21/10/2012 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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In Northern Ireland: the AA, may was the slogan. After Ulster are to


protests, we asked politicians, how are the improving the local


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Hello and welcome to Sunday Politics. It's been another bad


week on the economic front with unemployment here up once again


while it is on its way down in the rest of the UK. The issue is on the


agenda in the Assembly tomorrow. The SDLP's Patsy McGlone and Sinn


Fein's Daithi McKay join me to discuss what, if anything, they can


do about it. And after trade unions lead a rally against austerity in


Belfast, we find out how the cuts are now affecting people's lives.


63,400 people are jobless here and a large number of them are young


people. The SDLP is bringing a motion to the Assembly tomorrow, so


what is its plan of attack? With me are the SDLP's Patsy McGlone, chair


of the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee, and Sinn


Fein's Daithi McKay, who chairs the Finance Committee. You have got a


plan, Patsy McGlone, and you have brought this motion to the Assembly.


What is it? There are a number of issues we must look at and we have


spent time on this matter and I am the chair of the working group and


we have had deliberation. Firstly, we want to see increased support


for small and medium-sized businesses. We want to see a


sharpening of research, development and innovation because that is


where growth is. I was talking to a director of a major firm in Belfast


who cannot get people to work in software development and they have


to go to Poland. That involves skills and different departments at


the Assembly, enterprise, trade and investment, education, working


collaboratively for the future to offer those many young people


currently unemployed and 21% are in that 18 - 24 or year-old age


bracket. You are not saying anything I have not heard


politicians say six years ago. is about bringing sharpened focus.


What does that mean? Holding the Minister to account and I am


disappointed that Invest NI could not say it within their remit to


have somebody come along today. They need to sharpen up. I'll give


you an example. We did and on it in the constituency and what I'm


hearing from small businesses is they cannot get access to


information about funding, which is there. At the EU and local level.


They cannot get information. At the community, we had a report into


research, innovation and development and we held the


department to account and we have seen the proposals being brought


forward to address those measures. Is there anything in the SDLP


motion that will be tabled tomorrow that you disagree with? The debate


has to be welcomed, regarding the New Deal and the jobs plan. One of


the main issues in the jobs plan was chasing up the issue of


Corporation Tax and the transfer of that. The executive in its entirety


are not only a feeling of the tools they have but also, we only have


half of the economic levers. We need to look at boosting eco-


tourism and opening up new flights and the legislation going into


place regarding the New York flight, we need to research how the other


band things will be affected if this was abolished. Or what is your


assessment of why the economy in Northern Ireland seems to be


lagging behind elsewhere. We are above average in terms of


unemployment figures at the moment. It possibly seems to me that the


corners have been turned elsewhere but not here. It is a very


different economy and we need different economic policies to


adapt. The certainly, if we are looking for economic recovery, the


way to do that isn't by cutting so deep that the economy grinds to a


halt. Obviously, not only will we be pursuing the British government


in terms of the likes of Corporation Tax but also ensuring


that we invest in the whole economy on projects like the roads,


Altnagelvin and things that the executive are pushing for. A what


is your assessment of why be you are lagging behind? We have to


sharpen up in what we do much better. That is a local government


level thing and through the investment strategy but also,


through the week we had an internal party meeting and we saw the level


and scale of patents in Northern Ireland, new products, which can be


put into the overseas market to increase jobs to Northern Ireland,


and that is very low. That reflects on our inability to have research,


innovation and development at the scale that is needed. You mentioned


Corporation Tax. Let's talk about that. We know that it is a Prime


Minister's call as to whether local politicians will be given power


over Corporation Tax rates. Peter Robinson spoke to us when he


returned from his final meeting with the Treasury and asked them


the burning question. How much? They depends on the mechanism. You


might start on Treasury figures then the 300 - �400 million mark


but using the mechanism the Treasury wants, it could even go up


to around �700 million within the next 15 years. The Secretary of


State in her first interview sitting in that's it said she was


going to be a persuader for this development. Is that how she played


it? Teresa and her predecessor, Owen Paterson, have been supportive


and they have been speaking to the business community in Northern


Ireland and they can also saying a the impact that we are undergoing


with the recession and I went to the meeting today through the


Belfast Telegraph on the table to give them some sense of the


difficulties we were facing and I was in to getting at furrier


sectors that we're down by considerable percentages. If it was


right when the Prime Minister came to Northern Ireland when we had a


lower level of unemployment, it must be even more right that we


have the issue addressed now. you had to call it, do you think


this is going to happen? We have done our work. It is now with the


Prime Minister and he indicated stoutly during a campaign that he


was in favour of rebalancing the economy. He had his ministers


extending a very considerable amount of time and energy on this


and officials have been working on this for years. I hope that is the


road they will take. There were four ministers representing today,


three from the DUP and one of them from Sinn Fein. Were you singing of


the same song sheet? Completely. And we have been at all meetings.


