03/11/2015 Stormont Today


03/11/2015

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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It was 2008 when pupils here last sat the 11-plus transfer test,

:00:24.:00:29.

but seven years on the politicians still seem no closer to agreeing

:00:30.:00:33.

And clashes in the chamber between Sinn Fein

:00:34.:00:37.

Seven years since the 11-plus was scrapped, there's still no consensus

:00:38.:00:47.

Those schools who decide to follow down the path of academic selection

:00:48.:01:04.

decide to use dodgy dossiers. There is no educational reason for doing

:01:05.:01:05.

it. With a protest against arts cuts at

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Stormont, the Minister responsible I'll certainly be a champion for the

:01:07.:01:17.

arts. I will argue for additional money to the arts and I look forward

:01:18.:01:20.

to parties are bought on that argument.

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And joining me to share his thoughts on today's developments

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is Professor Rick Wilford from Queen's University.

:01:25.:01:29.

The 11-plus was scrapped in 2008, but fast-forward seven years

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and academic selection and transfer tests are still in existence.

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Today our politicians once again clashed

:01:38.:01:40.

over how to move the system on from its current unregulated state.

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It seems to me the transfer test has become the elephant in the room. It

:01:49.:01:56.

is a difficult issue but ignoring it will not make it go away. The only

:01:57.:02:02.

conclusion I can come to after the restoration of devolution in 2007 at

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some point, Sinn Fein and the DUP came to a truce on this issue. Since

:02:08.:02:12.

then can say they have abolished the 11 plus that the DUP can say they

:02:13.:02:16.

have salvaged through the root of the unofficial test. It is wrong to

:02:17.:02:21.

portray the current system of the unregulated test as some form of

:02:22.:02:28.

disaster out there. We were told whenever this party help negotiate

:02:29.:02:32.

the right for academic selection to be put in legislation in 2007, we

:02:33.:02:41.

were told by the education minister a system that was not regulated

:02:42.:02:44.

would be a disaster, it would be overwhelmed with challenges. The

:02:45.:02:48.

whole system would collapse quickly. But it has been indicated that tens

:02:49.:02:57.

of thousands of pupils have gone through these test. We have to

:02:58.:03:02.

change the regulator transfer test system. The current system including

:03:03.:03:08.

private test fees but additional pressure on children and families

:03:09.:03:11.

from socially deprived backgrounds. Children have two sets of two or

:03:12.:03:18.

more tests. This also affect our primary schools. This does become a

:03:19.:03:23.

wee note that parents when considering which primary schools

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and send their children to look to see if two singers provided for the

:03:27.:03:30.

local school transfer test. Our debate on education and as the same

:03:31.:03:35.

debate. We always come back to this issue. I don't know what the

:03:36.:03:41.

solution is. In terms of the motion, the call on the Minister to convene

:03:42.:03:44.

talks with all the major stakeholders to build a consensus

:03:45.:03:50.

you can see how much consensus that is here today. It doesn't exist. We

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have two sides of this argument that are poles apart. Every Bully Boy

:03:56.:04:03.

tactic is used by the Department to threaten the primary schools to dare

:04:04.:04:08.

to do with their parents would expect, namely to prepare their

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children for the next step in their educational journey. If that step

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includes undertaking a Kiwi test or something else, the full weight of

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threat and authority from the Department is brought down on behalf

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of its of the schools to how dare they try to do with the parents

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would expect. To equip their children, to make the transition

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from primary to grammar or secondary school. Why do need to separate

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those children? At age 11 or age 14 and send them to a different school.

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Why do you need to separate them? Because all the other national

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evidence shows this. We can ignore it. You could ignore the part of

:05:03.:05:07.

education in this matter and that is OK. But there is a lengthy list of

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bodies that point to the fact educational election doesn't work.

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It has a detrimental impact on the education system.

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And it was no surprise that academic selection came up again

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during today's questions to the Education Minister.

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John O'Dowd was also asked about how schools meet the needs

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It is my believe the transfer process would be much better if the

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schools followed the Department guys. They should project it into

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school. I thank the Minister for his answer.

:05:48.:05:52.

