard message rate. Let us turn now to a


work first question. It comes from a student. How can you justify the


Union flag not been flown in a UK capital city. This honestly we


first to the flying of the Union flag only been allowed on


designated days. Let us turn to Declan Coney first. It is the UK


capital city, so why can't you fly the flag of the UK? It is an issue


of equality. Belfast is a changing city. Last night there was further


change. I do not think we can reduce this issue to zero politics.


Almost half the population of Belfast are nationalist and


republican people. The decision made last night was the right one.


It was a decision for equality and we need to continue travelling in


that direction. I think it is lamentable to listen to the


comments from some politicians. I must ask what does that response to


fundamental issues of equality and mutual respect in our society and


the step forward that was taken last night say to nationalists and


republicans in Belfast? Belfast needs to be a city for all of its


citizens. He taught about zero-sum politics, but you would have liked


Nationalists and republicans did not get what they wanted last night.


They would have preferred it that the flag was not flown at all.


Unionist didn't get what they wanted either. We had a compromise.


That compromise is a compromise which is absurd daily in Stormont,


so let us take the Template from Stormont and applied to the


politics of City Hall in Belfast. Why not, or Jeffrey Donaldson?


most people in Belfast the real problems in Belfast are about


health, education, employment. is a big issue for you. We will


confronted with it, but in terms of priorities, this is not a priority


for most people out there and I were consultation in Belfast


revealed that the majority, an overwhelming majority of people who


responded to the consultation said they did not want to change the


status quo. Sinn Fein took about equality, but mutual respect means


you respect the traditions and identities on both sides of the


communities in Northern Ireland. Right now, Unionists are filled


that Sinn Fein are disrespected -- Unionists feel that Sinn Fein are


disrespect in them. We are part of the United Kingdom and Sinn Fein


should show some respect for and Britishness. While changes would


you make to accommodate nationalist aspirations. A nationalists have


the right to pursue their culture and identity. Northern Ireland is


part of the United Kingdom and that will not change. Therefore, the


Union flag ought to be respected. If I was living in Dublin, even if


I were a Unionist, I would respect the fact that the settled will of


the people in the republic is to have a separate state and I would


respect their flag. The flag of this country is the Union flag and


it should be given its place. would like to say very clearly that


there is a solution. There are 27 countries in the European Union. I


believe that every flag in the European Union should be flown


around City Hall and other countries that invest, when they


invest for jobs, I believe put them up as well and then everybody's


happy. The gentleman down here in the blue shirt. Respect for one


another and respect to one another's communities and


traditions, flying the Union flag over Belfast City Hall has nothing


to do with it. The vast majority of people here want to live in peace


and the flag flying over Belfast has nothing to do with it.


Politicians should move on. We have a shared future together. People


are saying just move on. I hope we she was that easy. For someone like


me who was in Stormont, the decision last night was paid back


politics. These people, this man beside Nina has an agenda that is


completely different from mine. I will live with that. Thank God I am


allowed to live with it today because it's not so long ago that


my life and many people like me's lives were in jeopardy because


people could not live alongside me. It is hurting a lot of people, last


night's decision and it will leave a lasting scar on how we develop or


move on, as this Gentleman says. I am not too sure that people


understand, people understood that when they decided that the way


forward was the Belfast Agreement that they left things behind them


because I understood as a Unionist that in agreeing to the Belfast


Agreement, Sinn Fein were agreeing to recognise the constitutional


position of Northern Ireland and that gives Northern Ireland and


entitlement to fly the Union flag in its City Hall, as a gentleman


said, it's a capital city. That is where it should be left. But he was


a democratic vote of the city council. It was a democratic vote


in the City Council aided and abetted by the one-party that has


this Ballers mandate. But these still a democratic vote. Gentlemen


in the front. The people who agreed to take the flak macro down were


all signatories in the Good Friday Agreement. -- take the flag down.


