01/02/2016 Stormont Today


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Mark Carruthers is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont.

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Moving forward on a more united footing and facing up


Just two of the themes that emerged during today's discussions


in the chamber. So, coming up tonight:


The Deputy First Minister says cohesion is key for moving forward


and resolving outstanding differences.


There are many many people within our society who were previously at


odds with one another who recognise the need to be involved in this sort


of work. The others, we can leave behind.


But with the European referendum looming, agreement is harder to find


So why's the minister coming to this has pretending we don't know the


question when we know what the questionnaires. We didn't know what


the unemployment rate was a week ago, he was wrong about that, and he


was wrong about this. And I'm joined tonight


by our Political Correspondent, Brexit - Britain's possible exit


from the EU - and the timing of the referendum, came up


during questions to the Deputy But first - what progress


is being made in implementing TBUC - the Together: Building


a United Community strategy? Announced nearly three years ago,


the initiative was meant to reflect the Executive's commitment


to improved community relations. This is a very exciting programme,


one that we are prepared to put a tremendous amount of funds into


because it is absolutely vital that we ensure that we bring our


community together, and I think also recognising the huge responsibility


that politicians have not just in the delivery of a programme but by


leading by example to ensure that the... We're not just mean


grassroots people together, but the grassroots of experts --


politicians, working together for the common good. Achieving a united


community based on equality and opportunity, the desirability of


good relations and reconciliation requires the collective commitment


of everyone, government must work alongside statutory and voluntary


and community you partnerships, achieving a shared vision and


strategy. We feel that Cliff continued political implementation


is essential. I must remind them that everyone has a role to play,


and that is welcome, but how does he feel in terms of trying to show


forward thinking and leadership in terms of trying to bring the


community together, how does he feel that on Friday a former terrorist


who was questioned by the police in the Republic followed his lead in


declining to give any information about a present that was still


alive, had been involved in the building of pub bombs, given that


the First Minister to the same stance when he was in the box in


terms of the Savile enquiry, refusing to name anyone else


involved in terrorism alone with him? Well, first of all I think


maybe there's some this particular member doesn't understand that the


question that he is answering -- asking is to the office of first and


deputy first Prime Minister -- Minister. I am here to aunts were on


the behalf of the First Minister. I'd don't believe that that question


is in any. All of us have a duty and responsibility to recognise the


importance of building that's better future, and unfortunately there are


some members, quite a number of members in this house, who are only


really interested in recrimination, and not interested in


reconciliation, and I think that is very sad will stop I spoke about


this at the weekend when I was at the Kinsale Peace Project in County


Cork, a very hugely attended conversation between myself and


those people who were interested in what was happening here,


particularly in the peace process, and during that engagement, a man


stepped forward who informed the audience that he was a former member


of the Grenadier Guards. He was very generous, in his remarks, and we


both shook hands. I think that's where the encouragement comes from,


that there are many, many people within our society who were


previously at odds with one another who recognise the need to be


involved in this sort of work. The others, we can leave behind. The


debate around our membership of the European Union is an important one


and in order to make sure we have a proper debate about this, can I ask


him what discussions the elephant gave him have given him involving


devolved authorities in England, and what scope we have for negotiation


to pick a September date? It is very important that the First Minister


and myself engage with David Cameron, and talk to Scotland and


Wales about the issue, but it is on the public record, the First


Minister of Scotland has put it on the public record stop think it will


come as no surprise to anybody that we here will also share concerns of


proximity to a referendum in June, and we haven't even dealt with the


argument around the merits of staying in nor stay out.


So, the timing of the EU referendum is causing concern


Big concerns, and he heard Martin McGuinness talks about the close


proximity of the referendum and assembly elections and I think


people are concerned that the two issues could become merged them and


what they are out on the door ship -- doorstep trying to talk about the


election, they will have the referendum in the background, and


that is an argument coming from many quarters, that the EU referendum


which shouldn't happen in June, should happen in September to create


a distance between the referendum and the assembly election. The dates


talked about at the moment would be about seven weeks after the


referendum election. Do you think those fears are real? I think so.


