16/03/2014 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


Mark Carruthers looks at the political developments of the week and questions policy makers on the key issues.

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And with their thoughts on it all, the economist Paul Gosling and


academic Pete Shirlow. The loss of some 300 jobs at the


Driver and Vehicle Agency could be just the tip of the iceberg if


welfare reform is not implemented here, says the DUP. The former


Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson, has forecast that 1600 civil servants


employed by the Department of Work and Pensions could be in danger of


redundancy - but is he being alarmist? With me now is Mr Wilson's


successor as Finance Minister, Simon Hamilton. Thank you for joining us.


Let's start with the job losses in the DVA. Did the announcement that


we were losing 300 jobs - most of them in Coleraine - come as a


surprise? We think we knew for a long time that the jobs were under


threat. We are mounted a strong case. We knew that the government


and Westminster wanted to cut costs. Some of those jobs could have been


done in Coleraine and elsewhere in Northern Ireland. We have a good


track record of doing work like that. We also do it for benefits and


for Social Security as well. You made a robust case, you had a


petition of 40,000 signatures objecting to the change. It did not


make any difference. I think a good case was made. It was not as a prize


that the government were looking at this. It does show that this


decision has been not -- has not been taken here but has been taken


by Westminster. There will be a ruthlessness if we do not in


Northern Ireland do things in welfare reform. The situation could


get worse because in a speech on Thursday night, you warrant that the


next four years could eclipse the last four years. It is not the sort


of message I like to put out there, but I would feel my job if I do not


stress that is to be ball. We are getting lots of good evidence that


the economy is growing, unemployment is falling, the housing department


-- area is going in the right direction as well. We are about


halfway down that road of austerity and in Northern Ireland we will feel


the impact for the next four years. The Treasury has signalled the 70%


of expenditure for the next few years. What could that mean for


Northern Ireland? If you look at the projections for 2015-16 where we do


have data, we have ?100,000 taken out of our budget. That is coming on


the back of all the cuts that we have had to deal over the last


couple of years. It presents us with a choice, going for a crude front


line cut which can be designed to protect the centre of government we


can look at what government does and look at making changes more


effectively and efficiently. The government has made a promise to be


balanced the economy. government has made a promise to be


expect. We would expect to see a reduced dependence on public sector


employment. We have a large public sector in Northern Ireland. It has


been too large for too long. The private sector has to be grown, that


is why we are seeing a reduction in corporation tax. It is a challenge


looking from where we are coming from. A third of our employment is


in the public sector, it is hard to be balanced in terms of the private


sector. I am determined that public sector which has provided a cushion


of the last couple of years, the private sector has struggled in this


country. That can be seen as a drag. If it is reformed, if we can make it


improve, it will be a beneficial contribution to the economy. It is


pretty bad, Sammy Wilson, your predecessor highlighted the risk. He


said 1600 jobs are at risk in the civil service. Do you agree with


them? I do agree with him. I have been giving the same message over


the last few months. The lack of leadership shown by parties like


Sinn Fein are threatening... What about the DUP? We have achieved


quite a lot, we have flexibility that would ensure that the bedroom


tax does not affect people who are already getting hit by other benefit


cuts in Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein and others are refusing to move


forward. That is not just threatening further reductions, we


have lost ?15 million this year. We will lose more in the next few years


have lost ?15 million this year. We doing Social Security work on behalf


of customers in England and Wales could be lost. They are likely to be


lost. As we have seen with the DVA this week, why would an English


minister want to keep jobs in Northern Ireland. Interesting


figures. You have set aside ?50 million for the first penalty. It


goes up incrementally, it will increase to 1,000,000,005 years?


Yes. -- ?1 billion in five years. In five years it will have gone up.


Never mind what the Chancellor will pass on in terms of the cuts across


the whole of the UK. These are self-inflicted fines which have been


as a result of a lack of leadership from parties like Sinn Fein. It will


have a real affect on people on the ground. It will have a devastating


effect on public services Northern Ireland. It is not a lack of willing


this on my part or members of my party. -- willingness. We have been


making this clear to the SDLP, Sinn Fein and others. We cannot afford to


take this hit, vulnerable people will suffer because of the impact of


this on public service deliveries. Thank you very much. Paul, what do


you make of those figures? It demonstrates the difficulty we have


with devolution. Theoretically, although we have devolution,


politicians have very little choice to implement the vast majority of


the welfare reforms. to implement the vast majority of


to work together. I think that is what the focus in Northern Ireland


will be, not whether one particular party is blocking one particular


part of welfare reform. But an ability to work together to better


Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein take a very different view and says the


other parties are causing the problems. Somebody needs to do


something very quickly to sort things out. If there had been a


solution at around Richard Haass, these would sort themselves out. We


have a political system that is not functioning. The failure to reach an


agreement on welfare reforms just a symptom of that. Pete, how do you


see it? I think given the complex geography is we have, the impacts of


this will be even. It will affect constituents more. The other issue


is, what is the response to this in terms of the third sector and how we


develop other areas in the public sector so we have more than just the


argument about we said no, you said yes. We have seen success in other


areas, other parts of Europe where they have looked at different ways


to improve the economy. Do you see any sign of political will or desire


to make that choice? There is a lack of knowledge just -- not just with


politicians. We have not come to terms with our modern


Simon? Is there any truth in that politicians have been focused


elsewhere. We are putting ourselves at a disadvantage? What you


described as the other issues are incredibly important. How they fit


into the grand scheme of politics in Northern Ireland. Are they holding


us hostage? We have been in Stormont for seven, coming on eight years. We


have made progress in bread in the areas. This is not an issue we are


facing. Given the issues are steady is giving us, reality is starting to


bite. We will have to make difficult decisions, some that we may not like


in their entirety but we will have to do something about. What we have


done in terms of welfare of, and flexibility is that we have


negotiated, shows that we can use devolution to work again some of the


worst things we come against from 's -- Westminster. The cost of not


receiving and losing ?1 billion will make it incredibly difficult for us


to take better decisions on the cuts. This is not the only issue. We


need to improve social housing. We have blockages in other areas across


the reform. Thank you all very much indeed.