Minister, would you not agree that what you have done is effectively

:05:53.:06:00.

privatised transfer system? Know, those Board of Governors who make a

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conscious decision every year. Every year a Board of Governors meeting

:06:07.:06:12.

meet to discuss the criteria. Every Board of Governors assistant and

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decides not to use academic selection follows a pathway which

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does not reject any child. Those schools who decide at a Board of

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Governors meeting to follow down the pathway of academic selection decide

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to use dodgy dossiers. There is no educational reason for doing it.

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There is a social reason for doing it and it it is for social

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selection, they should say so. I find it unacceptable the Minister

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uses such a statement as dodgy dossiers. In relation to the

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selection procedure. Does the Minister agree that in the main, the

:06:54.:07:00.

system works extremely well because we don't have educational

:07:01.:07:03.

authorities or boards involved in it? The fact they are kept out of it

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the system works well. Protestant and Catholic parents are happy with

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it in the main. The member stands in an elected Assembly, as an elected

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representative who is charged with holding public funds to account and

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makes the statement that the system works better because the Education

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Authority 's and bought a keep out of it. That is probably one of the

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most undemocratic statements I have ever heard in this chamber. What is

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the purpose of this chamber? Was is the purpose of elected

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representatives? What is the purpose of the ballot box if we do not elect

:07:43.:07:48.

politicians to govern our society? Following on from a written response

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received last week on the meeting the needs of transgender students

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with regards to uniforms, changing rooms and toilet facilities, whether

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he agrees guidance for schools should be accepted? I want to send

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out in form guidance and I have commissioned a survey across our

:08:12.:08:18.

schools to ensure that a meeting the needs of LGB young people within our

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schools. A survey has been commissioned and will be distributed

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and information brought back to me. Our post-primary transfer system is

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a bit of a mess, really, isn't it? This is the 75 time we had a vote on

:08:34.:08:55.

the issue. It is the fifth time yesterday we had a discussion on

:08:56.:09:04.

same-sex marriage. We are in a situation where there is no

:09:05.:09:08.

alternative. Now we have the kids who last weekend were celebrating

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hijinks and looking forward to a weekend of high anxiety with their

:09:14.:09:19.

first round of tests. Some of them will be sitting to round of tests.

:09:20.:09:23.

There is no consensus on this issue. Unlike yesterday's debate, John

:09:24.:09:29.

O'Dowd has the weight of evidence on his side of the argument. This was

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about conscious and opinion. In terms of whether they should or

:09:34.:09:38.

shouldn't be academic selection, some kind of 11 plus, the weight of

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evidence clearly is we should abandon it and go for a free

:09:44.:09:49.

integrated system. Maybe streaming and differentiation shown within

:09:50.:09:57.

schools but not at the point of ten, 11 determining their immediate

:09:58.:10:02.

academic career. Others take a different view from the one you have

:10:03.:10:06.

articulated. Both sides politically seem as far apart on this issue as

:10:07.:10:12.

ever. There is no agreement. Perhaps post the next election in May we

:10:13.:10:17.

might get a new education minister from a different part of the House

:10:18.:10:21.

who takes a different view. I cannot ever seen a particular meeting of

:10:22.:10:26.

minds on this issue. Some people are so entrenched in the belief of

:10:27.:10:29.

academic selection is a good discipline for children that it can

:10:30.:10:34.

differentiate among these skills. Others believe that if we are going

:10:35.:10:38.

to have some form of selection it should come later, if at all. What

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matters is educating the whole term. I do think, I am up product of

:10:44.:10:52.

grammar school. I can remember vividly being told the result of our

:10:53.:10:58.

11 plus on a day trip to London from South Wales to go to see the Queen.

:10:59.:11:05.

The headmistress went up and the train telling us whether we have

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passed or failed. For those children who were told they had failed it

:11:10.:11:17.

ruined the day. It is a cruel system. I think it is something that

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it's time is up and we should focus on a more integrated, holistic,

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focus system of education. Is be interesting to see if the

:11:29.:11:31.

politicians can move in that direction any time soon. We will

:11:32.:11:33.

talk to you later in the programme. Outside the Chamber today,

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several hundred artists, musicians, writers and actors protested

:11:36.:11:38.

against cuts in the arts budget, and that was because the

:11:39.:11:41.