They are getting assembly elections campaigns together at the moment,


beginning to canvas, and they are really concerned about selling on


the doorsteps trying to encourage people to vote for the assembly


elections with this other issue of Europe, and they are worried that


these two issues will be joined together. As Arlene Foster raised


last week, there are concerns. And we saw earlier, quite a bit


of friction between Martin McGuinness and Gregory Campbell -


not for the first time... No, there is history between Martin


McGuinness and Gregory Campbell. They come from similar parts of the


world, they often clashed in the chamber. Gregory Campbell would like


Martin McGuinness to be a bit more forthright about his past, and


clearly Martin McGuinness today felt that the question was being asked


wasn't appropriate, and he made comments saying he didn't name


Gregory Campbell directly, but he was obvious that that was who he was


talking about, saying that some people in the assembly were more


interested in recrimination and reconciliation, basically Martin


McGuinness thought that the question was out of order. The other thing we


must think about when this relationship is that if Gregory


Campbell leave the assembly, then these encounters will be quite rare.


Stephen, we will talk to you very shortly.


The Enterprise Minister updated Members on a recent meeting


of the North/South Ministerial Council.


There was a discussion about tourism, but perhaps most


memorable was a sharp attack on the Minister by Jim Allister.


He asked Jonathan Bell for his position on the EU


referendum and then accused him of not knowing what he was doing


But before that, the more sedate matter of increasing tourism


and getting new airlines to Belfast International Airport.


Can we perhaps get the aerial development route fund up and


running, because adding that will a difference as you know south of the


border, tourism is a huge percent of GDP, and I am closing that gap up it


would be enormously helpful to our industries. Think of course of this


states, the great boost that we would join our Belfast and Boston


sister cities. The others to your question is yes, we are hoping to


get that done, in terms of the development fund, and how we could


get that out before, within the financial year, so that people could


be aware of that. Because the purpose is to develop the


collectivity as the member says between business destinations, and


also look at those routes that have an inbounds for tourism potential.


I'm thinking critically about key destinations on either Germany or


Scandinavia, and also city destinations such as in Munich,


Madrid, Milan. In terms of access, yes, funding is orally provided, we


are working with the airports to facilitate that inbounds


performance, in both new and existing routes. We will do is do


continue to look at both airports as to how we can maximise the


potential. There is a debate on this. I am pressing the UK


Government in terms of air passenger duty. And I do think and we have


said that it does unfairly impact Northern Ireland. I want the UK


Government to address that, to deal with it, and ideally to abolish it.


I have to say, that we don't seem to be getting a lot of traction back


from the UK Government in relation to that, we continue to press the


case. Minister, you may not have heard yesterday in the statement


made by Mr Hastings who I think most will agree is an expert on tourism


in Ireland. How would you propose to assuage his concerns amongst others


in terms of Northern Ireland that is not enough is being done. I'd like


to thank Doctor Hastings for his time, coming in quite fun as an


unofficial adviser in somebody's of mine, and he's put a huge amount of


intelligence, of energy and used wonderful network from and earns


trepidation in tourism that the Hastings who actually has do help us


going forward. There is not a single minister who has been challenged in


a particular area. The house will be aware that my own apartment has


invested significantly in tourism in the last number of years. We have


put over ?100 million of money into the tourism infrastructure, and


tourism budgets are still healthy, we have allocated ?30 million to our


two tourism bodies, and we need to be smart with the resources that are


available. Can I say I look forward to the minister coming off the fence


on the issue of EU, and joining the ranks of those who want to liberate


our great trading nation from the shackles of the EU. It is an easy


point to make, and is uncertain. I do not know what the referendum


question is standing here today. We have not been given the terms of the


referendum question. Is it going to be a question that simply says do we


wish to leave the European Union? In that case, I imagine the member will


be saying yes is up for what happens if the question is will we stay in


the European Union? I imagine the member but 's answer will be no. In


the absence of a question, it is a very, very foolish question to ask


for they know the exact nature of the question. To suggest that we


don't know what the question in the referendum is when section one of


the European Union referendum act 2015 with Royal Assent already


setting out the question. The question being should the United


Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European


Union? Why the Minister coming to this as pretending we don't know


this question, when the law of the land states or the questionnaires. A


couple of weeks ago, he didn't know what the unemployment rate was. He


told his it was a third of Europe and a third of the Republic Ireland.


He was wrong about that, he's wrong about this.


The TUV's Jim Allister not at all impressed with Jonathan Bell.


A fascinating exchange between Jim Allister and the minister. We do


know the EU referendum question because we looked it up tonight on


the website and I can quote the question, "Should the United Kingdom


remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union".


That is the question agreed. It is possible when he gave a response


that's what Jonathan Bell meant was the negotiations have not been


concluded and David Cameron is involved in negotiations and has not


seen the final deal, that is perhaps what Jonathan Bell meant to say but


didn't and when it comes to the issue of the question Jim Allister


is right. When the minister said we do not know, he was wrong. The


question is in the legislation and the legislation has been given Royal


assent. A fascinating exchange. Thank you.


