07/03/2012 Northern Ireland Question Time


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Welcome to Daily Politics from Northern Ireland. Commemorating the


past and present, looking at the economic future, just some of the


topics up for discussion today. As ever, our political Reporter


Stephen Walker joins us in the studio. Looking down the question


list, one thing strikes me, there are no local MPs on the list, but


that will not stop them leaping in on the back with supplementary


questions. Sometimes you get 14 or 15 questioned, we have got 13 down


to be discussed. Not one local MP on that list but that doesn't stop


our MPs from getting in. As you would expect, a whole range of


issues, the question about the Bill of Rights, economy, security


situation and an interesting question about the contribution


local people make to the armed forces. You feel the Pat Finucane


case might come up. It is listed, and it is a subject that comes up


in Parliament quite regularly. It comes as this legal review into the


murder of Pat Finucane, and Valerie Vaz, a Labour MP, she wants to know


what representations the Secretary of State has received from the


Finucane family. They still want a full public inquiry. I would expect


the SDLP to rise there, possibly the fallen be trying to get a


mention. The economy. Just to make it clear to viewers there are


various areas of government that are not default and hence decisions


are still made at Westminster on our behalf. The economy and tax at


all up being one of them. We have been having this ongoing debate. I


expect corporation tax will be mentioned. Basically to find out


how much it would cost if those tax powers were devolved to Northern


Ireland, what that would mean. Critics are saying they are blowing


Once this research has been done and the paperwork is put in front


of people like the First Minister and then an economic decision will


have to be taken and a political decision. The question will be is


it worth reducing corporation tax and how much is that going to


affect the bloc grant? As I mentioned, commemorating the past


is always an agonising problem. have the anniversary of the sinking


of the Titanic. We have got the have got the Easter rising, the


battle of the Somme. All kinds of anniversaries are upon us. We can't


look at these in a piece meal way there must be some joined up


thinking involving Belfast and London. Dublin too? Yes, there is a


high powered committee that has been set up from the Dail involving


one of our local historians, so the Irish Government are getting


historians involved. Maybe that is something Stormont and Westminster


may want to think about. I expect them to hone in on this subject.


Thank you. Now let's cross to the house where I think Owen Paterson


is on his feet, the secondary of state. We will work with our


partners in the SS -- PSNI and the Irish Government to counter this


threat. Thank you for that answer. I welcome the steps that have been


take on the reduce the number of terrorist attacks in Northern


Ireland. But as my honourable friend said, in his recent


ministerial statement, violent activity is still being undertaken


by loyalist organisation. What I like to pay tribute to my right


Honourable friend who has done a huge amount of work talking to a


number of loyalist groups. There is absolutely no place for organised


crime or violence in Northern Ireland. I would appeal for


everybody to work closely with the PSNI and pursue whatever political


gains they have by peaceful democratic means. Does my


Honourable Friend share my concerns what would be a high profile year


for the United Kingdom and for hollow given the number of Olympic


events happening in and around my constituency the thick -- the


security threat to Northern Ireland remains severe? He is quite right


to draw attention to the Olympics, which presenters with a wonderful


opportunity to sell this country. Northern Ireland related terrorism


in Great Britain is graded substantial, and I work closely


with my Right Honourable Friend the Home Secretary, as will the justice


minister on Monday, and we are determined to ensure that they


should be no threat to a peaceful and successful Olympics.


Secretary of State will be aware of a murder in Londonderry in recent


weeks and also the continuing targeting by dissident republicans


of a number of people, not just in the border area that across


Northern Ireland. Deceit condemn in discussions he has had the


necessary resources to deal with this escalating problem are in


place? -- does he confirmed. I am grateful for that question.


