02/10/2012 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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Hello and welcome to Stormont Today. Coming up: Do the Alliance Party


and the Ulster Unionists make a mistake when deciding to leave the


Cohesion, Sharing and Integration working group? The Deputy First


Minister certainly thinks so. important that the Alliance Party


step out of those important discussions. It is better... They


might admit they made a mistake. And a bit of advice for a troubled


Ulster Unionist Party as well. Ulster Unionist Party themselves


need to be involved in a process of Cohesion, Sharing and Integration,


considering what we have heard in the last couple of days. Plus


accusations of a big following an urgent oral question. There appears


to be a bleak in regards confidential... Order, please.


regards confidential material from We kick off today with questions to


the Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness. He was asked about


perfect -- public confidence a relating to appointments to the


Maze/Long Kesh Development Corporation board. But first he


updated the Assembly on the Cohesion, Sharing and Integration


strategy and confirmed he expects a report from the working group


within the next few weeks. First Minister and I are committed to


improving community relations. Breaking forward a robust community


relations strategy with a clear framework for action. We very much


recognise the importance of translating the Executive's


commitment to clear, meaningful action, and we have asked the


cross-party working group to conclude its work as a matter of


Would he not accept that the actions of himself as Deputy First


Minister and, indeed, another minister from his party, are not


doing anything to help build community relationships and this


needs to be addressed to --? Are I am an Irish republican. All of the


commemorations that I attend receive clearance from both the


police and the Police Commission. I am only interested in attending


commemorations which are within the law. It is absolutely vital on all


of us within this House to recognise that we have to abide by


the rule of law and I also state people need to abide by the


determinations of the Parades Commission. Can I ask the first


minister where there any new framework for dealing with parades


and protests will be included in the forthcoming strategy? It was


very unfortunate that the Alliance Party, which mostly in its


contributions to this Assembly, and the workings of the Assembly, has


shown itself to be very reflective. It was very important that the


Alliance Party stepped out of those important discussions. I think with


the benefit of hindsight they might admit they made a mistake. I want


to pay tribute to those representatives from my own party,


from the Democratic Unionist Party and from the SDLP who have stayed


with it. Up until the point where the Alliance Party stepped out, and


incomprehensibly to me, the Ulster Unionists stepped out also, and


importing significant progress had been made. Even since the


Department of the Ulster Unionists and the Alliance Party, more


progress has been made and all of these issues that have proved


themselves to be difficult in the past have shown themselves during


the course of these discussions to be capable of resolution. I said it


was incomprehensible of the Ulster Unionist Party to step out. They


themselves need to be involved in a crisis of cohesion, sharing and


integration, up from what we have heard. Would he have made it that


process surrounding the board has been damaged somewhat? -- would he


admit. I wonder what steps he would have in mind to try to address this


issue. I wonder how people are making an assessment of where


public confidence actually lies. I think people are hugely heartened


by the fact that the First Minister and myself had the ability to put


in place Development Corporation which is truly reflective of our


entire mint -- our entire community. People to have the ability to take


forward what is probably the prime development site on this island and


we have had huge important development with the announcement


from Europe of �20 million for the first building complete


transformation centre. And also the decision by the Ulster Royal


Agricultural Society to construct a building so that it can be up and


running for 2013. All of that represents tremendous progress. I


also think that there has been some debate in the cause of recent times


about the people who were appointed to the board. The people who were


appointed to the board of people who have the confidence of the vows


and myself. They are people who have been appointed because of


their expertise and people who we believe will take forward our


objectives of ensuring that the economic and historic and


reconciliation potential of that site can be used for the benefit of


all our people. After the news that more than 150


people will lose their jobs at the troubled sports retailer JJB Sports,


and urgent or will question was put to the employment minister, Stephen


Farry, asking him what protection is in place for employees here


whose jobs are going. My officials have made contact with


the administrator, KPMG, primarily due offered to support the


employees made redundant. KPMG has advised three stores in Antrim and


other places have been sold to sports direct, retaining 65 jobs.