St Patrick's Day has turned into St Patrick's 'Week' it seems,


especially for politicians from this island who made their annual


pilgrimage to Washington for a series of high profile engagements.


The Taoiseach met President Obama while the First and Deputy First


Ministers met Vice President Biden. The Secretary of State was there too


and Martina Purdy asked her if she agrees with Richard Haass's comment


that the peace process here might not be quite as robust as people


think. No, I think there are in many parts of the


think. No, I think there are in many particular model to other parts of


the world. I genuinely think that political readership in Northern


Ireland should be proud of what they have achieved. But they also


recognise there is more work to be done. That is something that


President Clinton emphasised in his visit to Northern Ireland. It is


something the Prime Minister recognised. Ensuring that many more


children have ways out of their barriers based on religion. What I


have been taking to Washington as a message is that this is what has


been achieved in Northern Ireland, real progress. A recognition that


further work could yield tremendous further benefits and taking Northern


Ireland further forward, that is a message that has been


sympathetically received by Washington. It seems we are further


back than we were a few months ago. What is this that is of the six


cases, can you shed any light? The controversy around OTRs and what


they have been positive than a setback. There still appears to be a


willingness from the party of all political leaders in Northern


Ireland to work forward on this. I hope that the OTR crisis will not


see the party leaders meetings abandoned altogether. On those


excuses, we have set up an enquiry, headed up by one of the most senior


and well respected judges in the country. We are determined to


provide the facts of how the scheme operated. Including what the current


position is in relation to cases which


that London is not handling those excuses now? No, they are not.


The Secretary of State talking to Martina Purdy.


His interest in Northern Ireland was long-standing and he helped keep the


issue on the Westminster agenda - just one of the many tributes paid


to Tony Benn who died on Friday. During his long and sometimes


controversial political career, Mr Benn gave support to Sinn Fein and


advocated a united Ireland. But despite - or maybe because of that -


he opposed the Labour Party formally organising here. Mark Langhammer


campaigned for many years to change the policy and is with me now.


Welcome to the programme. You knew Tony Benn a little bit, you met him


a couple of times. I met him at a conference in Blackpool in a tearoom


with a senior education official. Who was from north Belfast and who


had access with all of these men. We met in context of the Labour Party


policy at the time. It was for unity by consent. It meant that the Labour


Party government had the vote. Ed Miliband was governor of Northern


Ireland. It was a colonial position. Eamon had spoken with two wings,


there was our view that Labour should get in and contest


elections. Those with the view that Labour should get out. How did he


justify it to you? He topped about socialism and Chrissie. How did he


see his position about a democratic one? -- he spoke about socialism and


democracy. He was a very humorous man. The one thing about Tony Benn,


he was very rooted in the movement. He was really from the Methodist


tradition than anything else. His He was really from the Methodist


of the day. He was a conviction politician, he was quite partisan


politician, I think. He was an national figure in the way that


nobody else in the Labour Party was. You agreed with them in terms of


left right politics. He was a bit of a hero in terms of that. Not really.


At the critical time, I think Tony Benn did the wrong thing. What he


said that he was a cynical as and he supported as a technology Minister,


Meridian. Whenever the Bevan Atlee consensus started to break down in


the 70s. It was about full employment, the NHS, putting people


first, essentially. At a certain stage the labour movement was


working at a surly. -- adversarial way. There was Barbara Kassel and


Ted Heath, at a critical time, he voted and went against bullet and


industrial democracy and effectively open the door to Thatcherism.


-- Bullock. Insofar as that he was able to bring Sinn Fein in from the


political called, was his contribution helpful or not? I think


it was a good contribution through his diaries. When Callaghan visited


Northern Ireland, you will remember that footage of him speaking out of


the window, at that stage Callaghan was introduced with the notion that


Labour should govern. When it got into the government -- Cabinet


meeting, the critical thing was avoiding responsibility.


The Foreign Minister said exactly the same thing, keep it arms length.


Keep it out there. If you did nothing else, you opened a window on


the adverse resolve the middle-class at that time. Let's hear from Paul


and Pete. at that time. Let's hear from Paul


He was to a lot of people and at that time. Let's hear from Paul


contradictions. There were a whole case of those. His stanza Northern


Ireland did change somewhat over time. He called for United stations


to come in here. He was when I met once in England many years ago he


did have a capacity to learn. He made a speech once that I was that,


it was talking about unionists as colonialists. I challenged him on


it. I said my family have been in in Northern Ireland and 500 years in


which time we have become indigence. He would engage with you, but he


would be sharp if he disagreed with you. -- indigenous. We have to


remember, an intellectual and capable man. But also had his


faults. I met Tony many times. He was a lovely man and should be


remembered for his engaging personality, the fact that he


brought ideas of democracy and accountability to the forefront and


we should remember that way. Let's take a look back at the week in 60


Seconds with Rosy Billingham. We are not going away. A message


from victims as a widower accounts to MLAs how she lost her husband. --


a Wood Hill. 17 bullets were put into his back. Richard has had a


stark warning for us in Washington. The passage of time will only create


an environment and social division will intensify, violence will


increase. Jonathan Powell joined the peace process stands by his claim


that the DUP knew about OTR course versions. What we want to try and do


is have politicians solving some of these problems of the past, not


trying to beat each other over the head over it. An enquiry into


trying to beat each other over the not sharing it very well.


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