01/12/2015 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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Helping children with Special Needs, climate change and the refugee


crisis - it was the proverbial mixed bag up here on the Hill.


But don't worry, there was still room for some good


old-fashioned argey bargey and name-calling in the chamber and


time for more details about Peter Robinson's departure as DUP leader


Questions about manufacturing and Corporation Tax get personal...


So here we have in Northern Ireland and opportunity to attract 30,000


jobs in Northern Ireland. And the small minded, petty can just snarl.


The First Minister gives his support to the refugees due to


These are people who are genuine refugees and if I know anything


about the people of Northern Ireland is that they are charitable and


giving people who will extend the hand of welcome.


And joining me with his thoughts on today's developments is


Professor Rick Wilford from Queen's University...


He's long been a thorn in the side of the DUP,


but Jim Allister found himself up against the purple prose of the


"Small-minded, petty and a self-professed expert


in everything" - just some of the descriptions Jonathan Bell


chose to deploy against the TUV leader in the chamber.


Mr Bell was answering questions on his brief, including the hosting of


the Northern Ireland football team at Stormont, but it was an inquiry


about the manufacturing sector that kicked the war of words off...


He talks about ongoing discussions with the minister which will produce


the skills needed if he exaggerates his claim about 30,000 jobs on the


back of corporation tax is ever to be met. The Seaham Minister has time


about number in recent months complained vigorously and publicly


about the lack of commitment to skills and skilling up and training


to meet that challenge. So how is it that the minister thinks he is


making progress about delivering these things and the minister in


charge does not seem to know anything about it? We have just got


another prime example of a small person that needs to try and talk


other people down. To talk the manufacturing industry down in an


attempt to make himself look big. I tell the member, contrary to what he


would self believe, he does not know it all. None of us do. The reality


that we have got is from Professor Neil Gibson of 30,000 jobs. The


member I know believes himself to be a self-professed expert in


everything, but he is not and we turned to the best evidence that we


have. Here we have in Northern Ireland, an opportunity to attract


30,000 jobs in Northern Ireland. And the small-minded, petty can just


snarl. Tourism Northern Ireland has been working closely in recent years


with various sporting organisations such as the Irish Football


Association in developing initiatives to promote Northern


Ireland. In terms of the European Championships 2016, tourism Northern


Ireland will work with its partners, Tourism Ireland to exploit any


potential destination marketing and PR opportunities to promote Northern


Ireland in overseas markets. I was disappointed to note that the


Department for culture arts and leisure have not held a reception


for the Northern Ireland team at Stormont, given that the Minister


has previously welcomed foreign nations, does the Minister plan to


welcome the team to Stormont in the near future and show his support for


our home team? I have already issued an invitation which I understand


will be taken up by the Northern Ireland football team and the


management around them because it is important for us to celebrate what


is a huge success for the Northern Ireland team and what they have


achieved, because even under the old rules of qualification for the


Euros, Northern Ireland would have qualified this time as well. There


was no play-off required for the team, they delivered and they


delivered well and came on top of their group and they deserve the


support of all of us. And the success not only of our football


team also comes on the back of the success of Rory McIlroy, Darren


Clarke, Graeme McDowell, Carl Frampton, a P McCoy, our


Commonwealth Games team and our Olympians. It would be great if our


football team -- go would be a disgrace if they were not recognised


at Stormont. We will ensure that a suitable date, hopefully around the


time of the March international break, we'll be here to honour the


team and I hope that all of us, because when I looked at Windsor


Park and Northern Ireland getting behind the team on one of the best


nights I have ever enjoyed, and it did give, not only a huge lift to


those there, it gave a huge lift the country and I hope we can all come


together and celebrate that success together.


Jonathan Bell, nailing his sporting credentials to the mast.


Jim Allister likes to be the one dishing out the ascerbic asides.


Do you think having Jonathan Bell nipping at


Not at all. Totally nonplussed. I was reminded of Denis Healey's


description of being assaulted verbally by Geoffrey Howe like being


savaged by a dead sheep. This is probably comparable to that. You


cannot deliver that put down line, you just cannot do it. He could not


deliver well. He needs to strip to an orthodox script and not try and


engage in verbal fisticuffs with Jim Allister.


Do you think the Enterprise Minister is growing into the role?