Of the employees from the ten stores elsewhere, 154 employees


have been made redundant immediately. Ten employees are


currently existing the administrator with the closure of


the stores. KPMG is writing to each redundant employee tomorrow and has


agreed to include details of the redundancy advice service. My


officials will subsequently gauge the interests from the employees


and will organise redundancy clinics on a reasonable basis if


necessary. Employees will have a tenant package of professional


advice about the options and support available. Can ask whether


he is satisfied that the redundancy advice service he has mentioned is


fit for purpose and whether I he feels it may need tailored to suit


the needs of people who have found themselves recently out of work.


do think my service is certainly fit for purpose, although it is


coming under considerable pressure at the moment as we have had a


number of redundancies and there is pressure on the staff. Our staff


are rising to that challenge and recognise the importance of what


they're doing. I think the real importance of moving this forward


is trying to work with the employees who find themselves in


this situation, to have the skills properly recognise and putting them


in contact with all the job opportunities that may be there in


the retail sector. Another minister who knows all


about the impact of the recession is the finance minister. In


Question Time, Sammy Wilson was quizzed about corporation tax and


the Treasury negotiations. But here he is first answering a question


about unpaid rates. At the end of the financial year 2011 to 2012,


the debt was �160.8 million. These figure includes rating of empty


homes, which is subject to audit. Those figures he has supplied a


quite startling. Does he have any new initiative to ensure that rates


are paid, bearing in mind that many ratepayers, in particular in the


retail sector, are struggling at this particular time and they do


feel very discouraged when they discover that others are not


paying? Where people I did not pay, refused to pay or have shown over a


period of time they are not going to abide by those arrangements, we


will go for court action and lastly, if we have to, we will take people


to the point of bankruptcy. When the minister engaged at the start


of July, we were assured that the redress system would be put in


place within a few days. Can he applied to the house why it took so


long for the Ulster Bank compensation scheme to be put in


place and whether a measly �20 was a little too late? These have to be


worked out with the fact will services authority. I do not know


whether they have queries or whether Ulster Bank was slow in


bringing the proposals forward. Ultimately, I know some customers


are disappointed. Ulster Bank make this point -- I make his point to


them, that the longer they delayed, the longer the saw was going to


agitate and the more the sort agitated, the angry at the


customers were going to get and they would alter money pay the


place for that. Considering the devolution of responsibility for


corporation tax, it is now in my opinion entering a critical stage


of investigations. I remain concerned about the cost currently


proposed by Treasury officials which I believe his expensive. The


working group is due to meet again on 18th October with a due to


resolving outstanding issues and after that, I believe it will be


down to a political decision involving the Prime Minister,


Deputy Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer.


Next to an Alliance mission looking at the problem small and medium-


sized businesses have been accessing bank lending. The party


wants the Executive to make sure companies are aware of other


sources of finance available be on the banks.


We have a range of established SMA is a big potential, yet this


potential and enthusiasm is not always matched by its financial


backing. Yes, we have a small population but it should not


confine our growth or long-term objectives. Key to any progress


will be measurable finance available to nurture and grow our


private sector from the bottom up. Therefore, I am seeking to


highlight where exactly are Executive can use its influence to


ensure that our businesses are connected officially to finance


sources. I think it is quite clear. In terms of opinions of how the


banks in particular have behaved, regardless of what your


interpretation of their behaviour is, but they are certainly stifling,


if not suffocating, many businesses, in terms of their actions. We need


a satisfactory resolution for corporation tax. It could create 50


to 60,000 jobs for Northern Ireland. It will assist small and medium-


sized businesses to access the export market. We need to ensure


young people have the skills and education to compete. We need to


encourage people to save. We need more funds, more of our own fans in


global markets. That is the long and short of it. Export and export-


led growth is the one instrument that could well lead us out of


I have returned from a visit to San Francisco to boost trade and


investment links. If I was incurred a stand to open a new Office. Are


there in April, the Deputy First Minister and myself were in the


Middle East and India where we met again and number of companies as


well as political leaders, trying, again, to push it into those new


areas where we believe there are opportunities. We have appointed


somebody to take for words important work and someone in a


Brussels office to invest in Northern Ireland. I do believe that


MLAs do need to be very much doing their part to let companies in


their own region know what is available to them and I am happen


these -- and I am happy to work with MLAs and getting the


information they need. information they need.