Mentioning this disgusting and deplorable murder I spoke to the


Chief Constable this morning, and I would remind the Honourable Member


we did agree a special package of �200 million at the request of the


chief constable, and he did say in April last year we have the


resources, resilience, and we have the commitment. When he recently


acquitted those charged with the murder of Tom English Mr Justice


Gillen reminded us the use of accomplice evidence is long


established and in the words of his Dutchman's, a price worth paying in


the interests of protecting the public from major criminality. Will


the Secretary of State confirm the relevant provisions of the 2005


serious organised crime Police Act remain available to the PSNI?


grateful for that question. I would check the exact details of those


provisions and get back to him. Does my Honourable Friend agree it


is impossible to engage in dialogue with dissident organisations who


showed no signs of announcing their criminal or violent acts? There is


absolutely no excuse to pursue political aims by anything other


than peaceful democratic means through the Assembly and


representation in this Parliament. There are small numbers of groups


who do not accept the current settlement and we are determined to


bed down on a. Can I say to the Secretary of State we will stand


with him in tackling any threat to security in Northern Ireland. In


tackling terrorism resources for the police and security services


are paramount. Would he agreed that many community and voluntary


organisations in Northern Ireland contribute hugely to a peaceful and


stable society and can he therefore update the house on progress the


funding bids to the European Union so helpful to maintaining that


security? I am grateful for his continuous support on these


security issues which must remain a bilateral issue. On the community


funds and project, I entirely agree with him. What we are putting on


security can only contain the problem. The long-term solution is


to get deeper into these communities and they did have a


meeting with the First Minister and Deputy First Minister to look at


potential funds which would look -- come from our existing budgets.


I thank the Secretary of State for his response. The financial support


for communities currently almost �300 million is crucial to


combating paramedic treat activity, maintaining she Curitiba and


ensuring we continued to build on piece for the future and can he


give it to the aged matter it deserves? -- urgent matter. We talk


about this frequently, not just with us best minister but also the


justice minister -- with the First Minister. A lot of these projects


are in default towns. -- a devolved hands. These projects need to carry


on. This government firmly believes in the United Kingdom and that what


we can achieve together will also be much more than we can ever do a


park. As my Right Honourable Friend the Prime Minister has made clear,


we will always back the democratic wishes of the people of Northern


Ireland. I am extremely grateful, does my right honourable friend


agree the union ensures all partners of the UK can be part of a


larger and stronger economy? Honourable Friend is absolutely


right. With 2.8% off the UK population Northern Ireland benefit


enormously from being part of the United Kingdom. Yesterday we saw a


poll conducted by Queen's University showing 82.6% wanted to


remain in the UK, and only 17.4% wanted a united Ireland. Does the


Secretary of State except there are enormous advantages and benefits


for Northern Ireland being part of the United Kingdom, but it is also


the case United Kingdom is strengthened and has been


strengthened and enriched by the contribution of the people of


Northern Ireland and other constituent nations of the United


Kingdom as well, not just in the willing and voluntary service of so


many generations of Ulster men and women in her Majesty's forces?


would entirely endorse his comments. Right across every sphere of


national life there are glorious examples, spectacularly in golf


this week, where individuals from Northern Ireland had shone. I am


very grateful to the Secretary of State's endorsement of the Union


with Northern Ireland and he rightly refers to the great


sporting success of our golfers and indeed a snigger plays. He referred


to the referendum, the opinion poll done by Queen's University, we


should over 80% of people wanting to stay within the United Kingdom,


so will he confirm out to the House that he has no intention whatsoever


of organising any kind of poll in Northern Ireland given the settled


position of the people there and the levels of satisfaction with the


current constitutional settlement? I think I can reassure the Right


Honourable Gentleman. I have the right to call a poll when I feel


like it, an obligation to call a poll when there is a clear


indication there would be a vote for the united Ireland. As 17.4%


and the fact I have hardly had a single phone call, e-mail, letter


on this issue, I have no intention of calling a poll at the moment and


we should concentrate on the economy and building a shared


future, that is the real priority for the people of Northern Ireland.