Arts Minister was answering Not surprisingly,

:11:42.:11:43.

the same topic was top of the agenda, and Caral Ni Chuilin

:11:44.:11:46.

was repeatedly asked about what she's doing to help organisations

:11:47.:11:49.

struggling with reduced funding. The Minister be aware of the

:11:50.:11:59.

spirited protest outside the Assembly today. Perhaps that spirit

:12:00.:12:06.

belies the deep anger that is felt by those protesters and many of them

:12:07.:12:09.

and in the chamber here this afternoon. They express themselves

:12:10.:12:15.

alarmed and disturbed at the courts resulting as it has in loss of

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employment, insecurity and taking away from vital programmes that are

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instrumental within the community. Whether Minister reaffirm her

:12:27.:12:33.

commitment to the arts and reaffirm she will restore those monies to the

:12:34.:12:38.

Arts Council? First of all, I was going to see

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people are here, the artists are here in the chamber. It is good to

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see given some of the badges, there is cross-party support for the arts.

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It is good to see there is pressure being brought to bear on how

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important the arts is. I can't give a guarantee and will not give a

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guarantee because I think it is a plus that I will be able to restore

:13:05.:13:09.

the budget that I definitely want to do in absence of any security. Not

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only from our side finances security we need as an Executive in terms of

:13:17.:13:22.

monies that we have had taken from us in July 2011. It is earmarked for

:13:23.:13:26.

more of the same from July this year. I will be a champion for the

:13:27.:13:31.

arts, I will argue for additional money for the arts and I would look

:13:32.:13:33.

forward to party support. I asked the minister how she can

:13:34.:13:43.

justify imposing media cut on funding that has been committed to

:13:44.:13:48.

arts organisations and then siphoning off the money to projects

:13:49.:13:53.

with no application process and no transparency. Is that good

:13:54.:13:57.

practice? I think you have a brass neck giving your history around red

:13:58.:14:03.

sky and others. You have an absolute brass neck. First of all,

:14:04.:14:10.

transparency. I didn't meet anybody in rooms and conjure up Eddie deals.

:14:11.:14:16.

The whole process was done in an open, transparent way, with a

:14:17.:14:19.

business case, and it wasn't siphoning off. All other ale bes

:14:20.:14:38.

were consulted. In light of Ulster Park stadium not being suitable, and

:14:39.:14:48.

is though not a possibility of the savings being passed to other arts

:14:49.:14:54.

areas? Bearing in mind that one is a programme and one is a resource, I

:14:55.:14:59.

hope the member is in suggestion that Ravenhill can be redeveloped

:15:00.:15:04.

and then money for the games be given away, because that is not

:15:05.:15:08.

going to happen. Certainly not on my watch. I fully support the need for

:15:09.:15:13.

additional money in the arts sector, and I will argue for that, but I

:15:14.:15:16.

don't think anybody from that sector or anywhere would even hint suggest

:15:17.:15:20.

that money should be taken from the games to be given to somewhere else.

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Away from Stormont, the big news of the day was

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the announcement that the Michelin factory in Ballymena is to close

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That triggered an urgent question in the Assembly this afternoon,

:15:32.:15:36.

when the Enterprise Minister, Jonathan Bell, was asked

:15:37.:15:38.

The recent announcement is due to overcapacity in truck tyres and a

:15:39.:15:54.

substantial increase in import from the Far East particularly China.

:15:55.:16:00.

Invest Northern Ireland has been in regular contact with senior Michelin

:16:01.:16:07.

personnel, and was engaged in ongoing discussions related to

:16:08.:16:13.

further investments. So clearly, therefore, today's announcement,

:16:14.:16:17.

Deputy Speaker, is extremely disappointing. I can say my

:16:18.:16:26.

department and Invest Northern Ireland can fully understand the

:16:27.:16:30.

decision to close the plant, we appreciate the company's commitment

:16:31.:16:34.

to supporting its employees to find alternative employment with its ?5

:16:35.:16:42.

million development fund. This has been a catastrophic blow over

:16:43.:16:47.