Gen to none in the red top. believe the violence last night was


an act of frustration based on the people who were carrying it forward.


The reality is that as long as they feel their political awareness is


being undermined, that will be the case. The real way they can change


that true democracy is to get out and vote. Unionist people in


Northern Ireland for the last 25 years have not voted and they


cannot expect to get their views seen and heard if they don't.


struck me, and I am a Catholic, was what people dislike was the level


of contrivance. There was a strong level of contrivance in the debate


and the response which resulted in the violence last night. Jeffrey,


this is not the priority for the majority of people in Belfast and I


agree with you. It is not to dismiss traditional culture. We are


going through a different and difficult process in terms of


equality. However, they cannot be equality in everything. I dislike


the fact that it was so contrived. So Steve, I hesitate to get you


involved, but you have made lots of programmes in Northern Ireland.


Well, not in the slightest, I made films in Northern Ireland when it


was a very different place. I haven't had a lot to do with


Northern Ireland since. I maintain an interest. I come here every now


and then, professionally, I got involved in the Good Friday


greement because I was at Panorama at the time. The thing that struck


me, I hate to say this company, because I am on foreign territory


here, the surprising thing will last night... Only according to


Declan. Sinn Fein voted for the Union jack to be flown on the top


of City Hall. When I was in Northern Ireland, they they would


have ripped it up, and happily shot anyone seen carrying it... Not Sinn


Fein, of course. The thing that stood out to me, there was the


Republican movement saying "yes, fly the Union jack on top of the


city Hall." That is a symbol of what is changing in Northern


Ireland. I look at this place with aur really because it it come so


far, such a very, very long way and I maybe wrong about this, I hope


I'm right, I maybe wrong, there are moments when the old thing twitches


and this is perhaps a bit of a twitch, I hope it is a twitch.


Lots more hands. The gentleman in the striped jumper.


The only reason why why Sinn Fein had the vote for designated days


because the Alliance Party didn't want the flag to come down. That


was the compromise. If Sinn Fein had the majority, or the


Republicans had the majority they would vote for the flag to come


down. Once upon a time, standing on


principle would have led to escalation. Maybe it was for


political end, or a cynical manoeuvre. I wouldn't under


estimate how the Unionist population feel today after the


shenanigans of last night's vote. I really fear this has put us back a


long way in what we're trying to do and what you alluded to we had


achieved. We have a lot to overcome. The gentleman in the red tie and


the gentleman at the front. It was contrived on Facebook and we


are small fish in a big pool. The whole world sees us and we


shouldn't be using social networking sites like that.


The gentleman in the red tie? to clarify, I don't think what the


gentleman said there is accurate. It wasn't a vote in favour of the


flag being flown on designated days. Councillor McVeigh made it clear,


it was a tactical vote. And the effect of the vote was to


have the flag flown on the designated number of days? It was


not a positive step. Noel, we struck a compromise and in


the interest of ensuring there is equality and inclusion for all


citizens in Belfast. Declan, I want to ask you a quick question. There


is another compromise now they flag the flag 365 days of the year on


the war memorial, would you accept that? I think that is a piece of


gratuitous... I am not going to take it any further than that.


You don't approve. It is important to make this point. It It


politicises it. Why didn't they suggest the flag being flown over


the Cenotaph... The Aliesance Party said they might support that. The


second question comes from Timothy Haslett. Does the panel think that


statutory regulation is necessary? Well, we know, I hope we know what


the Leveson Report is. It has been Cameron is not happy about the


legal under pinning of it and great shenanigans going on, again that


word in Westminster, but Steve, we brought you over for a reason, you


know, Leveson a good idea, a bad idea? Well, it was necessary. It


was necessary when David Cameron called it phone hacking, the


dreadful hacking of Milly Dowler's voicemail. It riched a pitch when


something had to happen and periodically it does. Is it


statstry regulation? Well, you could argue about that. What


Leveson could say, new tribunal, do what you are told. He didn't. He


said the press will regulate itself and the regulation of the press


will be validated by a body recognised in statute. What statute


does, it says here the principles and we are going to sit back and we


are going to validate the press's self regulator. A lot of people are


saying if you don't have the statutory back-up, you don't have


any come compulsion, there is no compulsion in the Leveson Report.