It is a big role to fill. It was formerly occupied by Arlene Foster


and I think she did do a pretty good job in helping to sell Northern


Ireland, particularly to overseas investors. I think the shoes are


probably a bit too big for him, I am not sure he is up to ministerial


work. not sure he is up to ministerial


the job over time. With a new leader not sure he is up to ministerial


in the offing, he could be reshuffled sideways or out, I do not


think he would be missed. And the potential visit


of the successful Northern Ireland football team to Stormont still has


the potential to ruffle It is bound to, but goodness me, if


you cannot celebrate the success of any sporting venture, whether it is


an individual or a team, I think there needs to be some sort of


reception, that is worthwhile. It would be a shame if it did not


happen and I see there is some possibility for the parish and


Northern Ireland team celebrated in Dublin and I think it would be


remiss if they could not happen in Belfast.


We'll hear more from you again later.


Today in the chamber, after nine long years, the bill dealing with


Special Educational Needs - or S-E-N - reached its consideration stage.


The goal is to improve the help available to children who


The bill will only have the desired outcomes if there is a more complex


the approach from education and health working through the


legislative processes, this bill is fine, but the true measure of its


effectiveness will be determined how well our SEN children are catered


for in the future. The sharing is two sided, information can travel


both ways and importantly may pull budgets and researchers for this


purpose as exercising their functions. We have heard of the


example in the delay of child receiving the appropriate care was


down to a simple yet elongated debate about who would pay for it.


The committee amendment would resolve that debate and the obvious


delay. I support the bill and the amendments. She mentioned the fact


that the first review was nine years ago. I think it was only myself and


the minister who have been involved with this right through the whole


nine years, it sometimes feels like 19 years, but I am glad we have got


to where we are now and I welcome the bill having got to this stage. I


think this is a huge step forward with regards to special educational


needs. The whole concept behind it is to try and speed up what is an


incredibly bureaucratic system. I think everyone in the house will


welcome the attempts to speed that process up. It goes back to some of


what I said at second stage, what is disappointing is we have a


Department of education bill for special education needs when what we


need is an executive bill for special education needs, because SEN


and disability is not the sole remit of one department, it cuts across a


number of departments and indeed, much of the conversation today has


been around the need for departments to co-operate. I think it is proper


that we reflect on the steady increase of numbers of people with


SEN over the last ten years. Some 73,435 pupils with SEN in 2014 and


2015. There is a stark but clear need in relation to advancing this


legislation. This bill has not been delayed due to political fallout or


expediency. This bill has been brought forward on the basis that we


want to bring as many people with us as possible. We have sought


agreement, we have interrogated the issues, we have debated the issues


both in terms of the original consultation. Many debates within


the committee even in my time in the committee, presentations by myself


to the current Education Committee, and by others in the SEN field


because we want to get this piece of legislation out. We want to make


sure that this piece of legislation is the building block upon which we


build a moderate SEN service. It's been just a week since MLAs


applauded Peter Robinson leaving the chamber, but he was back again


today reporting on the most recent meeting of the


British-Irish Council in London. And the outgoing First Minister was,


perhaps surprisingly, complimentary about the Irish government's


involvement with the Council - and critical of the commitment


of the British government... I am sure the First Minister


appreciates the role of the Secretary of State for Northern


Ireland in hosting this but does he have any concerns that the UK


Government is not represented at a senior level as the Irish government


at these meetings? I think we need to be clear that the Secretary of


State hosted this summit, it need not have been the Secretary of State


although we welcome the presence of the Secretary of State and the fact


that she did post this session. I think it does need to be said


certainly in discussions, the Deputy First Minister and I recognise the


distinction that there was, that end Kenny comes faithfully to every big


meeting, as did his predecessor comes faithfully to every big meaty


but I can only recall in my time at one meeting with the Prime Minister


was present and I think there is a requirement for all of us to


recommit to make sure that we are represented at the highest levels.


Can I ask the Minister in relation to dealing with refugees,


particularly Syrian refugees, did the First Minister learn anything of


value that could be applied here and further to that point, if I might in


dolls the principled Deputy Speaker, there is an anti-refugee


demonstration called for Saturday, and I would ask the First Minister


to give his view on whether or not that Raleigh should in fact take


place? In terms of Northern Ireland, yes I think we did learn quite a bit


because Scotland has already received refugees and they already


have experience and officials here will be continuing to contact


officials in the UK generally but Scotland in particular, because they


have the direct and immediate experience. I perhaps can well


comment on this issue with the reference to the so-called rally on


Saturday. It needs to be remembered that these are people who have had


complete security checks carried out. They are families that are


coming into Northern Ireland, ten or 11 families. They are people who


have faced in some cases torture, in other cases, trauma, they are people


who are in need of support. They are not the Mediterranean economic


migrants. These are people who are genuine refugees and if I know


anything about the people of Northern Ireland, it is that they


are charitable and giving people who will extend the hand of welcome and


I have just noticed over the last few days, since the Deputy First


Minister and I were covered on television speaking about this


issue, I have had several churches and a number of individuals all


wanting to know how they can put themselves forward in order to give


assistance and support and welcome to these people. So, I do not think


that those who are going to campaign against the presence of refugees


will get a very warm hearing from the people of Northern Ireland.


