01/05/2012 Stormont Today


01/05/2012

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


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Transcript


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Hello and welcome to Stormont Today. The worst experience of my

:00:23.:00:26.

political life, says the Health Minister as he responds to a motion

:00:26.:00:36.
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on the pseudomonas outbreak which killed four babies. Telling people

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bump their babies had died and perhaps that was a voidable was one

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of the hardest things I had to do. Also on the programme, with prison

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issues high on the political agenda, my guest is Olwen Lyner from NIACRO.

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And as he attempts to jump start the economy the Finance Minister

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gives it his all. 1, 2, 3! But we start tonight with that

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debate on pseudomonas. A Sinn Fein motion called for the creation of a

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regional neonatal intensive care unit to be speeded up. A sombre

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house heard criticism of some of those involved, but also praise for

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the minister. One we talk about the new women and

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children's hospital, we talk about maternity services in Belfast and

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neonatal services across the region. It was in the early 1990s that it

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became clear that radical change was needed for maternity services,

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not only at the Belfast City back at the Royal. Everyone knew that

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they were not equipped and the services were split between two

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hospitals. In June at the 2003, it was announced that the new deja nor

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hospital for women and children will be sited at the Royal. In 2005,

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it was announced that funding for the new building, which would lead

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to one of the best maternity facilities in the world was

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available. So there are a number of questions that go back to that time.

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What happened to that funding and where is the state-of-the-art

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facility? And as members would recall, there was a pseudomonas

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outbreak, or an incident in Londonderry. That led to the issue

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of an internal memo on 22nd December when the chief medical

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officer at made an announcement. That has been made available to us

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and I have read it many times. In my naivety, that document did not

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indicate the gravity of the situation that had developed.

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Fundamentally, but documents and -- the document did not mention that a

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child had died. It should have been in that memo. And although it has

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been refuted by the Department, it is inevitable that that memo may

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have sat in an in-tray for action after Christmas and that would have

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been entirely understandable, but not justified. There is no evidence

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that following that alert that there was much action taken.

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have to get the systems in place. It is a dreadfully painful lesson

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to have to learn for the whole surface and the families, but we

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have to put in place a system where we can identify pseudomonas early.

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-- health service. We look and expertise from around the world but

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will enable us to respond to this quickly. The motion refers to the

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recent pseudomonas outbreak. The death of those babies is

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devastating. Also, families who have had babies in neonatal units

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across Belfast will be concerned. I know that many people felt a lot of

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pain and for me personally, it has be the worst experience of my

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political life having to deal with this, and having to deal directly

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with the families involved. Telling people that their babies died and

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perhaps that was a voidable was one of the hardest things I have heard

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there had to do and I trust I will never have to do it again -- I have

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had to do. We need to have answers as quickly as possible. Mr Alastair

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is right in that sometimes inquiries can be put up as

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blockages? -- blockages. How long will they last?

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How safe are prison officers from attack in their place of work?

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lot safer than they used to be, according to the Justice Minister.

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He was was asked about a recent assault at Maghaberry. We'll hear

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that in a moment, but first here's the Health Minister again,

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answering a question on the treatment of eating disorders.

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cost is significant when families have to go to go different

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jurisdictions. It's not just the cost of the facility, but the

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charge on the health service. Family members need to be close to

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the location for visits. The cost is extensive and since 2005, �2

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million had been invested in the eating disorder services. Since

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2010, in patients eating disorders treatment had been provided. There

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are specially trained psychiatric staff. This provides a seamless

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service. Following on from the previous supplementaries, what is

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the situation in terms of the number of referrals in terms of

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eating disorders? Given the size of the population in Northern Ireland,

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it would be difficult to sustain a specialist unit. And the current

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economic climate, it is not money we will tie up directly with the

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development of such a unit, but the private sector have expressed

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interest and had been in discussions with the health service

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as to how many clients they would provide. Individual patients might

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benefit from care outside of Northern Ireland, but indications

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are that over the last few years, there has been a reduction in

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contractual referrals and that trend is expected to continue as we

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develop our own local expertise. The future of the causeway hospital

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in collaring has been causing concern for MLAs. Well Coleraine

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continue to have an accident and emergency provision? In terms of

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the causeway hospital, population plans are being looked at through

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the trust and the Commission bodies and what is important is that what

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is thought to myself is a sustainable model for the future.