Can my Right Honourable Friend the Secretary of State in addition to


what he said about the economy can firm as well as the very many great


advantages There are to all parts of the United Kingdom being in the


union, he could not be sustained with any different constitutional


arrangement regardless of this destination of those problems?


chairman of the select committee made a telling point. Public


spending per head is currently �10,706 per head, 25% higher than


in England. That is the huge advantage of Northern Ireland, it


gives us time to rebalance the economy and shows is the absolute


key role of the membership the UK place for people in Northern


Ireland. For over to the words of the Right Honourable Gentleman from


Belfast North, one of the benefits of the United Kingdom as a common


defence policy to which men and women in Northern Ireland have


contributed greatly, how does the Secretary of State feel on today of


all days, about men and women in military personnel being made


compulsorily the Dalton -- I'm a supporter of military in


Northern Ireland. What I feel is we inherited a complete mess from the


Government opposite. We're borrowing �232,000 a minute and


sadly difficult decisions have had to be made on this side of the


House. No 3. In September my honourable friend the Secretary of


State wrote to party leaders suggesting the Assembly taking


forward work in this area. We have yet to receive a response.


Ministers have continued to discuss with high man rights organisations


since then. -- human. The minister will know the establishment of a


bill of rights for Northern Ireland is part of the Good Friday


agreement and it is a matter for all people. Will he accept he and


the Secretary of State have a duty to bring about consensus, rather


than simply listen the what people are saying and not do what it is


right and prop tore do to get a consensus in Northern Ireland.


the House will want to acknowledge the part the honourable gentleman


played during the Good Friday agreement. But that was the time he


should have pursued it and not squandered the good will he


generated at that time. Let me give him three examples of problem.


First, we wrote to the first and deputy First Minister, the


Secretary of State in September. He has had no reply. Secondly, the


minister, the Secretary of State for justice, has writ on the the


office of First Minister asking to nominate someone to the commission


in March. They have had no reply either. So we do face a problem.


There is no lack of consensus and we see no way forward without that.


This work moving towards a bill of rights in Northern Ireland may have


a useful role to play in the Government's determination to do


something about a significant reform of the European court of


human rights? Well there is as my honourable friend knows a UK


commission being set up to look into this. We want Northern Ireland


to be represented on that commission. And equally we believe


that commission could provide the necessary vehicle for rights


particular to Northern Ireland to be included in. Has the Secretary


of State had any meetings or correspondence with other groups


who are concerned in a bill of rates, such as churches, advice


bureaus or Women's Aid? We meet the church leaders frequently. The


Secretary of State and I met with the UN deputy high commissioner for


human right and discussed this with her. You can't go much higher than


that. As well as corresponding with leaders of political party in naird,


I wonder if the minister would say whether the Attorney General


believes that Northern Ireland needs a separate bill of rights?


