12/02/2012 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


Andrew Neil and Tara Mills with the latest political news, interviews and debate including cabinet minister Eric Pickles on the government's NHS bill.

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Coming up in Northern Ireland: Billions are pumped into the


banking system yet businesses here struggle to get a penny. So is the


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1699 seconds


game weighted against the smaller Hello and welcome to Sunday


Politics in Northern Ireland. And it's all about the money today.


As the Welfare Reform Bill makes its stormy way through Westminster,


it is estimated the changes will drain hundreds of millions a year


from the local economy. How can we afford it? I will be talking to


Finance Minister Sammy Wilson in a moment.


And they say they are lending, but are the banks really playing the


game with smaller firms? Bearing in mind the Times Newenden with


�20,000 in cash to put into an account and we have a turn down. --


betimes that we went in. But first, with me for the next 20


minutes, Ulster Unionist MLA Joanne Dobson and Sinn Fein councillor Jim


McVeigh. What is your party's solution to


what is going on with the dissident? It is very worrying this


rise in a dissident threat. I had a rise last weekend -- I hadn't issue


last weekend when a police officer went in to protect children and was


set upon by a gang of the facts. It is important that everyone appear


to the rule of law. They should look out for the neighbours and


make sure the work with the police so that we can can find this to the


history books. Jim make the, you had public discussions him on the


dissident threat. How did that go? That went reasonably well. We had


an exchange of views, followed by a play. First and foremost, it is a


tragedy for the family. If this thoroughly depressing. These groups


have no credibility they have no support and her communities and no


strategy. At the time when Donegal is looking for to an exciting year,


building the economy and creating jobs, these people try to drive


away investors, opposed the efforts of the community in the city.


is the solution? They'd do not have support. People within the


community are talking to these people, confronting these people.


Sinn Fein representatives are doing this on as a continuous basis.


Trying to engage with them, persuade them that their strategy


is pointless, futile, counter- productive, it is destroying the


communities they claim to represent. We're trying to do that on a daily


basis and we will have to keep doing that, confronting them,


arguing with them and trying to make it as difficult as possible to


operate. The Unionists need to talk to dissident republicans --


Republicans? Be done a contribute anything. A deeper doubt such a


negative image of Northern Ireland. We need to basically come down into


the history books and get Northern Ireland moving forward. But should


that involve talks with Unionism? think it is important that we keep


moving forward. Now, the banks are rarely out of


the news these days, but behind the headlines businesses say they are


struggling to get loans from our financial institutions. To discuss


that and more, I'm joined by the Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson. How


is our economy going to talk -- cope with the �600 million less


each year? First of all, that is not the case. That is the lie that


has been put around. By 2017, we'll have welfare spending in Northern


Ireland Corporate from �5 billion this year to �6 billion. The rise


will not be as big as it would have been without welfare reform, but...


What is the point of it then, if it will not save money? There are two


points, first of all to focus of the welfare payments on those who


most need it. Secondly, it is to encourage people to get back into


work by making work pay. There will be, as a result of some of the ways


in which money is targeted, they will be some losers and there will


be some groups that gain. This actually fit in with the


Executive's strategy. A whole point is to get people back into work and


indeed over the period of the next four years, through the Department


of Employment and learning, we're hoping to target 114,000 people are


who are currently on benefits to make them more ready for work and


to try to get them into work and whole apparatus of government,


whether it isn't contracts we get out, or in spending on departments,


the work we do with businesses, the investment at the track, we want to


get Northern Ireland working. We want to get the people working.


where do these jobs come from? One in five people are unemployed and


those figures are not changing any time soon, or the? Youth


unemployment has actually fallen. It but only very slightly. It has


fallen and that is the first thing. That is the result of a lot of the


good work that has been done, especially through the Department


of Employment and learning, trying to place young people into jobs.