Ballymena on the back of the equally devastating loss of TATA, and what

:16:48.:16:56.

my constituents want to know is did this Department, the executive and

:16:57.:17:02.

Invest NI do all they could have done? Our responsibility now is to

:17:03.:17:08.

see what we can do in terms of creating real employment and

:17:09.:17:11.

training opportunities. I have just finished a very detailed meeting

:17:12.:17:15.

with the Minister for employment and learning, as to what we can do

:17:16.:17:19.

regarding putting the colleges to work alongside, to ensure people

:17:20.:17:25.

that need accreditation for skills that they already possess that they

:17:26.:17:29.

can have that, to see what the Social Security agency and all the

:17:30.:17:34.

relevant agencies can do, and working alongside the minister, we

:17:35.:17:40.

will put together individual programmes, and we will put together

:17:41.:17:45.

group programmes. Can I ask the Minister, does he recognise now that

:17:46.:17:50.

there is a crisis in manufacturing? If you don't listen to anything is

:17:51.:17:53.

that I say, the thing that will transform and game change heavy

:17:54.:17:57.

manufacturing in Northern Ireland is a reduction in our corporation tax.

:17:58.:18:03.

I know the parties are working very hard, and I hope to see a positive

:18:04.:18:10.

response with a date and a rate set to reduce corporation tax.

:18:11.:18:14.

The passing of Private Members' legislation is relatively rare,

:18:15.:18:16.

but it looks as if the Green Party's Steven Agnew could see

:18:17.:18:19.

his Bill the third to become law so far in this mandate.

:18:20.:18:22.

The Children's Services Co-operation Bill, which calls for greater

:18:23.:18:24.

joined-up working between Government departments, passed its final stage.

:18:25.:18:28.

The Ulster Unionist leader, Mike Nesbitt, explained why he

:18:29.:18:30.

It is about social housing for people, health services the people,

:18:31.:18:48.

delivering horizontally through all the various layers and Department of

:18:49.:18:54.

Government to offer a holistic and individual package that meets their

:18:55.:19:00.

needs. I am looking forward to the report on the operations and the

:19:01.:19:03.

results of this in less than two years, and I'm looking forward to

:19:04.:19:06.

seeing how we can learn and improve on that. I think we have all been

:19:07.:19:10.

frustrated at one point with the silent mentality of Government, and

:19:11.:19:15.

we hope that this bill will change mindsets in that regard. I would

:19:16.:19:22.

like to see the roll-out of this collaborative approach to other

:19:23.:19:24.

areas such as economic growth. This lobby measured in practice, and

:19:25.:19:33.

given that the paint is not yet dry in terms of the content of the

:19:34.:19:39.

bill, but given that there is a body of officials who have been working

:19:40.:19:42.

at this, and have been thinking about this, and have been working

:19:43.:19:47.

with ministers in relation to all of this, can the junior minister

:19:48.:19:52.

indicate if there isn't now some further thinking about how this will

:19:53.:20:00.

be mainstream into the life of Government? I would also welcome the

:20:01.:20:04.

presence of the junior ministers to respond to this stage of the bill

:20:05.:20:09.

here today, and congratulate Emma Pengelly on her appointment to

:20:10.:20:13.

junior minister in the office of first and Deputy first Minister. I'm

:20:14.:20:16.

glad I have the opportunity of knowing Emma E.ON the assembly and

:20:17.:20:21.

have a good working relationship with her. She has received scrutiny

:20:22.:20:27.

further to her appointment which at times I think has spilled over into

:20:28.:20:33.

unfair and inappropriate criticism. Identifying we really want there to

:20:34.:20:38.

have to be a statutory duty the people to cooperate, and I suppose

:20:39.:20:41.

that is what I am tried to get at. A statutory duty is a last resort, and

:20:42.:20:48.

what we would want is for agencies and Departments to want to work

:20:49.:20:52.

together to reach better agreements for our young people. I think that

:20:53.:20:57.

the work that we have carried on in the office of first and Deputy first

:20:58.:21:01.