He doesn't ask the question what happens if the newspapers don't get


involved? He says the Government would have to consider statutory


regulation possibly by Ofcom. It is not statutory regulation of the


sort that perhaps it could have been. However, you are not out of


the woods yet because here is why - the body that validates the self


regulator is, he says, should be Ofcom. As the Minister for Culture


said, "I appoint the Chairman of Ofcom." the validating body, that


validates the regulator. What happens When the validating body


and the regulator falls out. Perhaps they fall out. How much


intrusion is justified by what level of public interest? If you


are exposing people strug smuggling or whatever, lots of intrusion is


justified. If you are looking into some celebrity's love life there is


a continuum. Supposing there is a rumpus. Somebody gets wrongly


accused of something. If you have a free press, these things will


happen. Pressure is on. Sort it out. The validating body, under


Leveson's proposals has the right to an ad hoc audit of the regulator


and the validating body is subject to public pressure and before you


know it, you have the application of public pressure for which read


political influence on the way the press is regulated. My personal


view is this proposal, the Leveson proposal, when you get into the


nuts and bolts of it is very hard, very, very hard to implement which


is why all the stuff you have seen on the news today, if the press is


able to come up with something that is Leveson compliant, my guess is


that is what will happen. Page 1718 of the Leveson Report


alludes to the Irish model. Just explain that to us and how that


worked? For those of you who have read Leveson... All of us. It could


be described as Leveson-light. We have had a form of self-regulation


in the form of Press Council and Press Ombudsman. That was given a a


statutory recognition and now the reports in the Republic of Ireland


can take into account whether a newspaper engaged with the Press


Council or not. It can be taken into into consideration. A lot of


people were cherned -- concerned about that, what I can say as a


working journalist, to date so far it has has worked. Unlike Leveson's


roe posal our press council can't impose fines. It is funded by the


newspaper industry. And the newspaper industry has a minority


on the Press Council. It is working because it was designed to ward


ward off two threats which was the threat of a privacy law and full


statutory regulation. Leveson goes further. We live as working


journalist and beyond that because it is an issue of civic society, we


live with the threat of full statutory regulation and a privacy


law. Where I felt Leveson fell down. It failed to acknowledge the force


of the criminal law. It is significant that for the kind of


offences that were highlighting in Leveson we are seeing the criminal


law, we are seeing prosecutions take place. The second reason why I


thought it was naive with the greatest respect to Lord Justice


Leveson, was in the shifting of the landscape of the media, I spent


three months in America this year as part of a fellowship look


looking at the future of the media in a digical age and and Leveson


seems dated because the real threat to people's privacy, when you look


at the mainstream press, we have strict regulation in the form of


contempt of court laws, our defamation Act has been a chilling


effect on our journalism... Twitter and the others blow it out of the


water? They do. It is in the mainstream media. You cannot ignore


the shift in media landscape where everyone is potentially a citizen


journalist. Sinn Fein, Declan, support


regulation by the DUP says is bizarre given that the Republican


newspaper has broken every rule and many rules that had not been


thought of in its history, how do you do you square that one? Well,


the DUP would say that. However, of course the newspaper observes the


highest standards of ethic and professional journalism... When it


said Margaret Thatcher was a murderer and it named members of


the security force who were ill- treating prisoners... Noel, you


will remember very well when the been and the media was an integral


part of our conflict and was responsible and some of the


audience may not be old enough to know or remember this when Sinn


Fein spokespersons were denied the right to speak for themselves, when


they were brought on to the television and on to the radio.