Well, he came to Northern Ireland several times in opposition and he


always was of the belief, as we are, that any rights particular to


Northern Ireland should be tagged on to any UK bill of rights. I


should say the honourable lady will be aware this lack of consensus I


was alluding to, in a debate in the Assembly last year, member voted by


46 to 42 against a motion for a bill of rights. The answer to the


question earlier, that is an example of the problem we face. We


cannot impose. It has to come from within Northern Ireland and when it


does we will respond. No 4. I have not received any representations


from the family since the establishment of Pat fin knew can


review. The Secretary of state will know the family's solicitors, the


Irish Government and the western agreement have called for a public


inquiry. Could I urge the Secretary of State to meet with the Finucane


familiar Suloy the truth and reconciliation of this murder can


be completed? I'm grateful for that question. We have gone over this in


some detail. In written statements and in an oral statement a couple


of months ago. I wrote to Mrs Finucane and met her in November


2010. I established with her that we wanted to get to the truth. And


I think the method that we have chosen, a review of the huge


archive, that is more extensive than that available to Saville is a


quicker way of getting to the truth and will deliver satisfyion to the


family. I'm more than happy to meet the family and hope the family will


work the review. We need to speed up the exchanges. When does my


honourable friend expect to receive sir Des month Da vil is a's final


report? Sir Des month Da Silva was asked to report by December this


year. When was the Secretary of State made aware that the legal


representatives of the Finucane family were indicating they would


accept a public inquiry under the 2005 act? Did he inform the Prime


Minister of this and who decided to head off that credible option at


the pass at the Downing Street meeting? Well we discussed all


sorts of options as to how we would arrive at the truth in the fastest


possible manner. My public statements are on the record. There


is a judicial review process going on. I think the full details will


be revealed in that. In dealing with victims' issues such as the


Finucane murder is he alarmed in other cases, such as the murder of


Tommy English, the police appointed an independent oversight team for


the first time ever into a British case of police investigation?


Comprising of a political apointee and an English barrister. Does he a


I degree that was a reckless act and must never happen again in an


independent police investigation? In all these areas we have to be


careful to respect the independence in operational matters of the


police, the independence of the prosecuting authorities and the


independence of the Jew -- judiciary. I would apply those


principle to his comments. The case of Pat Finucane is up with of many


cases that reflect the legacy of our past. We believe that a


comprehensive process is needed to address this. Can the Secretary of


State update us as to his diswugs with local party about how to take


that forward? I'm grateful for that question. As she knows in our


meeting on Monday with her party, I established there is no consensus


on this. There are some parties who would like to draw a line in the


sand and cease all activity. And there are others that would like an


extensive international Legacy Commission. We will continue to


work and talk to individuals and to local parties, but at the moment I


see no consensus. Question No 5. honourable friend the Secretary of


State and I regularly pleat the first t and deputy First Ministers


-- meet the first and Depp si First Ministers and I have returned from


accompanying the enterprise minister on a trade mission to the


gulf states in support of two Northern Ireland businesses. On the


eve of the budget wa the need to improve our economy and the


opportunity from inward investment, what assessment has my honourable


friend made of the co-operation between Invest NI and U KTI? I have


made a good one and I sit on the economic committee and UK TI and


the devolved administrations, there will p discussion and we have a


meeting later on in the year. Despite the best efforts of


Northern Ireland Executive, rates of business formation in Northern


Ireland are lower than the rest of the U kfpt. What plans does the


Government have to make good the gap identified by the Business


Secretary that the Government lacks a compelling vision on the economy?


Well it is either Northern Ireland questions and I should limit myself


to Northern Ireland. We have a clear idea of the economy in


Northern Ireland. We believe it needs to be rebalanced there is a


meeting today of joint working group to examine the possible


devolvement of corporation tax to Northern Ireland. There are too


many noisy private conversation taking place. As a matter of


courtesy to the people of Northern Ireland it would be good to have


some hush. I'm sure the minister will agree that it is always good


to welcome inward investment into Northern Ireland. But we must not


foreget get the indigenous businesses that have been there for


many years, would he welcome a total of �30 million investment in


my constituency on one site by the ASDA group in an area that has not


saw investment for 35 years. would be good if we could hear the


reply. Could the House come to Orde sner Of course I welcome that


invest. The member is a champion of business in his constituency and I


look forward to send e spending a day with him there. He will be


aware of growth fund that will help SMEs with strong potential for


growth. We believe these are the right moves. Can the Secretary of


State... Report any progress on the devolution of corporation tax


responsibility and when can we expect something to happen on that


front? As I said, following the address to her Majesty there is a


meeting of joint ministerial working group on corporation tax


that will be meeting this afternoon. Question 6. With permission, I will


answer question 6 and 7 together the Secretary and state of o' - and


I meet colleagues in support of Executive's efforts to develop the


economy and work on the join ministerial working group on


rebalancing the economy, which I will now save say for third time


meets today. In the last quarter, manufacturing exports have Northern


Ireland have risen. Which is great news for rebalancing the economy.