We recognise that it is advantageous and it has to be done


in the context of something that is affordable. But all of us were


arguing the same case. That was Peter Robinson talking to be. The


First Minister says he were all singing from the same song sheet.


One when the Prime Minister decide in one month. What is Plan B? What


if they say no or, it is deemed too expensive? We then need to focus on


the first plan. Within a number of weeks we will have the decision


from the British Prime Minister regarding this. That all the eggs


in one basket? No, there are other avenues. This is hundreds of


millions. Air Passenger Duty is interesting, PriceWaterhouseCoopers


said it could be equally as beneficial to the economy as


Corporation Tax. The British Prime Minister has a decision and he will


make a political decision based on what is going on in Scotland.


has to happen? Yes. We have to bear in mind that Corporation Tax is


only one that lever. Companies who wish to invest in the North will


want to see a very highly skilled workforce, good infrastructure.


has been built into this enormous issue. So many people have so much


riding on this because they see the potential that exists to attract


overseas investment and they see us on a par, able to compete with, the


rest of the island of Ireland. It is only one lever. A very expensive


one, it could cost hundreds of millions. It is a big gamble.


it has the potential to generate thousands of jobs, increased


expenditure in the economy. It is probably arrest that has to be


taken. Let's talk about something else. The First Minister thought


that Sinn Fein is looking over its shoulder at the SDLP and that is


paralysing decision-making. Are you? The First Minister is having


something and a hissy fit regarding this. I am obviously not looking


over my shoulder today. When we talk about the tail wagging the dog,


we have seen the Orange Order was wagging the DUP. He has some


chicken coming out with comments like that. Are you wagging her tail


and that is wagging the big Sinn Fein dog? I am proud to stand up


for people and their rights. We have taken a motion of no


confidence, which eventually Sinn Fein supported us with. And we set


up for people's rights and welfare reform and introduced a petition of


concern which Sinn Fein it back. You support is an elegy. It is good


news a Sinn Fein is looking over its shoulder? FEC is a standing up


for our constituents, that is what we are elected to do. We shall


discuss this further later on. Thank you both very much. MLAs will


discuss the controversial Welfare Reform Bill once again tomorrow. It


follows a march and rally in Belfast yesterday against


government austerity measures. Around 1,000 people took part in


what was part of a series of demonstrations across the UK


organised by trade unions. Seamus McAleavey of NICVA is with me.


people making these cuts, they will propose changes to welfare, they


will impoverish the workers who are dependent on welfare. The people


who are not working, they depend on benefits, and they will have


changes imposed upon them not by Westminster but Stormont. If that


is what the politicians have to wonder stand. -- understand. Do


demonstrations make any difference in the long run? It showed people


the opposition the rest are some aspects of government policy. But


it does require more. Our organisations and the community and


voluntary sector have been lobbying and influencing government at


Westminster and local level regarding these issues. The biggest


changes that will take place regarding the welfare system, we


have had a lot of them put to get something that suits Northern


Ireland. The situation is difficult and unemployment is up and output


is down. People tell us that the welfare reform could have a bigger


impact on people in Northern Ireland than it might have


elsewhere. Disabled groups, for example. How bad is the situation


and how much worse might get? reckon about �400 million is coming


out of the system and we will see reductions in housing benefits and


things like that. Our situation in Northern Ireland is very different


than in England. We have an economy that is at least 66% driven by the


public sector and they want to reduce jobs. One of the big


problems will be finding work for unemployed people and we are saying


to the Northern Ireland Assembly regarding welfare reform and the


new unemployment programme, if we simply copied the mechanics of


these things as carried out in England, there isn't much point in


having to volition. There has to be a local solution? Yes, we have to


think about the greater difficulties there will be


regarding helping people find employment. The cleric, we are


trying to attract jobs in Northern Ireland and we have to be able to


match the skills. Do you get a sense that local politicians are


aware of that and agree with you and have the knowledge and skills


necessary to actually get this right in terms of legislating?