The deputy minister Arlene Foster. Joining me now is Stewart Dixon


from the Alliance Party. When he reassured by what the minister had


to say? I was, and there was an interesting debate today on the


whole issue of how the finance her small and medium-sized enterprise


and businesses in Northern Ireland. And a great deal of unanimity in


Northern Ireland. The executive has Northern Ireland. The executive has


clearly set out a strategy, we have had extreme difficulties with the


banking sector, as you know. And yet, be set today shows that over


61% of small business enterprises in Northern Ireland are actually


satisfied with the services and the loans they are getting from banks.


Could the assembly and executive be doing more to help those smaller


businesses? Particularly start-up businesses, which really struggle,


perhaps more than other more established businesses to access


cash. Of course you can always do better, and it is complicated,


there are a whole plethora of mechanisms that small businesses


have to go through, whether it is looking for funding from local


enterprise agencies, looking for the funding from the bank or from


invest a Northern Ireland or one of the other bodies and I have just


made a few, and are simply too many of them. The path we through that


is very complicated, when at the same time, you are trying to get


your new business up and running. When you are trying to go have


recruit employees, when you are trying to deal with people who want


to help you or -- who want to help you if market your business. It is


very difficult to define for Redpath way through to source that


funding. But I am convinced that the second and the minister, praise


were it is due, the minister -- has worked very hard to attend to help


small businesses identify those resources.


Can I ask about another issue which has caused a few eyebrows to be


raised? That is the Alliance Party's position or positions,


perhaps more accurately, on yesterday's a vote on gay marriage.


Your party's policy is to support the change. One of your members


voted against and three abstained. What were they doing? The Alliance


Party has a very clear policy in relation to the quality in marriage,


we determined that when the party council, after a likely period of


consideration with -- consideration of the matter came to that


consideration at the post on the matter yesterday in a boat in the


assembly which was clearly a significant vote but one which in


reality will bring best forward in Northern Ireland. A half of your


assembly team did not vote in support of the party policy.


member voted against and other members were not present. They did


not vote. That set out a mixed message here electorate, we now


have people in east Belfast to have started a petition to protest the


fact that two of their representatives who they think


should be leading change, did not do so yesterday. Didn't demonstrate


that desire to change. Even though the party voted for it as its


policy, they are party members who struggle with that find it


difficult to support that had taken a policy and that the stage


individual MLAs. At you are off to Bosnia in the morning? I am, I am


going as an election monitor and representing Northern Ireland.


Have a safe track and thank you for turning us.


It has been a busy few days for the education minister. Despite facing


questions yesterday, Mr without appeared at the despatch box today


to answer an urgent oral question from the DUP on how much an


upcoming advertising campaign aimed average is costing his department.


There is no aspect of the medication works campaign that has


been taken forward in Irish only. Met all parts of the campaign have


also been taken forward in English. Any advertising undertaken by


department that -- by the department is taken bilingual. This


policy was run prior to the participation in the campaign, and


the decision to run the campaign in Irish is in keeping with


departmental policy. This is part of her policy to address


educational achievement among young people, and doing it for the medium


of Irish and English. The department has a duty to facilitate


Irish and English language. The Irish language adverts composers


approximately 10% of the air time of the English version. We have


stopped the assembly as that of the day to bring this important matter


of cost to the forefront, so members may watch to setback in


their seats and absorb the cost. The cost of the television slots


for the adverts to be aired in Irish during the first week of


October is �4,360. Or order! This is what we have stopped assembly


business for. The additional the production cost for the Irish


version of the advert was 4283p. So for approximately �1,600, the


assembly has had to be stopped, all this the set-aside and the


Government put on hold, stop the presses. -- �8,600. The Irish


version of the advertisement was had -- was given to clear pass to


give broadcasters advice on the best quotes a practice. No legal


issues were raised. That is no legal issues were raised by either


the broadcasters or clear cast. Legal advice was not required or


sought. These are advertisements which are exclusively in Irish, can


the Minister outlined the fact... Order! Car and the outline the fact


that he is bound by the ministerial code which indicates that any


matter which is significant or controversial should be considered


by the executors? Can also that it states that no expenditure can be


properly incurred without the approval of the Department of


Finance and Personnel? Won at -- are both those positions an


accurate depiction of the facts of the matter in the course of the


past few weeks I have acted in full compliance of the Ministerial Code,


and all ministers have to comply with the ministerial code.