That was the Government law. That wasn't the BBC. If we want to have


a discussion about the free press then I think we need to remember


why Leveson sat and he was convened in inquiry because a little girl


Milly Dowler was murdered and her family's grief was invaded in the


most gratuitous of ways and I think Leveson has done... Leveson has


done some service. He called time on the fact that he will that


elements of the British press had lost the run of themselves over the


last 10 to 20 years. He has pointed in the direction of achieving a


balance by suggesting how regulation can be put in place,


whilst at the same time ensuring that we see a free unfettered press.


I would like to think that Leveson would act as a watershed, a


watershed where we will see the renewal of the British press and it


begins once more to shine a light where there is corruption, shine a


light on injustice and to do some service to us all by ensuring we


are better informed in relation to developing ideas and ensuring there


is better Government. The media needs to get back to its old credo.


The Leveson Inquiry should have gone into the privacy laws. And


people on the phone was brought together because of that little


girl tragic, yeah. People on the phones, they are growing all the


time. They are invading into free space. There are people out there


with scanners and they can listen into your or my phone call on the


mobile phone. Leveson didn't say about that.


Jeffrey Donaldson? We are not in favour of statutory regulation and


something akin to the model that operates in the Republic of Ireland


is a good starting point, but if it done work, we may need to look at


the the statutory leg lation. -- legislation. A lot of what happened


here is contrary to the law. When people say we need statutory


regulation, a lot of the journalist were breaking the law and we will


see some of them coming before the courts. I agree with Dearbhail,


there is a big issue around social media and the things that can be


said on social media, everything ranging from threats to defamatory


comments and where is the regulation there? And the other


issue that Leveson perhaps missed is media ownership. We talk about a


free press and I am all for a free press, but how free is a press when


half the press in the UK are owned by one man, one corporation, that


It will take some time to get this legislation established and we need


to have something in the meantime. We owe it to the families who had


been damaged and maligned by a gutter press. That is what happened


and it has been revealed. If it had not been revealed, it would


probably would still be going on. But I am concerned that what


happens in the meantime is that if we do have legislation, I want it


to be there as a threat. In other words saying to the media moguls,


let us see the colour of your money. That is effectively what David


Cameron has said. I am not sure he would be on the same timescale as


me. My timescale is we are going to regulate, we are not going to stop


the regulation ball rolling. We will keep it in tandem as to what


you are doing and if you default, we have something to hit you with.


If we don't have the legislation, then we are in panic stations.


hopefully the proposals will be ready by next week. Cameron doesn't


want to make this about legislation. This was theatre today. He wants to


be seen to say, this is your last chance. Get on with it all we will


legislate. But if it does get to the point of legislation, all his


original points will come in. The Press Council of Ireland, the


reason that functions is because it has underneath it the sword of


Damocles which is the prospect of invasions of privacy been made a


criminal offence. There were journalists going to prison if they


invade privacy. The idea you could have a law that would send you to


prison for doing it, if he got it wrong, it would not be acceptable,


especially in Britain. Dearbhail answer and that we have


to move on. We have to be careful what we wish for. Please don't


forget the good work that the press does. If you introduce legislation


that prevents the kind of investigative journalism that our


mast politicians expenses, etc, on those rare occasions where we do


cross the constitutional line, we do so in the belief that the public


interest is our shield and sword. That has to be the case. We have to


move on. The next question comes from a student from Londonderry.


The status of human rights, is it right in terms of the abortion


laws? The question is, up our women's fundamental human rights in


respect to abortion been negated. This debate has been on both sides


of the border. Jeffrey, what do you think? There's a clear majority in


Northern Ireland that is pro-life. It is clearly reflected. There was


an opinion poll in the Belfast Telegraph last week and only one in


four in Northern Ireland support pro-choice. It is not a question of


politicians trampling on people's rights. They reflect the settled


public will and the Northern Ireland that is pro-life. With a


great lack of clarity. Experts tell us they don't know whether or not


they can perform terminations or not. There is no legal clarity


around the common law in Northern Ireland. It has been clarified for


some time, it has been in and out of court... So why are we waiting


for guidelines? The medical profession have us for guidelines


in circumstances where medical abortions can take place under the


law. They were challenged in court twice and they are back again and


the Health Minister hopes to publish the guidelines once again.


