26/02/2012 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


26/02/2012

Andrew Neil and Tara Mills present political news and debate, including former defence secretray Liam Fox in his first major television interview since leaving the cabinet.


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Well come. As we enter another big week for health reforms, is

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Labour's scaremongering? The shadow health secretary joins us for our

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top story. In his first major television interview since leaving

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cabinet, Liam Fox on why George Osborne should defend -- depend on

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A Lib Dem at Lord's and a troublesome Tory backbencher go

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head-to-head. Our political panel of the bright

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line things he to analyse British Are we doing enough to plug the

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2029 seconds

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Hello and welcome to Sunday Politics in Northern Ireland.

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Recession? What recession? Business leaders tell us they can't get the

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qualified people to fill many highly skilled jobs So are

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politicians doing enough to plug The executive are keen on making

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the economy central to government. ICT sector could be the engine of

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growth. And he may be about to lose his own job, but can the Minister

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for Employment deliver on his promise to pitch Northern Ireland

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as a player in a global market But first with me for the next 20

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minutes former Employment Minister Sir Reg Empey and Aoife Clarke from

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the CBI. Is Peter Robinson right? It is not a news story because it

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has been an ongoing issue. 10 years ago, I carried out some work on how

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much coverage a bad news story on the economy got and it won every

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time. It is easier to portray a closure of a factory with a

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reporter outside it and it is to explain to people than another half

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a dozen people got jobs. There is a tendency to look at the glass being

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half empty and it is not new. course, a factory closing has a

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massive impact on the workers and others. We cannot ignore it, can

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we? No. But I do think, at times, we do not get the balance right and

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that is a difficulty in broadcasting. There is a bit of an

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emphasis on the dying side. I have sympathy with what Peter said in

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that regard. Peter Robinson appears to be

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favouring a hear no evil see no evil approach but some people argue

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that had the media taking a more proactive role in the banking

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crisis we wouldn't be a here and now? We live in a democracy,

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thankfully. If there is bad news stories for the economy people need

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to know about them. Maybe the sophistication of some of our

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stories isn't where it could be. For example, some of the global

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barometers on infrastructure or skills and maybe there is not

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enough co-operation. We would like to see more of that to bring some

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new ones to the story. unemployment figures, 18% youth

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unemployment, which means 82% are in some employment or training. You

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cannot tell that in a different way, can you? No. Ultimately, the figure

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of those who aren't in work is catastrophic and it needs to come

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down. It would be doing a disservice to the people in

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Northern Ireland if we were to flip those figures just for a positive

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headline. Amidst the gloom of rising

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unemployment, here's some good news. A survey by a recruitment firm says

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Belfast is one of the best cities in the UK to get a job in the IT

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sector. But there's a reason for that, we've got a serious lack of

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qualified people. In a moment, we'll be talking to the Employment

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Minister, Stephen Farry, but first Who says science isn't fun? STEM

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subject, science, technology, engineering and maths are

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celebrated here at the centre here. It is all about putting the wow

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factor backing for students. But too many students are not choosing

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STEM subject. An American insurance company, at Allstate, employs many

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people here but they cannot find the right people with skills.

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getting close to crisis levels and it is disabling asked to grow our

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business. I think the executive are keen on making the economy part of

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what is central to government. The ICT sector could be the engine for

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growth. It is ironic when you have this sort of situation coinciding

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with a substantial level of unemployment. Some of this is not

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surprising when you look at the fact that the economy is changing

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and the education and training system will struggle to keep pace

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with that. At least 15,000 people work in the technology sector here

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and thousands more use computer skills in other businesses. There

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are around 700 ICT companies and international investors. More than

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60% have a degree and there are around 1000 graduates per year in

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ICT and related subjects. Employers say more graduates are needed and

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they are calling on government to go a step further. We need to set

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targets for the number of science and technology A-levels people do.

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The number of people who do maths as well. A good starting point

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would be 30% or 40% of subjects in STEM subjects were the first choice

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for the students at Dungannon College. People weren't interested

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in science as it was seen as difficult or uncool. Now, with

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media and TV shows, I think it is becoming more exciting and

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appealing. I wanted to do i t fall time because I have a passion for

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it. I saw the course here and decided I would apply. Some

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employers have called for a cut in tuition fees for science and

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technology degrees. It would encourage more students to study

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the subject because there are a lot of jobs revolving around science.