The First Minister making clear his support


for the Syrian refugees currently en route to Northern Ireland.


We've received more details on when exactly Peter Robinson will be


The meeting on the 17th, the electoral college. I assume there


will only be the one nominee. Then the patronage is exercised by the


leader of the party and becomes nominating officer. I doubt very


much it will be done at that location and it may well wait until


January. That opens up the issue of who will become deputy leader and


whether that will be somebody else, or somebody preferably from within


the assembly block. Just a huge assumption that it will be Nigel


Dodds, and we haven't even heard from him that he wants the job! This


is more akin to how the Conservative party, when Alec Douglas Hume got


the job, the Magic Circle with the secular equivalent of the magic


white smoke. It looks very much like that is the process by which the DUP


will engage. Peter Robinson is still expected to


be First Minister That is interesting. And they wonder


why because with the session ending you would think that was an


appropriate time to go but maybe one or two things he wants to tidy up


before he leaves. We will find out what those might be course and speak


to you before the end of the programme.


A bill to update the regulation of the social care sector has had


Although it passed on a unanimous oral vote, some members


of the Health Committee felt it shouldn't have been brought in this


mandate because they might not have enough time to scrutinise it.


The health and personal social services Amendment Bill aims to


achieve two things. It will modernise the council's conduct and


extend the range of sanctions and extend the council's powers to


formally recognise the learning achievements of social workers. The


minister introduced the bill last week and prior to this happening,


the committee had written to the Minister on 18th of November to ask


him not to introduce this bill during the remainder of this


mandate. This was on foot of a discussion which the committee had


in relation to our legislative programme. As members will be aware,


the human transplantation bill is currently at committee stage and we


are all aware that it is a complex and emotive piece of legislation


which will require the committee's detail the tension between now and


the end of January. The minister had also indicated to the committee that


it was his intention to shortly introduce the health miscellaneous


provisions Bill, and that happened yesterday, and again that piece of


legislation will require the committee's attention over a


relatively short period of time. Can I also concur with the remarks made


by the chair in relation to not pursuing this legislation, not


because we don't support the general principles, but because of the


committee's ability to scrutinise and get what I am saying about both


the proposed rules and the extent of the work undertaken, and the needs


of the workforce. They need to know and I think it is important to say


that the workforce needs to know that these matters are properly


scrutinised because of the importance. Once the latest process


comes to an end, Northern Ireland will be the only part of the UK that


registers its whole social care workforce. While I understand the


rationale behind what the department is trying to achieve in improving


safeguards and making sure those who often have unaccompanied access to


our vulnerable and their homes, I would encourage the Department to


work very closely and carefully with the sector to ensure undue pressures


are not placed upon employees. Looking forward to the future and in


keeping with the direction of travel provided by transforming your care


and other potential reforms, social workers and other stuff that worked


in the community are set to take on more and more responsibilities for


delivery of health and social services outcomes. In this regard, I


do believe that the additional regulation offered by this


legislation is appropriate at this time. This shouldn't be seen as an


attack on the sterling efforts of social workers but an


acknowledgement of their critical and growing role and the existing


professional standards. Whilst understanding and appreciating the


pressure is the service has to content with I wasn't prepared to


further delay modernisation and regulation of the social care


workforce. Other members midpoints around the timing issue and Mr


McKenney mentioned, and I hope I am not quoting inaccurately, but he


spoke about the need to have full and lengthy robust scrutiny of


legislation and there I agree with that point. Those principles I


believe should be applied to all legislation, particularly those that


are of a controversial nature. As world leaders discuss climate


change in Paris, the topic was also raised closer to


home during questions to Mark H Durkan was asked


about climate change legislation here, but before that, he responded


to a question on proposals to make changes to George Best Belfast City


Airport's planning agreement... With regards to the PAC report of


the public inquiry into the proposed modification of the planning


agreement with George Best Belfast city airport, the department


received that report from the PAC on the 30th October this year.