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The easiest thing for me to do as the minister would be to indicate

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that I would not be altering or changing everything in the causeway

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hospital. Only for six months, one year, two years down the line for

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the whale colleges to withdraw their services, I would rather make

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a decision that will allow for a sustainable model for a hospital.

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It will include an emergency department within that. I am not

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sure whether he or I should be more concerned, but I find myself on the

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same pages as the MP for North Antrim Ian Paisley. He says that

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the hospital will close. If one of his own MPs finds no reassurance,

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why should anyone think otherwise? Well, I note the member quoting

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from a certain publication and it does not always give things right,

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or of course. As the Member knows, the aforementioned MP the

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participate. In highlighting the problem that the European Working

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Title States, by not allowing doctors to come into Northern

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Ireland who would have previously been allowed in to support services,

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I appreciate the fact that the Member of Parliament is putting up

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a vigorous campaign on a regular basis. In fact, he tortures me

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about it. Justice next, and the minister was questioned about

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prison officer safety at Maghaberry. The safety of prison officers is a

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priority. Him enough three years be recorded assault has Haft.

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Nonetheless, there is no room for complacency. Recently, staff were

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able to respond to an manage incident safely and swiftly and no

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injuries were sustained. Although assaults on prison staff, nurses

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and teachers cannot be tolerated. Tensions are often a fact of life

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in a prison setting. On many occasions, staff can use their

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training to bring situations to a successful resolution. Whilst 30

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other prisoners were in the facility on certain incidents, they

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did not join in and some of them actually aided the prison officers.

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What assessment is carried out when it comes to the number of staff

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ratio to the number of prisoners? They are the 30 prisoners did not

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get involved, but if they did, it could have been serious. Given the

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Governor of Maghaberry is a minister, can he give assurance

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that senior management at Maghaberry can ensure the safety of

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the staff but were they? We do have ratios of officers to start on the

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landings which are large be comparable with, and in many cases,

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higher than more stop poor prisoner than our neighbouring prisons. The

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fact that the last three years has seen, despite the increase in a

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number of prisoners, the number of incidents like this going down is

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an indication of good work being done by prison staff and management

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in dynamic security to ensure these incidents do not happen with any

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regularity. We heard there about prisoner

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numbers going up and with me now is Olwen Lyner of the prisoner welfare

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group NIACRO. We've heard repeated calls for a

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re-evaluation of business rates, but the Finance Minister has again

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:13:18.:13:24.

I think in terms of looking at rehabilitation, we must look not

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just at the Justice Department but a number of departments that should

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be helping people when they are coming out of prison. The majority

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of people will be coming out and looking for housing in the public

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sector. Public sector support. That will affect the housing executive.

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Many will have a form of benefits and we meet the Social Security

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Agency. They need to be brought to realisation of what life will be

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like back in society and the issues they will face. And how they will

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integrate into society again in a way that it means the behaviours

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that brought them to that place our behaviour is they can work to

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reduce. Prism is an important opportunity for people to consider

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life choices. -- prison. Some of the debate in recent times has been

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a debate between hang a heady and hard a goody. Severe punishments

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compared to a liberal view. purpose of prison is to bring

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people that have been found to be guilty of some offence to serve a

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period in prison. The period of being outside society is a

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punishment in itself. After we have taken away their liberty and they

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are there for six months, one year or whatever, we must engage with

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people to look at what is required when they come back into society

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began. I am interested in the term a liberal. It is not easy for

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people to face up to their behaviour and make these changes.

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What matters is that people come out and that they did not commit

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offences again and we do not have people victimised and have more

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crime. That is not so much liberal as sensible and a good use of

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public money. We are trying to We've heard repeated calls for a

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re-evaluation of business rates but the Finance Minister has again said

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that won't happen until 2015. I asked Sammy Wilson why that's the

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case. I have heard this said, that because the value has gone down,

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and therefore be rates should go down. But of course when the Dow

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you was going up four and five times in the middle of the boom, it

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went up four or five times because that is not the way that it works.