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South-west College has bent over half a million pounds creating

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islands dedicated first STEM centre designed to sell the merits of

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science and technology. There are a lot of teachers teaching to A-level

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standard but, generally, and in certain parts of Europe also, there

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hasn't been enough focus on engineering, manufacturing and

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product design. Tradition the, we were good and we probably came --

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became complacent now we have to get back in there and be the best

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The minister Stephen Farry joins us. What about the idea of a fees cut

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or a bursary to encourage students to study the subject that will grow

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the economy, --? We are making progress. Let me just say first of

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all, I recognise that skills are the main driver of the economy here.

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We are keen to make - might get the message to investors overseas and

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local employers that we are keen to invest in skills. Certainly, during

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my term of office, I have bin throw off -- proactive in identifying

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where we have skill shortages or mismatches. In terms of STEM

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subjects, I increased the number of places in local universities and

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they will be in STEM subjects. We have to send the message to the

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education system itself and try to encourage students to consider

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careers in areas where there will be jobs in the future. We need to

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get information into the careers advisory enough. But we are at

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least 1000 graduates a short every year so it needs to be tackled this

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year? Things take time to turn around. Do we have the time? I am

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moving as quickly as I can and being proactive. This year, I set-

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up and ICT working group. I was listening to voices coming through

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from employers and we are bringing key players around the table,

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including universities and the further education sector to see

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what actions we can take to turn around what we are doing in terms

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of the ICT sector. We have a strong base already and there are

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indications we can do more. I am very much up for seizing the

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opportunity. Some people might argue there is very little action.

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While everyone is talking about the short, medium and long-term,

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companies invest elsewhere. Companies are still coming in. The

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New York Stock Exchange has come in. More companies are interested in

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coming. We have really qualified people and that is why companies

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looked to come here so we are not failing in that regard. The key

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issue is what we can do more of to seize the opportunity. I have

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commissioned research showing what other specific skill needs we have

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to invest in to take advantage of lower corporation tax. Bill

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McGuinness, one government adviser and a successful businessman, says

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beat skills shortage issue is as important to our economy as a cut

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in corporation tax. The two going harmony. The corporation tax it

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looks at the demand side. Equally, it doesn't happen in a vacuum and

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we have to invest in the driver's of the economy. Skills and research

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and development, for example. have almost been in post for a year.

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What has changed in that time and is this necessarily a criticism of

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the Department? Of things to slow? No. We have a department that is

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singularly focused on skills. We invest in more places in terms of

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universities, we listen to employers and take action in terms

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of what has to happen in the ICT sector. Also we prioritise tourism

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as a priority scale. There are opportunities we have their for the

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rest of the decade. As a department, and given the size of Northern

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Ireland, we have the opportunity to be flexible and responsive. They

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cut in fees would be a straight forward weight to incentive vies

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students into proper degrees that really matter? We have cut fees and

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we have the lowest fees in the UK. We have sent a clear message we

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want people to participate in higher education and that doesn't

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just mean University but things like level for apprenticeships. In

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ICT, we need graduates and people with more and more high-level

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skills across a broad spectrum in higher-education and

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apprenticeships -- further education. Apprenticeships are

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potentially disappearing. How do you think it will be desired -

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might divided up? There are important challenges out there. The

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core message to the future has to be to maintain a sale bit -- single

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skills narrative here. If we fragment our skills. Like putting

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off apprenticeships, we will seriously undermine our skills are

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offering and send a negative message. Should we merge to

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departments and have one department for the economy? We are open for a

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proper rationalisation. A single department of the economy makes

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sense. We have to make sure we get there in a proper way that works

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for the economy and does not undermine it.