She we have greater fiscal powers then? You could make a difference


in terms of how much money people have. We have a distinct situation


in Northern Ireland, there are more people disabilities, mental health


issues. The whole point of welfare reform and what is attached to it,


is to try and work through the problems that those people have, to


try and place those who can be placed and the -- placed in work to


be placed in work. Those people need support and we need to get at


them. Can you guarantee that? of the reason that parts of their


welfare reform in Westminster was put forward that we voted against


was that we believe that there were some vulnerable groups that were


not being properly dealt with in the welfare reform proposals and of


course the house of Lords agreed with that as well. As far as what


can we do about those we were to place in work, we are already doing


it. We have programmes for giving people training in a public


contracts, we have a social clauses which will require those who take


on public work to take on long-term unemployed. I appreciate that, but


can you guarantee that families will not be worse off, that people


not have a situation where they have a lot less money coming into


the house and their children may indeed suffer? The old problem of


universal credit is to ensure that you do not have the kind of steps


that you have at present, where you actually make work pay. But that is


the aim that we have, that if someone moves from benefit into


work, they should not have to pay a financial penalty. That is where


the welfare reform proposals need honed a bit. We have been pushing


with Westminster to make some changes and eventually they will


come here to Northern Ireland. BBC's Dragon's Den is entrepreneurs


under pressure, but that is worth it to give them a chance with an


experienced business mentor. Here at the Northern Ireland


Science Park in Belfast, small companies with big ideas are


meeting investors with big money. We're the Dragons Den for Northern


Ireland. David funding to get into business. This is the world's first


inflatable car seat for children. We had been at funding the this is


what their own cash for, but now we're at the point where we need to


look at the various funding options available to us.


This woman needs funding -- this man needs funding to turn his award


winning play into a film. It can be very prudent and successful First


investors -- for investors. Aaron Taylor's company develops software


for the fast-growing computer gaming industry. He had no choice


but to raise private investment. We've been in with two pretty well


known banks in Northern Ireland and have been declined for bank


accounts. Bearing in mind the times we have went in with �20,000 in


cash to put into an account and were turned down. If they are going


to judge start ups the same way they are going to be judging


developed companies, then there is never going to be a benefit in that


for small start ups that is really going to help them move forward.


Northern Bank has just reported hefty pre- tax losses of more than


�210 million. Business lending fell by 11%. The bank says this is


partly because firms are more focused on paying off loans. In a


recent report, the Department of Enterprise asked local small to


medium sized companies, that's firms with up to 250 staff, about


their experiences with banks. In 2007, 92% of companies successfully


negotiated a bank loan. This dropped by a third in 2010. And for


really small businesses, those with less than 10 employees, the success


rate was halved, from 89% down to 45%. Banking analysts say that


during the property boom in the last decade, businesses in Northern


Ireland were far more likely than their counterparts in Great Britain


to take on cheap bank loans for property speculation. This means


that some companies are left with toxic debts, even though their core


business is sound. The idea is being floated in political and


banking circles that a NAMA-style bad bank could be set up to remove


these debts in the hope that this might free up bank lending once


again. And and they will be opening the books, looking at what sort of


debts the businesses have. If those debts can be offloaded elsewhere or


can be constructed elsewhere to be paid off in a measured basis, then


that is certainly something that could be attractive to a lender.


have almost been made into a political football and be -- and


used to be the bankers to death. But what can we do to drive this


Do we need one of those banks for Northern Ireland? I have discussed


this with Mervyn King, who is the Governor of the Bank of England. It


would have to be an initiative which would be done at a national


level. However, the government itself has tried to find ways of


easing banks through this with their vast quantity of the easing -


- of the quantitative the easing. With no way of knowing if we're


actually benefiting -- but we have no way of knowing if we're actually


benefiting. There are no regional figures available. They could be


lending loads of money in Yorkshire but nothing here. That is


absolutely right. I have been pressing the government to give


regional figures. The one thing that we do know what is that bank


lending last year in Northern Ireland was about �60 billion -- �6


billion and De deposits were �8 billion. We do not actually know


what the net lending is, because firms are always repaying loans or


being forced, even worse, to repay loans. Those kind of figures we do


not have available. One of the problems in all of this is that


there is a huge gap in our knowledge about what is happening.