What further steps is the minister taking to ensure that exports


increase? Well the point I would like to make is that Northern


Ireland sells �12.4 million of manufacturing good abroad and


almost recovered to pre-recession level. Those are positive figures


on which we seek to build. Investment in R & D is critical to


Northern Ireland, just as in Macclesfieldlet will my honourable


friend join me in welcoming the Executive's 6% increase in R & D in


the last year? Yes I do. R & D is crucial to the development of


economy and it increased by of% in Northern Ireland last year to �3 34


million. The minister for xer surprise is keen to -- enterprise


is keen to develop this. Given the need to help the economy in


Northern Ireland and that the finance ministers met on Monday,


can you indicate if the dispute around the 18 billion allocation to


Northern Ireland is part of devolution dividend is near


resolution and if not wha, are the areas 06 disagreement? Well this


was not raised officially at the meeting, although I had my own by


bilateral with the finance minister and discussed progress on it. He


informed me that progress continues. The Chancellor is in his place and


may want to hear what you have said. It is still being discussed.


Economic development in Northern Ireland is being held up by the


reduck lance of -- reluctance of banks to loan to businesses. Could


the minister tell us what discussions has he had to see


whether or not banks in Northern Ireland are meeting their Merlin


target and why can the figures for Merlin targets be published for


Scotland and not for Northern Ireland? The honourable gentleman


makes a good point, a point he made in that finance meeting last week,


it is a good point. We need to get more lending to companies in


Northern Ireland and of course we're fishing in a smaller pool in


Northern Ireland, we don't have so many more bank. We want to work


together to see how we can get more I would like to pay tribute to do


all those from Northern Ireland and all regions of the United Kingdom


who served in our armed forces. I speak regularly with ministerial


colleagues across Whitehall on matters relating to Northern


Ireland, including my Right Honourable Friend, the Secretary


for Defence. Does my honourable friend agree much can be lowered


from the Royal Irish Regiment which recruits from all sections? He is


absolutely spot-on, I am very proud to have been stationed in my


constituency. I went to the din on Monday celebrating the capture of


the first French eagle. They are a glorious example of an organisation


bringing people together from all parts of the community and also


from south of the border. Recognising the tremendous


sacrifice of our brave soldiers from Northern Ireland contributing


to the defence of the United Kingdom, does the Secretary of


State acknowledged there is a time bomb of mental health problems


facing those returning from the field and what necessary steps will


be taken to assist them? I endorse his comments and would


pay tribute to the Three reigns of the Royal Irish who lost their


lives in Helmand campaign last year. He is absolutely right to draw


attention to the mental health problems and those discuss this


with my Honourable friends in Cabinet and he should discuss it


with local ministers who are responsible for delivering the


services in Northern Ireland. That is it from Northern Ireland,


we will be going live to the House of Lords from questions from the


Prime Minister shortly but Stephen Walker is still with us in the


studio. Some stirring tales of soldiers past and present, ending


things off. What caught my imagination was this notion that


the Secretary of State could call a border poll whenever he wanted to,


that emerged in a question. Quite interesting, the question that he


has this power to call a border poll. The issue of border poll is


often talked about on website, political activists get interested


in it, appearing in letters to newspapers and to raise this issue


quoting this survey from Queen's University saying it to be said of


people in Northern Ireland wanted to stay within the UK. He wanted to


know if there were any plans to call aboard a poll and he said he


had not received a single phone call or letter so quite clear it is


not an issue for him. Interesting he has this power to call whenever


he wants. It is and obviously he would want


to look at the timing very carefully because as a committed


Unionist he would want to Northern Ireland remain in the Union.


And the Bill of Rights. This was a question the junior


minister had to handle. He said there was no consensus on this


issue of the Bill of Rights, a subject that routinely comes up. He


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