Interested parties were notified that the report was received. Before


releasing this report, which I haven't seen yet, I will consider


the advice of my department on if and how the agreement should or


could be potentially modified. The report will subsequently be made


available to other stakeholders and the general public after it has been


the closed to the airport themselves as the other party to the plan. --


disclosed. Mr Deputy Speaker, perhaps the Minister did outline


what further steps are then taken as part of the overall process to reach


accommodation around what are clearly as he has views on the


issue? As the member puts it, there clearly are differing views on this


issue and I certainly have a degree of sympathy with those living in the


immediate vicinity of the airport who feel that the noise has become


too much for them. Under the current agreement with George Best Belfast


city airport, there are restrictions on seat numbers as well as


restrictions on times of your traffic. Some of the breaches which


residents and objectors to the noise have pointed to, breaches of the


times, for example, are beyond the control of George Best Belfast city


airport, realistically. We are not going to see the introduction of


climate change during this mandate and that is something that causes me


regret. As I have said over the past two years I have been attempting to


build consensus, I believe we are making slow but steady progress in


that regard, and I think the topicality of this as I have said


over the past two years I have been attempting to build consensus, I


believe we are making slow but steady progress in that regard, and


I think the topicality of that has been afforded to the ongoing


confidence in Paris and the issue of climate change is something that we


can work to our advantage. I do feel the passion from him and the


enthusiasm from him about climate change legislation in Northern


Ireland and I want to thank him for that. But as he says, it is not


going to happen in this mandate with you being the Minister, how does he


feel the new structure of the two departments working together, isn't


going to enhance the possibility of getting that legislation or is it


going to be a hindrance? I thank the member for that question. I am not


sure how she felt my passion. I hope it was as good for hard as it was


for me! The new departmental setup could work either way. There are


potentially advantages in the amalgamation of agriculture and


environmental policy, and it will bring officials from most apartments


closer together and hopefully working towards common goals,


however the member is well aware of consensus expressed from the


environmental sector, that this might not be an amalgamation of


environment and agriculture. It might be an assumption of


environment into agriculture. And Mark H Durkan will be attending


the climate change conference The Culture Minister also made


a statement in the Assembly today. She told Members about her plans to


consult on a framework for promoting This this will include proposals for


legislation which will be taken forward through the remainder of


this assembly mandate and into the new mandate. I have already written


to ministerial colleagues in order to seek their support and


commitments in relation to the framework. I am announcing today is


my intention to engage in pre-consultation through the sign


language partnership with some additional membership. The framework


needs to be agreed with the partnership and to reflect members'


views. I have listened carefully to what the deaf community are saying.


Their message is clear, they want legislation to safeguard their


rights as a cultural and linguistic minority. They want to be able to


access services in the language. I want to support their efforts. It is


important therefore that we build on the work so far and take steps to


make accessibility and inclusion throughout society the norm for our


deaf community. In the statement, the Minister referred to the


resources necessary to provide phone every family who wish to take such


classes, and the fact those resources are not clear at the


moment. Could the Minister please spell out for us what she means in


terms of resources? Is this a financial resource or is


terms of resources? Is this a having the right people there to


teach sign language? At the minute teach sign language? At the minute


it is about the financial support within my department to help


families access sign language support in classes. They need is


increasing, and the rather than perhaps waiting until taking bets,


which I will do, I think it is important to bathe in mind that


there are many more children and families who need support,


particularly within the deaf community.


And Professor Rick Wilford is with me again for a final few thoughts.


Looking ahead to tomorrow's vote in Westminster on air-strikes in Syria,


tonight the DUP has confirmed it will vote with the government.


I am not surprised, although two years ago they voted against the


proposal to bomb Syria, which was an anti-dash-mac anti-Assad campaign.


They may wait and way the argument tomorrow, ten hours of debate. The


SDLP will vote against although they are going to put down some


amendments, or vote on amendments already put down, but the DUP no


surprise will support Cameron's proposition. Closer to home and


finally, the Attorney General has said today that in his view same-sex


marriage is a matter for Stormont legislators to decide on. Indeed,


perhaps because he knows what the outcome is likely to be given past


performance, voted on five times. Last occasion that got a majority of


one but was defeated by petition, but he is a very proactive Attorney


General. I am reminded of Clement Attlee once saying after a period of


silence, a period of silence would be very welcome from you. Some may


be less vocal and summoned the legal profession would like him to be less


vocal, although he was speaking in the course of a court hearing and


maybe on that basis. We will leave it there, thank you very much as


ever. Join me on Thursday at 10:35pm on BBC One but until then from all


of us, goodbye. Do you have views


on BBC Radio Ulster,


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.