01/02/2016 Stormont Today


01/02/2016

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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Transcript


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Moving forward on a more united footing and facing up

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

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in the chamber. So, coming up tonight:

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The Deputy First Minister says cohesion is key for moving forward

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and resolving outstanding differences.

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

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

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of work. The others, we can leave behind.

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

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

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

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

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was wrong about this. And I'm joined tonight

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

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

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during questions to the Deputy But first - what progress

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is being made in implementing TBUC - the Together: Building

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a United Community strategy? Announced nearly three years ago,

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the initiative was meant to reflect the Executive's commitment

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

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

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

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community together, and I think also recognising the huge responsibility

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

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

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grassroots people together, but the grassroots of experts --

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

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community based on equality and opportunity, the desirability of

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good relations and reconciliation requires the collective commitment

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of everyone, government must work alongside statutory and voluntary

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and community you partnerships, achieving a shared vision and

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strategy. We feel that Cliff continued political implementation

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

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

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forward thinking and leadership in terms of trying to bring the

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

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

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declining to give any information about a present that was still

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

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

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terms of the Savile enquiry, refusing to name anyone else

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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really interested in recrimination, and not interested in

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

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

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Cork, a very hugely attended conversation between myself and

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those people who were interested in what was happening here,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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him what discussions the elephant gave him have given him involving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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argument around the merits of staying in nor stay out.

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So, the timing of the EU referendum is causing concern

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

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proximity of the referendum and assembly elections and I think

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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They are getting assembly elections campaigns together at the moment,

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

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the doorsteps trying to encourage people to vote for the assembly

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

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

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

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of friction between Martin McGuinness and Gregory Campbell -

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

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

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

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

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clearly Martin McGuinness today felt that the question was being asked

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

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

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

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interested in recrimination and reconciliation, basically Martin

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

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must think about when this relationship is that if Gregory

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

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Stephen, we will talk to you very shortly.

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The Enterprise Minister updated Members on a recent meeting

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of the North/South Ministerial Council.

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There was a discussion about tourism, but perhaps most

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

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He asked Jonathan Bell for his position on the EU

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

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But before that, the more sedate matter of increasing tourism

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and getting new airlines to Belfast International Airport.

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Can we perhaps get the aerial development route fund up and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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collectivity as the member says between business destinations, and

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

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

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Scandinavia, and also city destinations such as in Munich,

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

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are working with the airports to facilitate that inbounds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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intelligence, of energy and used wonderful network from and earns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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the European Union referendum act 2015 with Royal Assent already

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setting out the question. The question being should the United

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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concluded and David Cameron is involved in negotiations and has not

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

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

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

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

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assent. A fascinating exchange. Thank you.

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The Regional Development Minister also faced Question Time today

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

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But perhaps Michelle McIlveen has already had enough of repeatedly

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facing questions about paying for improvements to Northern

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Included in the fresh start agreement is a commitment by the

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executive to advance the Western transport project. The Irish

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government has made a commitment to contribute ?75 million funding

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towards the project. This funding commitment is intended to ensure

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subject to the successful completion of statutory procedures,

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construction of the new buildings can commence in 2017 with an

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estimated completion of 2019. I understand that after the public

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consultation and I know from previous questions there have been

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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by Translink. The investment priority strategy for Northern

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

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

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Antrim line and opportunities to establish a real link to Belfast

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International airport though my understanding is the usage around

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

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

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Ryanair are coming to Belfast International, that will produce an

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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international airport into the city centre.

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The Rates Bill continues its accelerated passage

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

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relief for sports club and empty buildings

:18:39.:18:40.

Today an Ulster Unionist amendment sought to include pigeon racing

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in the list of specified recreations that would benefit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:20:02.:20:11.

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

:20:12.:20:17.

require a greater degree level of physical activity than that involved

:20:18.:20:22.

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

:20:23.:20:27.

legislation with these non-sport activities is discriminatory and

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

:20:32.:20:39.

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

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

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

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

:20:55.:21:02.

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

:21:03.:21:07.

amendment to be housed in the subordinate legislation that lists

:21:08.:21:11.

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

:21:12.:21:16.

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

:21:17.:21:22.

sports and recreations is of compulsory requirement for

:21:23.:21:25.

consultation with sporting bodies and representatives of local

:21:26.:21:30.

councils under article 30 16. Members note such consultation

:21:31.:21:34.

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

:21:35.:21:39.

today. Sponsors of the amendment as understandably pointed out anomalies

:21:40.:21:46.

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

:21:47.:21:51.

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

:21:52.:21:56.

keeping with the principle enshrined in the governing primary legislation

:21:57.:22:02.