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Coming to you. You are reform employment minister. Was there a

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lack of vision during your tenure? We have been here before. One of

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the first things I did was attend a meeting where all of the ICT people

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were around the table telling me how many places they needed and

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what we needed to do to help them get those people. One of the things

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that came out of that was the idea of conversion courses where someone

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with a degree can convert to an ICT qualification. We provided up to

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6000 points a year for eight course. We ran two or three of these but

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people could not get jobs at the end so it petered out. The demand

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for people ebbs and flows according to the economy. Employers and Bro

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McFerran has been a Brit as far as Northern Ireland is concerned, -- a

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brick, but what they pay is an issue. Building up enough of a

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stock of people, the last thing you want to do is convert them took IT

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qualifications and in the next minute, they are being made

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redundant. We have to strike a balance. A lot of the initiatives

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that were mentioned, the department is quick at doing that, but the

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fact is there is not a consistent demand. It comes and goes and

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having a pool of labour at the right time is a trick. You advise

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the CBI. How far behind are we? wouldn't say we are particularly

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behind with reference to London. This is one of the things, matching

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supply and demand in a fast- changing labour market, it is a

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challenge. I worked on our Queen's of industry campaign and skills is

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a key issue as well as tax and intellectual property. We were

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researching our paper last year and we looked at other countries that

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are doing well, like Singapore, but no one is doing it perfectly. The

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executive needs to keep their foot on the gas a and make sure that

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they keep in touch with industry. If you focus on one area, you may

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drop the ball in another area. there is an acceptance that the old

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style of jobs are gone and we have to feel -- fill the gap and give

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people a job. We are looking at welfare reform by pushing people

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off benefits and into work? Absolutely. There are some concerns

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about the global backdrop which isn't good. Various challenges

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within skills and the interface between that and welfare reform. It

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is very complex but there are some enduring concerns about how that

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will pay out -- play it in the men -- labour market. It is a short

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time frame as to how it will impact on the ground. We would like to see

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more clarity. He spoke about the eggs and flows, surely a job for

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some space of time is better than no job? Sure. We are seized about

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the problem we have with young people out of work. For some people

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it is a structural problem but for many it is a reflection of the

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economic downturn. The rate for young people is higher than for the

:52:07.:52:11.

population as a whole as they suffer from inexperience. If you

:52:11.:52:15.

can't get on the first run of the ladder, it is difficult. We are

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trying to put together a new programme to give young people the

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opportunity to get experience. It is important business plays a role

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and we have a positive relations with the CBI air and other bodies

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in that regard. Now you are on the outside of the government looking

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in, could they do things differently?

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The only thing I would be critical of in student fees is that I would

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have put them up a bit and used the money for exactly the sort of

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things Steven is talking about. In Spain, youth unemployment is double

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what it is here. If you have missed anything in the

:52:56.:53:05.

world of politics, here is a catch- Monday kick-off. Sports Minister

:53:05.:53:15.

doesn't like this game of politics. No love lost but plenty of love

:53:15.:53:19.

when this MLA it revealed her son's fight for life. Your life is on

:53:19.:53:22.

hold when you are dealing with renal failure. Normal family life

:53:22.:53:28.

goes out the window. Martin McGuinness was asked by a a a

:53:28.:53:33.

father to find out the truth about his son's murder. Tell us to

:53:33.:53:39.

Dunecht. Second in command as far as I was told. Alex Attwood gets in

:53:39.:53:43.

the swing for a new course and why this Republican likes his bit to

:53:43.:53:48.

get more women elected. We operate within a chamber many of us feel is

:53:48.:53:53.

the equivalent of Jurassic Park. God gave us to its ears and one

:53:53.:54:03.
:54:03.:54:16.

mouth. David Trimble's return to On the female quotas, you have to

:54:16.:54:21.

MLAs instalment. Are quite is a good idea? No, the atmosphere has

:54:21.:54:26.

to be made more female-friendly rather than quotas. I think most

:54:26.:54:30.

women want to get to the top on merit and if you have quotas, the

:54:30.:54:35.

danger is people may say they got there because of their agenda. What

:54:35.:54:44.

we have to do, in the parties, and I tried when I was leader, to put

:54:44.:54:47.

in education, training and encourage people. The same applies

:54:47.:54:54.

in getting them to apply for public appointments. We did not get enough

:54:54.:54:58.

applicants when I was on the board and we had to approach women to ask

:54:58.:55:03.

them to apply. How would affirmative action go down as in

:55:03.:55:06.

the business walk -- world there is a shortage of women in the

:55:06.:55:12.

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