But the guidelines they change the law. The law says there are only


exceptional circumstances where the life of the mother is at risk that


an abortion can take place. That is the settled position, and that


borders for it that in this part of the United Kingdom we do not have


the 1967 abortion Act. I then got that is not here. Does clarifying


the law automatically liberalise it? That is the fear, that if you


gave legal effect to the existing law it would be a Trojan course.


The statement by Geoffrey is a line peddled by the Irish government


when it was taken to the he the paean -- taken to the European


Court of Human Rights. The reality is there is synergy between the


North and South on this. But the problem is that even though


abortion is allowed in a limited circumstances, there is no clarity


for women and doctors to find out in what circumstances it can be


carried out. The great fear is I that soon suicide of a definition


of a woman's welfare, there will be a liberal abortion regime. Is there


a fading influence of the Church? The Church is still a pervasive


influence. There are people who describe themselves as pro-life


foot say they might be for a portion in the case of a rape. --


in the case of rape. I do wonder if the church influence has a place in


secular politics, but regardless of that, there is still a need to


clarify the law and I don't believe that Jeffrey is right. Young man in


the front row. How can we allow this situation to continue? We are


talking about young women... Not so young. Not so young indeed. People


have to get, for example, a ferry to Liverpool to have an abortion.


This has to stop. The death of that poor woman in Galway should not


have happened. How we can allow this to continue in a civilised


society is beyond me. Sinn Fein are accused of operating a forked


tongue in this with that given issues in the north and south.


is a deeply sensitive issue for Iris Society as a whole. I agreed


that we provide no service to the discussion by using labels or pro-


life or pro-choice. We cannot generalise an approach to the issue.


I know two situations are the same, nor do wiping that we can


criminalise women who have felt they had no alternative other than


to travel abroad for a termination. The women I know who have had to


make that decision, and it is a difficult decision to to make, but


did not want to be in a position. We need a second that discussion


and there is a need in the south to ensure that the legislation which


the Supreme Court ruling of 1992 called for is now an active to


create that certainty for women and medical practitioners. Your party


talks about wanting legislation in the republic... In the north, we


need greater definition. We need guidelines for the medical


practitioners. Dealers said to have to positions? Absolutely not. Sinn


Fein is opposed to abortion and the circumstances in society that give


rise to that, but we understand that when the life of a mother is


jeopardised, there needs to be the option provided to medical


professionals to intervene. This is a hard one. I am not a religious


person, but I absolutely see that this is an issue close to many


people's hearts. However, it seems to me that as soon as you describe


for human rights to an unborn child, at any point in the process, you


create a recipe for significant difficulties because once the


foetus becomes a human life, beholden of all human rights, then


it is quite hard to say you would allow abortion even to save the


mother's life, to be honest. How do you choose between two human lives


that have the same intrinsic value is virtually impossible. I am drawn


to a couple of things. I don't think it will be popular. There is


a logic to say that for human rights are a quiet at birth and not


at 40 weeks, 20 weeks, or whatever. At birth, be born child has for


human rights. Up to that point you have to approach these things with


sensitivity. I don't know anyone who isn't pro-life and the idea


that by allowing abortion, by allowing a more sympathetic


abortion law you open the floodgates to a deluge of abortions


that otherwise would not happen, instinctively I don't think that is


right. So I it advocates that women should have the right to choose.


Gentleman head with the scarf on. In the Indian culture, we don't


like to have any children aborted. My question is these medical


practitioners were unable to just the severity of a poor woman and


they let her die. There is an inquiry, so we can't say what


exactly happened. But her husband is asking for a public inquiry.