Banks make one claim and businesses make another claim. So, who is


right? Because of the gap in knowledge about what is actually


happening, we cannot be fully aware of what is happening. The one thing


I am fairly sure of and the Executive is looking at ways of


addressing this is that we're never getting that the time when the only


source of money for presences is going to be back lending. And


indeed, looking at the club that you showed there, we're going to


have taught it equity funding, were people take a stake in some of


these businesses, not necessarily a bad thing, because when they take a


stake in it, they will bring some expertise into the building, into


the business. Until could what sources we can get for the


secretary funds. The difficulty for the business people taking the risk


is that is not as same as a bank -- not the same as a bank. They could


not get an overdraft to tide him over. In many cases, because of the


venture's you're talking about, that is not the one that they need.


The need to have any put into the business which carries some of the


rest of the business. Don't forget, with a loan, all of the rest is


carried by the distance itself. If somebody put equity funds in, they


are making money available for all of which they could lose. For high


risk businesses, equity funding is one way of trying to make money


available and we have got to find new combinations. That means that


we do have to first of all pitch the banks as to what they are doing


for businesses. Don't forget, the need it and the long term and we


need banks also. We need them to be providing their oil in the economy.


We need to look at different ways of financing. A 50 million loan


guarantee fund has been introduced, which is designed to help us and


says over it does lending difficulties. Jimmy Gray, your


party called this week for greater fiscal powers. -- Jim McVeigh.


There's very little that the Executive can do to make the banks


will listen the purse strings. We want to see fiscal powers to be


devolved to this part of. At this particular time, companies need


more stimulus, investment. Just recently, Belfast City Council


announced a 150 million capital investment programme. It has been


criticised in the press for talking about money it does not actually


have yet if, in European funding that is not actually secure. Most


commentators have said it is real money for real projects. A


significant amount of air power is in -- growing in the economy. It is


not just about back money. The banks did to step up their mark. It


is a right that we feel at -- we find yourself in the crisis that we


are because at one stage they were too free with the lending and yet


they there is a danger -- a danger of strangling the recovery because


they are being offered Royd restrictive. We need everybody to


start thinking about how we invest and how we stimulate the economy.


Create new businesses and particularly a social economy


sector. Joanne Dobson, in terms of the Agriculture's -- sector -- the


agriculture sector, some businesses think they are it is sheltered from


did Lt. Agriculture and -- the agriculture industry is so


important and vital for Northern Ireland, I think banks should be do


more to support that. I'm thinking of foreign diversification schemes,


building up businesses. We have been held back and we need to help


them. The banks need to get in demand help him with their export


markets as well. Representing a large rural constituency, I know


that they are the lifeblood of up - - my constituency. My office is


inundated daily with the the very concerned local businesses which


are facing closure. I think banks and to do what they can to support


those existing businesses which contribute so much to do rural


towns. Also, you cut was very interesting with new young people


trying to get time to get presences off the ground. In my constituency,


we have a business park which is brilliant at incubating new


businesses and I think that should be rolled out across Northern


Ireland. If you missed any of this week's political comings and goings,


here's Martina Purdy with our snapshot in 60 seconds.


The Queen's Diamond Jubilee was the first top of debate at Stormont.


But what part will Sinn Fein play in the celebrations? Will it be a


part it spoiled by it churlish, vindictive Republican Beatles. --


vetoes. Golden handshakes for prison


officers wishing to escape, but they are free to return?


And what do you call it when the civil service goes ten times over


budget on a project? If it walks like an overrun and quirks like an


overrun, it is an overrun as far as the public is concerned.


Speaking of farm animals, "Don't have a cow," say politicians who


spent �70,000 on this art. Critics branded it a pile of Never mind.


Alliance gets a gaelgoir, is the Finance Minister next? Op next will


have their Member For antrum at speaking Irish? -- Antrim. Will you


be speaking Irish? I know that we're immune from it. I have no


difficulty with people speaking Irish, if they want. But the low


point of our politics is to communicate so if you're speaking


in a language that people do not understand, you are not


communicating. The other thing is that we need to pay for translators


and I think it is a waste of money. But a lot of people do understand


language that is being spoken. but the whole point of those


debates is the substantial part of the member's speech is not an Irish.


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