think they do. We have been talking and we have talked to Lord Freud


regarding the English situation and Nelson McCausland and they can


certainly hear those forces. We need to produce the mechanics that


will make things suit Northern Ireland. Let's hear from the


politicians. Do you accept his. But you just cannot take the British


template and superimpose it on to Northern Ireland? The absolutely


not, we have a very long legacy of problems here and does reflect the


benefits. For example, people on disability and living allowance.


That reflects a lot of the problems that we have had and the legacy of


the path -- the past. That has affected in any other stress issues.


But the overall policy drive is the same as across the water? Posterity.


-- austerity. We did try but Sinn Fein would not support us. There is


a human face to this. We cannot ignore that. We do advocacy work on


Tribunals and we see the face of this. People in distress who have


had their benefits cut. That is the first point. We cannot ignore that.


Daithi McKay, you will not be an advocate for any Great British


solution. But let me put the same question to you. There is very


little you can do? You can talk a lot and bang the table but you


cannot magically produce hundreds of millions of pounds? We need to


be imaginative. In terms of the welfare, it was interesting is a


minister did not vote in the Welfare Reform Bill bit to which


she refers. We have to mature. There are a number of stages still


to come and there are other opportunities to be presented. But


we need to focus on mitigating as much as we can against the impact


of these cuts. What is your thought when you hear these politicians


talking? They say they take on board what you think. But can they


do anything? They cannot do a lot about the budget. Many of the


things that come up across Northern Ireland is the fear of the monthly


payment. We would like to see people paid more often than that.


At least fortnightly. The notion that the Government in the UK has


had, creating monthly payment makes it look as if you are in work.


People who earn less than �10,000 do not get paid monthly. But given


the overall policy drive, that is a tidy note in the margins? The jury


will be out regarding this. I say this as an observation, we need a


local solution. Thank you very much indeed. Corporation tax, adoption


and razor blades all feature as Chris Page takes a look back at the


political week in 60 seconds. Ministers had their final meeting


with the London governments about devolving Corporation Tax. The


decision is down to David Cameron. Peter Robinson accused Sinn Fein


are taking a responsible positions on important issues but said the


DUP were getting on OK with their main partners. If you had set the


Conservative and Labour Party down and said, he will have to work


together, I do not believe they would have done as well as we have.


Dozens of demonstrators on both sides of the argument came to


Belfast as Northern Ireland's first private abortion clinic opens. The


High Court ruled that gay and unmarried couples should be able to


adopt. If the Health Minister said he was going to appeal that


judgment. After angry opposition, the Environment Minister said he


would not impose any national park in the Mourne Mountains and Danny


Kennedy led us into one of the secrets of his successful political


career. Do not underestimate my own inability to talk at length! One


very little! The it Danny Kennedy let the cat out of the bag, there?


He can stand up on his hind legs for a very long time and talk about


nothing? That isn't something I would do. The but we have a welfare


did it a couple of weeks ago that went on to midnight and there were


enough long-winded politicians in that particular scenario.


secret of success, talking about nothing? We would think that we do


not talk about nothing but many others thing we do. I would like to


think, particular debate on welfare reform, if any members were coming


in with very sincerely held views and they try to work to keep it --


articulate the needs of the community. And he was smiling when


he said that, he was being ironic. Earlier, you said you have the


option of a petition of concern as far as the Welfare Reform Bill is


concerned? You could kill it in the water? There are a number of stages


to go through and the Social Development Committee or are


currently considering this and welcome back for consideration


before it is concluded. That is an option. You cannot and then we have


a bigger problem? A we don't mean to kill it, there are a number of


other opportunities that we can put forward that will not reach parity


as the DUP is so concerned about. And we can improve the lives of


those who represent. You are a member of the Justice Committee,


what about the offer to assist if there is an investigation into


Marie Stopes? I have no problem with that, the Attorney-General is


a very qualified man. Thank you. That's it for now. You can see this


programme again tonight at 10:30pm over on BBC Two. Join me for


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