There are a lot of demonstrations in India at the moment. It is a hot


issue that has been swept under the carpet. What I find intolerable


about the case there Gentleman raised his here we had a foreign


national expecting a baby in the republic and told this is a


Catholic country and the law is that an abortion must never happen


here. To me, by a young woman didn't go into hospital wanting an


abortion, and I'd been she was treated abominably. It has left a


terrible lack of understanding in terms of, and I confess not knowing


to what extent does anyone's religion allow them to play God in


the way they did? And would anyone entering a hospital here in


Northern Ireland be told by anyone in that hospital, a surgeon or a


doctor, this is a Catholic country and abortion must not happen here.


I'm a legislator, that is my job and that is what I have been


elected to do. We have a lot at the moment and I am quite content with


it that when we approach these guidelines, I need to know, I need


to be more informed, to be honest, we need to be informed about the


questions a rising over mental health. Legislators in Northern


Ireland are in a difficult situation. I am a father and a


grandfather... You need clarity to sum up. I pink the population is


clarity. The next question comes from a solicitor. Does a border


poll lead to nothing more than a political strategy? People have


been saying they don't need a border poll because most Catholics


think they are better off where they are right now let us see what


Declan Kearney things about that Peter Robinson's comments fly in


the face of election. The majority of the Republican Nationalist


people are voting for parties which owe their allegiance to reunion


nigh quation -- reunification. 46% of Catholics were happy with


being in Northern Ireland and ds and different to voting on


traditional party lines? I prefer to live in the real world and to


deal with these issues in real-time and Jeffrey and others have


attempted to bring forward this myth ol gee. The fact of life is


that the nationalist and republican people of this part of Ireland are


looking for a united Ireland. The border poll is provided for in the


terms of the Good Friday agreement. Now if Peter Robinson or the DUP


have ne doubt over that -- any doubt over that, then let them not


fear the border poll. Let's Call the border people and let the


people make their mind up instead of relying on assertions or


interpretations by the DUP leadership.


Jeffrey, go for it. There is nothing to fear. Declan's job is to


convince Unionists that we should have a united Ireland. If last


night was aur attempt to -- your attempt to we are we are swayed


unionists, he have a long way to go, Declan.


APPLAUSE As for, I believe that the people


of Northern Ireland have a settled will about where we are right now


and frankly again I come back to this Noel, do you think in the


middle of the worst recession that what people need is a debate and


the politicians knocking their doors talking about constitutional


issues. In my constituency, the people could come to see me, rarely


if ever these days raise the constitutional issue.


Peter Robinson is is saying we don't need a poll because Catholics


know they are better off here? have no doubt. The Belfast


Agreement is clear, a border poll should be held if the Secretary of


State believes there is a shift in public png. There is no evidence,


bar none, that there has been any shift in in public opinion


favouring a united Ireland. Now, that's what the law says and if the


law says that, let's get on with the job of providing descent


Government for the people of Northern Ireland. Let's prove that


we have already agreed we can... Peter Robinson says he has achieved


that. I remember a myth if only us


Catholics had more babies that would be a solution for a united


Ireland. I think it is way too soon for a a border poll, if Sinn Fein


are serious about you know reaching out to other communities, there


will be a time and a place for that if the population shift demands. I


think the priority, we are in the early stages of a young peace


process. Our priorities should be working on that, building on that


and cementing it and reaching out to people to Protestants and to


others in our community. Again, getting back to this issue of


contrivance and this stoking in the background and looking for a


political fight and an argument that will bring people in from the


extremes into the mainstream. I grew up with that. I don't want


that anymore. I don't want it for my family, for my friends and I


think it is des picketable. -- despicable at this this point in




David McNarry? You have nearly said it all all as far as I'm concerned.