Minister, we do see that change starting to come across the

:21:02.:21:05.

agencies, and I think it is a change of culture as opposed to one of

:21:06.:21:09.

statute, so while I welcome this bill, I think it is a useful

:21:10.:21:13.

contribution, we will continue to work our hardest to ensure there is

:21:14.:21:17.

a willingness at all levels to cooperate and collaborate fully on

:21:18.:21:22.

these types of important issues. Often we will talk about vulnerable

:21:23.:21:25.

children, and let me be clear, this is about all children, but it is to

:21:26.:21:30.

ensure that there are no gap through which vulnerable children can fall,

:21:31.:21:34.

because when we provide the net for all, we catch all, including

:21:35.:21:40.

vulnerable children, and it ensures that those who need the support get

:21:41.:21:44.

it, because often we spend too much time trying to identify who the

:21:45.:21:47.

vulnerable are, and not enough time in providing the services.

:21:48.:21:49.

The Justice Minister brought a statement to the House this morning.

:21:50.:21:52.

It was supposed to be about helping people access

:21:53.:21:55.

the justice system, but David Ford found himself primarily answering

:21:56.:21:57.

The overall purpose of the review was threefold. First identify and

:21:58.:22:11.

prioritise those services publicly funded with advice, and reputation

:22:12.:22:15.

should be provided, in order to meet human rights obligations, safeguard

:22:16.:22:19.

the interests of vulnerable people and meet the wider public interest.

:22:20.:22:23.

Second, to consider the delivery models that might be best suited to

:22:24.:22:25.

the provision of publicly funded legal services through mechanisms

:22:26.:22:31.

other than legal aid. Third, to consider whether there are aspects

:22:32.:22:35.

of the justice system where if fish is might contribute towards reducing

:22:36.:22:39.

the cost of publicly funded legal services while sustaining the

:22:40.:22:44.

quality of service provision. I have now received a very comprehensive

:22:45.:22:46.

and detailed report. Today I am pleased to publish the report, and

:22:47.:22:52.

to begin a period of public consultation on the findings. Does

:22:53.:22:55.

the Minister accept that there has been a failure to set realistic

:22:56.:23:05.

legal aid budgets, and can I ask the Minister what he intends to do to

:23:06.:23:08.

rectify this situation prior to the setting of the 2016 /17 budget.

:23:09.:23:17.

Mr Speaker, it is quite clear as Mr Douglas says that the cost of legal

:23:18.:23:24.

aid has remained stubbornly high, and has not significantly changed

:23:25.:23:27.

over the five years since devolution. I could say what would

:23:28.:23:31.

have happened if we hadn't implemented some of the reforms, and

:23:32.:23:35.

indeed some of the criminal reforms we went through in an early stage,

:23:36.:23:41.

and we have been looking at a further ?20 million or more on legal

:23:42.:23:44.

aid costs at the same time. The reality is we had the budget that we

:23:45.:23:47.

had when justice was devolved, and we have sought to work with that

:23:48.:23:51.

given all the other pressures across the justice system, and my officials

:23:52.:23:56.

who I shall be having a discussion with later today are looking towards

:23:57.:23:59.

the budgeting process for next year, and they are looking at the balance

:24:00.:24:03.

of the jet between different aspect of the justice system. Clearly the

:24:04.:24:09.

figures which applied on the basis of the budget and the application of

:24:10.:24:13.

cuts by the executive are inadequate to meet the current legal aid costs,

:24:14.:24:16.

but nor can it be the case that legal aid can be protected for ever

:24:17.:24:20.

when other aspects of the justice system are seeing their budgets go

:24:21.:24:26.

down. He did ask the reviewer to consider models to deliver publicly

:24:27.:24:29.

funded legal services through mechanisms other than legal aid.

:24:30.:24:35.

What mechanisms of that nature have been recommended? And is he still

:24:36.:24:41.

flirting with the idea of a public defender office? We need to look as

:24:42.:24:47.