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We set a certain amount of money in which to raise it from taxation. If

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it goes down, for example, by 50 %, that does not mean the rate will go

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down by 50 %. We still want to get the same amount of money from

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business rates but it might mean that it would double and equally

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the value of properties go up and the amount you pay per pound would

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half. If people think this will be a panacea for getting rates down,

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it might change relatively for some people and some areas getting an

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increase and other areas getting a decrease but it is not going to

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solve all of the problems. What about changing the system

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altogether with a local sales tax? That would not necessarily be all

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that fair. Because you might find that some stores cover a big area

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and meet demands on public services, but the value of sales is quite low

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and vice versa. And so with every kind of system, we will always have

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an upside and downside. A sales tax for example, it will only have, it

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can end the be based on declared sales. What about fly-by-night

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stalls? Before accounts are published, they are bankrupt and

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whatever. That could be a recipe for people that wants to avoid

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paying any tax at all. These are the kind of considerations we have

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decided and unless the Assembly asks for a total change in how we

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did local taxation, we have done a valuation of property and we will

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have a where shinned down and that will be done in a way that will be

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robust and in place by 2015. Rather than the gaps that we have, we want

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to do a five year valuation and an evaluation of property on a regular

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basis. But we did not want the turbulence in the market. I think

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that is the right decision because we did the way the recession went

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and property values went all over the place, we could not have a

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proper valuation. Why should government revenues be protected?

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Because they are used for the very services on which businesses depend.

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Every week, I have got organisations coming and saying

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that we would like to spend more money in a revamping town centres

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and on infrastructure and protecting businesses, the police

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service and so on. People pay for a service. That is why we collect the

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Revenue. And if we stop the service is because we did not collect the

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Revenue, people could equally say that is having an impact on

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Students in Northern Ireland who want to go to university in

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Scotland are being told they can qualify for free tuition, as long

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as they have an Irish passport. The Ulster Unionist Employment &

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Learning spokesperson, Basil McCrea, has called for fairness. He joins

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me now. What do you mean by that? It is not fair that you can have

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one set of people in Northern Ireland that can go to university

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for free and another person 50 ft away that cannot. That is not fair

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and it is not equality. everybody can surely apply for an

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Irish passport? That is about different value choices people make.

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It does seem strange that legislation says not just Irish

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passport but Belgian, French or any European Union passport would get a

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free education in Scotland. The only people that cannot get it for

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free in Scotland are people in Northern Ireland, England or Wales

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and that is discriminatory. people can get eat here within

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reason if they apply for the Irish passport and gave for a course

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where there is not a cap. Discrimination is not right, ever,

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under any circumstances. And if you talk about discriminating against

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English people in Northern Ireland or Irish people in Scotland, the

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whole of Northern Ireland is based on equity and fairness. What is

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very strange for me in this debate is that people that shout loudest

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about equality are strangely quiet about this. If we want a civilised

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society it should be equal for everybody and if it is free for one

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person you should be for others. He should charge the same fees for

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everybody. But surely the equation is that the students are faced with

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a question, even if they are Irish passport holders, they are not sure

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if they will get their choice because of the competition. It they

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say that they will pay the fees, that is very unfair to put them in

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that position. I did not have any problem with people taking an Irish

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passport and saying that entitles into that is presumably some form

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of Merit and suitability. That seems fair and equitable. But what

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seems unfair is that an equally qualified person going for exactly

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the same course and the same timescale and place will be charged

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money. We do not have any way around that. That is totally unfair

:21:58.:22:03.

and discriminatory. The DUP and Sinn Fein should be speaking up for

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this because they speak up on an awful lot of similar issues.