We will move on, then. Steve? just becauser wearing the same tie


as me. Bring it on and while we are at it, let's have a poll on Europe.


Let Northern Ireland... There we go. That's the one thing we want to get


out of. They are not taking Northern Ireland out of the United


Kingdom, but we want to take the United Kingdom out of Europe.


gentleman on the back row in the red tie. This point was raised last


week, Jeffrey. You think it is black and white, it is either a


poll for a united Ireland or staying in the United Kingdom.


Think outside the box and and what is wrong with having a discussion


on what it might be like if it was joint administration. There is no


point in sweeping it under the carpet. I think, will you not


engage for the people here? In the long tradition of politics in


Northern Ireland, if there is a border poll, vote early!


Very good, thank you. The next question which is from


Rupert a financial adviser from County Down. Where are you? Over


here. Corporation tax aviederam -- avoider Amazon predicted Cyber


Monday as its busiest day. How will this affect our high streets?


Amazon made �207 million and paid �1.8 million in tax. Google �2.5


billion and �Starbucks �3 billion in the last 13 years and �8.6


million paid in tax. Oh dear. Oh dear. But they are selling stuff


and how will it affect our high streets, David McNarry? Well, it is


affecting the high street, undoubtedly it is affecting the


high street. It is affecting the high street because that's how you


want to shop. That's how we want to shop. �465 million was meant to be


turned over this morning in a matter of hours by people going


online and placing their orders. I understand understand now that you


make the arrangements for collections. What is very important


is the impact that it is having here locally. In my constituency, I


have got Newtownards, too many shops boarded up. I go on to Comber


and too many shops shops boarded up and I go into saintfield and there


is too many shops boarded up. There is the competition from the


supermarkets. There is the competition as to what is value for


money? What is the he local economy and how do we put it together? We


are dabbling here and I'm going to criticise Sammy Wilson and I don't


often do that... What a devil you are tonight! I am going to


criticise him. This tie has gone to your head, Noel. I am going to


criticise him for dragging his feet on corporation tax. This country


needs corporation tax yesterday. Well, it is not his decision, of


course. Hang on a second.


We are not talking about corporation tax tonight.


Let's bring in Steve... I think we should be talking... You may think


that, but we are not going to because it is about the internet


and the high street and not about corporation tax.


But they are the ones that evaded corporation tax, Noel.


If all these big companies were paying more tax it would provide


more jobs in this country, would it not? Well, it would make the


pressure off the public finances whether that would produce more


jobs or a lower deficit. There are several things going on here,


aren't there? On one hand, you have transfer pricing on a significant


scale so that the profits all accumulate in the lowest tax


regimes because every time you buy a Starbucks coffee, the beans are


bought in Switzerland or have to be bought by the franchises and the


shops at prices which mean that in effect, the profitability of the


outlet is low, and the profitability of the coffee bean


supplier is low and of course, companies rig it for their own ends.


If companies are making significant amounts of money, in a particular


territory, as good citizens, they ought to go out of their way and


Starbucks are saying they will. They have to pay their dews, but it


is complicated because in some cases, I heard someone say this on


another TV programme, but it was a good point, you go to a cinema, you


pay your money to get in, now the people who have made the film own


the property, so how do you divide the take sntion well, -- takings?


Well, the people who made the film albeit they made it in America or


India, shouldn't get their cut. There is value in intellectual


property and that doesn't always sit in the place where the the


transaction is done. It is complicated. On the face of it,


there has been tax avoidance on a significant scale and it would


reduce the pressure. In terms of the high street, one point. What


shops have got to do is what newspapers have got to do is find a


way, fin ways to add value for their customers in the internet age


and merely supplying the goods probably doesn't do it.


The gentleman in the second row. There are two issues with this


really. One is the retailers aren't playing on a level playing field.