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

:22:03.:22:10.

the inclusion of these anomalies and activities have no practical effect

:22:11.:22:14.

because there are no rateable premises associated with them and

:22:15.:22:18.

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

:22:19.:22:19.

exercise. And that amendment was

:22:20.:22:21.

passed by 55 votes to 29. The bill reaches its

:22:22.:22:23.

final stage tomorrow. Another piece of legislation that

:22:24.:22:25.

passed today was the Housing It concerns how estate agents

:22:26.:22:27.

operate and are regulated. Today's Legislative Consent Motion

:22:28.:22:31.

was brought to the floor by the enterprise

:22:32.:22:33.

minister, Jonathan Bell. The Housing and planning Bill was

:22:34.:22:45.

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

:22:46.:22:49.

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

:22:50.:22:53.

to make changes to the law in England and Wales concerning

:22:54.:22:58.

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

:22:59.:23:03.

considered to be a suitable vehicle to introduce changes that the

:23:04.:23:06.

Department for business innovation skills considered necessary to make

:23:07.:23:13.

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

:23:14.:23:22.

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

:23:23.:23:26.

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

:23:27.:23:30.

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

:23:31.:23:38.

Office Of Fair Trading or the OST had certain responsibilities under

:23:39.:23:43.

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

:23:44.:23:49.

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

:23:50.:23:53.

responsibilities that were carried out by local authority trading

:23:54.:23:56.

standards departments within their respective areas in Great Britain

:23:57.:24:02.

and my department in Northern Ireland. Responsibilities falling to

:24:03.:24:06.

trading standards departments include requirements relating to the

:24:07.:24:10.

handling of clients money and ensuring requirements to provide

:24:11.:24:16.

vendors with certain information are complied with. Essentially, all

:24:17.:24:20.

complaints about estate agents under the 79 act were investigated and

:24:21.:24:25.

assessed by trading standards departments who referred the most

:24:26.:24:29.

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

:24:30.:24:36.

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

:24:37.:24:41.

unfit and fraudulent estate agents being allowed to continue to

:24:42.:24:46.

operate, this would cause increased harm to consumers and prevent

:24:47.:24:49.

complied estate agents from operating on a level playing field.

:24:50.:24:55.

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

:24:56.:24:59.

for the Department for business innovation and skills or a person

:25:00.:25:06.

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

:25:07.:25:11.

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

:25:12.:25:19.

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

:25:20.:25:23.

provision will allow the Secretary Of State to appoint a new

:25:24.:25:27.

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

:25:28.:25:28.

for the 79 act from time to time as necessary.

:25:29.:25:31.

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

:25:32.:25:34.

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

:25:35.:25:39.

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

:25:40.:25:46.

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

:25:47.:25:50.

discourteous to the house and is unacceptable. Ministers may from

:25:51.:25:53.

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

:25:54.:25:58.

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

:25:59.:26:04.

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

:26:05.:26:08.

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

:26:09.:26:10.

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

:26:11.:26:12.

interesting to see if those guidelines are strictly

:26:13.:26:18.

adhered to in future. And Stephen is with me

:26:19.:26:19.

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

:26:20.:26:30.

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

:26:31.:26:33.

recent complaint, number of MLAs have complained when ministers come

:26:34.:26:37.

to the box and asked questions rather than rattling through the

:26:38.:26:41.

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

:26:42.:26:46.

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

:26:47.:26:50.

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

:26:51.:26:55.

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

:26:56.:27:10.

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

:27:11.:27:13.

because we have topical questions which is a recent element meaning

:27:14.:27:15.

ministers cannot pre-prepare everything in advance and sometimes

:27:16.:27:17.

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

:27:18.:27:19.

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

:27:20.:27:22.

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

:27:23.:27:24.

Mitchell McLauchlan thinks some ministers have been doing time

:27:25.:27:29.

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

:27:30.:27:34.

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

:27:35.:27:41.

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

:27:42.:27:44.

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

:27:45.:27:49.

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

:27:50.:27:57.

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

:27:58.:28:04.

development. Basically, Phil Flanagan who was originally

:28:05.:28:07.

deselected and then there was a second selection meeting and then

:28:08.:28:10.

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

:28:11.:28:16.

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

:28:17.:28:20.

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

:28:21.:28:25.

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

:28:26.:28:31.

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

:28:32.:28:34.

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

:28:35.:28:38.

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

:28:39.:28:42.

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

:28:43.:28:44.

night at the same time. Eight famous pensioners are looking

:28:45.:28:48.

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

:28:49.:29:03.

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

:29:04.:29:06.

cultures... Ooh! ..discovering true spiritual

:29:07.:29:10.

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

:29:11.:29:13.

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

:29:14.:29:18.

You come face-to-face with yourself.

:29:19.:29:23.

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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