The Regional Development Minister also faced Question Time today


and she was even congratulated by the Speaker for a "busy


But perhaps Michelle McIlveen has already had enough of repeatedly


facing questions about paying for improvements to Northern


Included in the fresh start agreement is a commitment by the


executive to advance the Western transport project. The Irish


government has made a commitment to contribute ?75 million funding


towards the project. This funding commitment is intended to ensure


subject to the successful completion of statutory procedures,


construction of the new buildings can commence in 2017 with an


estimated completion of 2019. I understand that after the public


consultation and I know from previous questions there have been


public exhibitions and could minister give us any date of when it


might be signed off and the consultation will start? The member


will be aware I have been doing work in relation to this further to the


announcement I'm looking for to introduce the land acquisition and


compensation bill in order to assist those landowners as a move forward.


That is accompanied by work I have been doing with land agents is part


of the preparation work which I've wanted to complete before moving


onto any announcement. I am hopeful the announcement will be made quite


surely. Can I ask her for her assessment of the prospects of a


railing to Belfast International? I thank the member for the question. I


imagine he is talking in relation to the branch line which is maintained


by Translink. The investment priority strategy for Northern


Ireland published in May 2014 set out a vision for future railways


over 20 years and there's an economic benefit in relation to the


Antrim line and opportunities to establish a real link to Belfast


International airport though my understanding is the usage around


the airport would need to increase to 10 million passengers just to


make that railing viable. Would you agree in terms of the airport


Ryanair are coming to Belfast International, that will produce an


uplifting passengers, do we need to wait until we have ten million-plus


before we do something about this, coming not anticipate what will


happen? I thank the member for his question and sustainability are


something which is key in everything we do, particularly in relation to


our public transport routes. You need any speak to his colleagues in


East Antrim and members in Newry in relation to the service they have,


we do need to look at costs, that is also key to where we are but the


member needs also to be aware we do have a good bus link going from the


international airport into the city centre.


The Rates Bill continues its accelerated passage


In the last few weeks we've heard amendments concerned with rates


relief for sports club and empty buildings


Today an Ulster Unionist amendment sought to include pigeon racing


in the list of specified recreations that would benefit


Since Ian has no issues with the pigeon racing amendment in terms of


the list of sports, recreations on this list or ready from a wide


variety, some might argue some are lesser sports pigeon racing, I see


no reason why this should be included as well and no doubt if it


is passed by the assembly it will give him something to tweet about or


should that be too. I know to as my colleague Robin Swan who really


drove this amendment forward. He did fly off to America and it's


interesting we have not had a tweet from him since. It will be a good


test to see if he can home his way back again. The inclusion of pigeon


racing in the list will allow the 80 descent rate relief and I believe


the premise to exclude pigeon racing because of a perceived lack of


sport... How could they and the UK sporting bodies explain ballooning,


model aircraft flying, gliding, yoga and rambling as activities that


require a greater degree level of physical activity than that involved


in pigeon racing. To refuse to treat pigeon racing equally in the rates


legislation with these non-sport activities is discriminatory and


should not be condoned by this house. Regarding the new clause, I


will try to kill two birds with one stone, we think it is compatible and


in terms of the target demographic you outline participate in the sport


we think it is appropriate and there is a relevant social benefits so we


will let this one fly. The policy does have wings. The first point I


would make if it is more appropriate for the changed proposed the


amendment to be housed in the subordinate legislation that lists


prescribed sport and recreation is in response to his amendment I will


find out that point out that part of the usual standard for the list of


sports and recreations is of compulsory requirement for


consultation with sporting bodies and representatives of local


councils under article 30 16. Members note such consultation


process is not in evidence in respect of the amendment before us


today. Sponsors of the amendment as understandably pointed out anomalies


and they were listed by Mr Cree, model aeroplane flying, and wild


fouling. I agree with the member that these are pursuits not in


keeping with the principle enshrined in the governing primary legislation


of the activities involving a degree of physical effort. I estimate that


the inclusion of these anomalies and activities have no practical effect


because there are no rateable premises associated with them and


therefore the removal from the list would be a straightforward tidy up


exercise. And that amendment was


passed by 55 votes to 29. The bill reaches its


final stage tomorrow. Another piece of legislation that


passed today was the Housing It concerns how estate agents


operate and are regulated. Today's Legislative Consent Motion


was brought to the floor by the enterprise


minister, Jonathan Bell. The Housing and planning Bill was


adduced in Parliament on the 13th of October 2015 by the Department for


community is an local government. The overall purpose of the bill is


to make changes to the law in England and Wales concerning


housing, rent charges, planning and compulsory purchase. The bill was


considered to be a suitable vehicle to introduce changes that the


Department for business innovation skills considered necessary to make


to the 1979 UK wide estate agent act which I will refer to as the 79 act.