When Amazon are paying 3% VAT and everybody else is paying 20% that


needs to be sorted out. And until that is sorted out, nothing happens


and when that is done, then it won't be cheaper for these


companies to operate from abroad and maybe they will bring their


jobs to this country. The lady in front row? I wanted to say that


public service ins Northern Ireland at the moment are facing


unprecedented cuts. Families are struggling. They are really


struggling to cope and to manage their family finances. And it seems


immoral that large companies are getting away from contributing the


money they should be contributing fairly in tax to then fund the


public services. Jeffrey Donaldson, the high street


and Amazon and the other giants? There is no doubt the high streets


are suffering and Lisburn, for example, you can see the effects of


that and in defence of Sammy Wilson, he is introducing an extension to


the small business rate relief scheme. Small businesses don't pay


corporation tax, but they pay rates and they pay high rates in places


like Lisburn. This scheme will mean another 3,500 business will benefit


from significant rates relief. That is the kind of change that the


assembly can make in helping small business get through this recession.


It is tough. We need to do something about those who are


evading corporation tax. David, it is on the desk of the Prime


Minister. It is away from Sammy Wilson now.


Dearbhail? One of the reasons why people might not want to join or or


have a united Ireland, there are fears the Republic will fall off


the cliff if our corporation tax rate was changed. We have attracted


some of the biggest names including Google and Amazon and that's an


important part of the Ireland's economy and there are fears over


losing that. In In terms of what the high street can do, there are


similarities with the media and other industries. No sector in


society has been untouched by the creative destruction of the


internet. It revolutionised every aspect of our lives. There needs to


be greater investment in local communities, but if this is the


long-term change, it is something we have to adopt to rather than


crib and moan about. The internet has a a devastating


fact. We need to do something about jobs. The young lady in the back


row? Everybody is talking about what needs to be done for the high


street and fair enough, people will go for where they are getting the


best deal, but bar talking about corporation tax, what is being done


to attract shoppers back to the high street? Declan Kearney? This


evening in Dunloy 140 workers have received notification that they


have lost their jobs. That's the reality check for us all. The fact


is we are dealing with rip off economics. It was the rip off


economics that was pursued by the developers and the bankers and now


we are we are seeing it on the part of the big companies.


Those who make the most should pay the most. We need to see that type


of initiative and intervention being brought into play to foster


and to undepin the role of small and medium entier prices within our


community and the small and local shop Holders in our high streets.


We need to protect local business. We need to make sure that local


business flourishes, but we need to make sure that the people who are


making the most most start to pay the most as well.


The gentleman here in the tie? APPLAUSE


I would like to say Britain, the the Treasury has lifted �30 billion


in fuel tax. There is a lot of garages across Northern Ireland are


forming up and doing away with man and woman power. How is that going


to be addressed? I don't have time. Thank you, sir.


We must move on. The last question comes from a marketing consultant


Will any of the panel be following the Pope on Twitter? The Pope's


Newt site is up and running. He will not beat tweeting and to all


12th December. He already has a hundreds of thousands of followers.


Dearbhail, would you be a follower? The family. I think I was among the


first followers. It is intriguing, but it shows you the extent that


Vatican and others -- that the Vatican and others are going to in


terms of social medium. I haven't been following the Pope up until


now and it is highly unlikely I would take up the offer. I would be


interested to see what trouble he get into because it does appear to


me, you go on this Twitter and someone catches you out somewhere


along the line. What do you think, Geoffrey. -- Jeffrey? I suspect I


am with David on this. We follow Chelsea, by the way. I am more


interested in knowing who the next Chelsea manager will be. Maybe


following the Pope will give the divine intervention! Will he be it


a high-minded or will it be, it's Friday, a fish finger sandwiches


again? Declan? I think I will tweet over the Ulster championships.


A studio audience puts questions to Jeffrey Donaldson DUP MP, Sinn Fein's Declan Kearney, UKIP MLA David McNarry, media commentator Steve Hewlett and journalist Dearbhail McDonald. Noel Thompson presents.

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