I have highlighted and as the report highlights at a range of alternative

:24:48.:24:50.

dispute resolution, but I'm not quite sure that I was flirting with

:24:51.:25:03.

the public to defender system. The report recommends and I maintain

:25:04.:25:05.

that we should keep the current system. But adjacent jurisdictions

:25:06.:25:15.

have looked at least in part at managing the costs that may make

:25:16.:25:18.

that a necessary way in which this jurisdiction might have to look at

:25:19.:25:19.

some point in the future. Yesterday's debate into same-sex

:25:20.:25:22.

marriage saw the use of Petitions Today, Stewart Dickson of Alliance

:25:23.:25:25.

questioned the Speaker on the rules following some

:25:26.:25:29.

speculation that petitions are being signed in advance by MLAs

:25:30.:25:31.

before a topic is even tabled. Mr Speaker, you will be aware in me

:25:32.:25:54.

Saint -- recent days that there have been accusations of Tippex being

:25:55.:26:01.

used on these forms, the clear influence that individual members

:26:02.:26:03.

are not using their own personal discretion when it comes to

:26:04.:26:09.

completing such forms. May I ask you to investigate both the efficacy of

:26:10.:26:12.

doing that and whether or not it makes the appropriate standing

:26:13.:26:18.

orders. In fact, I was aware of this situation, and standing orders and

:26:19.:26:25.

procedure is very clear. We have to be satisfied at the speakers office

:26:26.:26:29.

that the signatures are genuine. But the petition are concerned requires

:26:30.:26:38.

the issue. That is as far as my ability to take this forward. The

:26:39.:26:46.

Tippex on the sheet is nothing I can do anything about as long as the

:26:47.:26:51.

signature is visible and is genuine. Mr Speaker, you say that you have

:26:52.:26:55.

looked at the signatures. Have you found any discrepancies or any

:26:56.:27:01.

reason for you not to accept it them as genuine and authentic signatures

:27:02.:27:08.

on the petitions? I understand why you are asking the question, but

:27:09.:27:12.

clearly if I announced it was a valid petition of concern, it was

:27:13.:27:14.

valid. The Speaker, Mitchel McLaughlin,

:27:15.:27:16.

responding to enquiries from And Professor Rick Wilford is with

:27:17.:27:18.

me again for a final few thoughts. Petitions of Concern again

:27:19.:27:22.

attracting attention. It's proving very divisive between

:27:23.:27:23.

the DUP and the other parties. Yes, although it is a case of pots

:27:24.:27:33.

calling kettles black, because they have both made use or misuse of

:27:34.:27:41.

them. This has become, the risk is if you give politicians a tool, they

:27:42.:27:47.

will miss use it. We are seeing that in spades with the Petitions of

:27:48.:27:52.

Concern. It is certainly not being used for the purpose for which it

:27:53.:27:58.

was originally intended. And now it is, here is one I made earlier, all

:27:59.:28:03.

you have to do is sign it, and it makes a complete mockery of that.

:28:04.:28:08.

And the final one, Ukip has confirmed today that Councillor

:28:09.:28:12.

Henry Reilly has been expelled from the party. What's the political

:28:13.:28:17.

fallout from that likely to be? And minimal, a small splash. He may run

:28:18.:28:27.

as an independent at the next local council elections, or indeed for the

:28:28.:28:32.

assembly next May. The likelihood I think is that he will become

:28:33.:28:35.

independent because he does have a basis of support in his area, and

:28:36.:28:40.

that is where his real strength is. I think he will end up as a

:28:41.:28:43.

politically marginalised figure. Just before we go tonight,

:28:44.:28:45.

we inadvertently captioned David McNarry as a member of NI21

:28:46.:28:47.

last night. Join me for The View on Thursday

:28:48.:28:49.

night at 10.35 on BBC One. There's an extra special line-up

:28:50.:28:55.

on Nolan Live this week. We'll be linking up with

:28:56.:29:12.

RTE to bring you debates And revealing the results

:29:13.:29:14.

of our cross-border survey on a range of political

:29:15.:29:19.

and social issues. Join me in Belfast. Join me,

:29:20.:29:21.

Miriam O'Callaghan, in Dublin. That's tonight after

:29:22.:29:24.

the news on BBC One. The knives are sharpened and the heat

:29:25.:29:34.

is on. It can only mean one thing. Britain's best chefs

:29:35.:29:38.

are back in town. They're here because they want

:29:39.:29:43.

this title. I'm really excited. MasterChef: The Professionals

:29:44.:29:48.

starts cooking...

:29:49.:29:52.

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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