member has a pointed out to me, unless I missed it, as to whether


it reached the ministerial code. Had taken all necessary processes


and procedures in procuring the advertisement which is to be


broadcast in both Irish and English and while Mr Campbell may have


nothing else to do than worry about the expenditure of �8,000 I am sure


the members of the public are saying, I am sure the assembly has


more important things to be debating that the expenditure of


�8,000. But if the member wishes to be more specific, if the member


wishes to be more specific on the area of the ministerial code and a


breach in Irish or English I am more than happy to answer his


question, but to date he has not. I am concerned on the matter, and


concerned in one matter which I will be bringing to the head of the


Civil Service, it appears to have been awake from the department of


finance and personnel to the member with regards to the financial...


order! In regards to confidential material from one minister to


another minister. Perhaps Mr Campbell would like to take the


opportunity to tell the House now has to where she came upon the


confidential information which he refers to both in his statement and


this morning. Members! Members! Can I ask for good temper and


moderation in all that you do, please deputy speaker right decks


trying to calm things down. Education was very much in the for


today as MLAs debated a second Education issued on the floor. This


time it was levels of absenteeism in our schools. Many children are


missing more than one day in seven and falling significantly behind in


the classroom because of that. This in turn can lead to low self-esteem,


and increases the likelihood that students will drop out of school.


by the time children reach secondary school it becomes more


difficult for parents and schools to get the non attenders to school.


The majority of parents whose children are taken to court for bad


attendance have children in year 10 or 11. This point it is too late.


Those most likely to drop out of school will enter into it adults


that presenting other social issues, will stop they will engage in anti-


social behaviour, petty crime and vandalism. The good school policy


has already been referred to, one question was, where these


children's parents taking an active interest in education? I believe


there is a role for community leaders and politicians in this


area for raising high expectation. We as community leaders have a


responsibility. We must encourage her young people to do well in


Education. We must equip them to do well in education. I'm not sure we


always do that. John O'Dowd. Up panel investigating historical


institutional abuse appear before the war offend DSM committee last


week. The inquiry is examining abuse allegations in care homes and


borstals or very long period of time. Committee members expedience


concerns of at the start date and had the rights of victims of non


institutional abuse will be met. Are you intending to make no new


headquarters? We will make the headquarters known to those who


have reason to contact us. It is still in the centre of Belfast,


still easily accessible. We are anxious it should remain relatively


anonymous so those who want to come are not perhaps stigmatised in the


eyes of others by being picked it. We do not intend to pick a big sign


outside. The possibility of bringing up an interim report, I am


interested in Europe -- interested in your views in the context of a


situation where quick early in the inquiry, each year and Japan will,


this is so awful that there is such Meikleour need for intervention.


there is such a clear need for intervention. Do you see no need to


wait until the end to make a call came at what is your view? I am


still of the year that I expressed on Fourth of July, we are still in


the midst of producing interim reports. We will have to wait until


we have received all the information we can. We understand


the concerns of those who wish to see the scope of the inquiry


extended to include abuse outside institutions, but I have to say


that as far as the scope of our inquiry is concerned, and less


stress our inquiry, we do not support that. Let me explain why.


If, for example, we were tasks with considering issues involving abuse


in foster care or in schools or in families this would have enormous


implications for the scope of her work, the scope of the inquiry. It


would require first of all a complete restructuring of the way


we're going to go about our work and that in turn would require much


greater resources in terms of money and of staff. All of this would


certainly mean that the inquiry would take a very much longer to


produce its report. What are the implications for potential


subsequent criminal proceedings? are prohibited from making any


findings regarding civil or criminal liability. As the law


presently stands, if it were to be litigation afterwards, the findings


of the inquiry would not be admissible as a matter of law.


Because it is not a court, it is an inquiry. It is perhaps appropriate


that I take this opportunity to say this, we are alleged to the


possibility that people may say things to us which indicate that


criminal offences have been committed. We will have no


hesitation in making known to the police were that his our legal duty.


And indeed we have already opened discussion with the PSNI as to how


we can do that if that should happen. Because there will be no


question of us first of all ignoring such matters. And secondly,


we would, I think, have to give way, because my view is that the public


interest is best served by those matters being investigated by the


police and not by us. So at the heart, the chair of the


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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