These changes relate only to 79 acts enforcement responsibilities. The 79


act is largely limited to regulating the activities of estate agents in


selling property on behalf of their clients. When it was enacted the


Office Of Fair Trading or the OST had certain responsibilities under


the 79 act notably the part to ban unfit persons from carrying out


estate agency work is took the 79 act also contained other enforcement


responsibilities that were carried out by local authority trading


standards departments within their respective areas in Great Britain


and my department in Northern Ireland. Responsibilities falling to


trading standards departments include requirements relating to the


handling of clients money and ensuring requirements to provide


vendors with certain information are complied with. Essentially, all


complaints about estate agents under the 79 act were investigated and


assessed by trading standards departments who referred the most


serious complaints to the OST to consider with a view to banning an


estate agent or warning. A failure to amend the act could result in


unfit and fraudulent estate agents being allowed to continue to


operate, this would cause increased harm to consumers and prevent


complied estate agents from operating on a level playing field.


The proposed amendment of the 79 act would allow the Secretary of State


for the Department for business innovation and skills or a person


who never took over the role of lead authority for the UK. The person


chosen by the Secretary Of State could be any local authority or the


Department of enterprise, trade and investment in Northern Ireland. The


provision will allow the Secretary Of State to appoint a new


enforcement authority for the 79 act from time to time as necessary.


for the 79 act from time to time as necessary.


Now, last week much was made of waffling Ministers and today


the Speaker had this to say to those who stay on their feet too long.


Answers to questions may be no longer than two minutes, 40 minute


interview to exceed this time in the face of repeated reminders is


discourteous to the house and is unacceptable. Ministers may from


time to time needs more time to provide answers on complex issues


and a deputy speakers and I will accept requests for additional time


in no circumstances. However, filibustering a waffling is not in


order and if ministers slip beyond that time we will intervene and move


on. I hope that is clear. Clear as day - and it'll be


interesting to see if those guidelines are strictly


adhered to in future. And Stephen is with me


for a final word... A warning to ministers to stop time


wasting. Yes, what's interesting about this is it seems to be a


recent complaint, number of MLAs have complained when ministers come


to the box and asked questions rather than rattling through the


questions quickly so they can get to a lot of questions in the session,


they are taking their time and what we witnessed was him saying you need


to give the answer within two minutes, you can't take your time,


get the point, get as many Malays possible asking questions and


let's get the proceedings moving as quickly as possible. And that's


because we have topical questions which is a recent element meaning


ministers cannot pre-prepare everything in advance and sometimes


they can be blindsided by a cheeky question from about venture. Yes,


they can be caught off-guard. It is those questions they don't know that


coming which they can be caught off-guard and that is the area where


Mitchell McLauchlan thinks some ministers have been doing time


wasting. To be fair, it is an ongoing issue, we talked about it


before. We have, the fact when you have ministers with a list of


questions and maybe nine or ten questions and the other day there


were only three or four questions so clearly it is a problem because


ministers are clearly taking their time. Finally, Sinn Fein's ranks in


Fermanagh and South Tyrone. There has been an awful lot of


development. Basically, Phil Flanagan who was originally


deselected and then there was a second selection meeting and then


Phil Flanagan is back on the ticket for Sinn Fein and the person who has


lost out most is Michelle, the former MP. She is not on the Sinn


Fein ticket for Fermanagh and South Tyrone which is a big surprise.


There was speculation she might move into Mid Ulster, you have Martin


McGuinness going from but Michelle Gilda new has made it clear her


heart is in Fermanagh and South Tyrone but it was a surprise. It


expected to see Michelle Gilder knew get the nomination. We will see if


that is an end to it. But do join me again tomorrow


night at the same time. Eight famous pensioners are looking


to retire to an exotic land... I had never thought about India


but...maybe. ..enjoying the fantastic local


cultures... Ooh! ..discovering true spiritual


enlightenment... ..and finding out if they could


spend their golden years... Wow! Yeah, it really does feel like home.


You come face-to-face with yourself.


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Mark Carruthers is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont, and is joined by key people - from decision makers to opinion formers - to make the experience enlightening and entertaining.

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