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are we not doing the same thing, we are not offering it for free but

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they will have to pay a higher rate than the students here? The idea of

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discrimination has broken down because of the fee structure that

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is operating. If you offer to one it should be offered to another. I

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did not have any problem with a regulatory regime that says that we

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think that if we charge more fees we can offer a better course. Or it

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people say that we do not want to charge fees because that can

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discourage participation. That is valid but what is not is charging

:22:48.:22:52.

one set of fees to one set of people and another or not charging

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another set of people. That is blatant and absolute, no getting

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away from it, this is discriminatory. It is not equality

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and it shows the paucity of arguments from other parties like

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the DUP and Sinn Fein and its his country means anything it is about

:23:11.:23:17.

being fair. We must realise the trauma in society and we have to

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fix that. Looking at Justice, you have just left de Justice Committee

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but what do you think the committee and the Assembly must do to make

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things better for your organisation in terms of rehabilitation? I think

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the projects generally, I think we have got an issue about the justice

:23:39.:23:44.

committee and continued scrutiny. We need to be moving forward in a

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positive direction and the committee provides that scrutiny

:23:47.:23:54.

and they will continue to do that. But we need the Executive, anyone

:23:54.:23:59.

minister on their home must have the support of other parties, other

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departments, other ministers to make the Executive work at them. We

:24:03.:24:11.

have to work together -- make the Executive happen. That is something

:24:11.:24:19.

We talked last week and last night about the lack of business here at

:24:19.:24:22.

the Assembly. Well, there was a development today as Gareth Gordon

:24:22.:24:27.

told me earlier. We have not had much action in the chamber for

:24:27.:24:33.

weeks. We had a situation which is indicative of the fact that we do

:24:33.:24:37.

not have enough for MLAs to be discussing but the business

:24:37.:24:42.

committee have communicated concerns to the DUP Minister and

:24:42.:24:46.

will go back to the Executive to tell us what has been set. I have

:24:46.:24:51.

been told by that committee that things are looking better and we

:24:51.:24:56.

have got a much healthier order paper for this month and more

:24:56.:25:02.

executive business. But at least one MLA said more can be done.

:25:02.:25:07.

are working on this, that and the other but I would rather they came

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clean and told us that and we knew what to expect. By not coming

:25:12.:25:16.

forward, there appears to be a suspicion that maybe they do not

:25:16.:25:20.

have something. I would not like to think that but if that is the case

:25:20.:25:27.

we had better have a review of what they are doing. But we have got

:25:27.:25:31.

problems for Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness as well. It is

:25:31.:25:35.

not just today but it has been dominated today here by health

:25:35.:25:40.

matters and that has been causing concern in the officer of the first

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and Deputy First Minister. They have got a trade negotiation to the

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United Arab Emirates and India and they are feeling decidedly unwell

:25:52.:25:57.

and in the past few months it has been bad and I think that we need

:25:57.:26:04.

to look at that. We have been looking at people being sent to

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prison in this way and it does not happen in the UK any more. Does

:26:09.:26:15.

that deeds to be reviewed? It is really disproportionate. At the

:26:15.:26:20.

time when the offence is committed and the individual is in court, the

:26:20.:26:26.

judge determines if that is an offence at once a prison. A much

:26:26.:26:32.

lesser outcome -- that is warranting prism. That is like

:26:32.:26:42.
:26:42.:26:44.

community service and a fine. -- prism. -- jail. People can choose

:26:44.:26:54.
:26:54.:26:55.

to go to jail instead of paying.... Some people end up defaulting and

:26:55.:27:02.

they have owed less than �500. Some of them have them for motoring

:27:02.:27:08.

offences. In the big picture of who should be going to jail, one a

:27:08.:27:15.

fence that warrants it, I did not condemn for one second what has

:27:15.:27:18.

happened but I do not think that is what the majority thinks that prism

:27:18.:27:28.
:27:28.:27:30.

Now you may have heard of a dead cat bounce - that's when there's a

:27:30.:27:32.

temporary recovery on the stock market. We didn't have that today.

:27:32.:27:35.

What we did have was a finance minister bounce. He wasn't trying

:27:35.:27:39.

to jump start the economy, but launch a family fun day which will

:27:39.:27:42.

take place at Stormont next month. And Sammy Wilson wasn't shy when it

:27:42.:27:52.
:27:52.:28:19.

1, 2, 3, go! That is better. You see the way I do that? Better milk.

:28:19.:28:29.
:28:29.:28:29.

Not very good? What a minister. That is good. And that is on 4th

:28:29.:28:38.

A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Tara Mills 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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