05/12/2011 Stormont Today


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.

Similar Content

Browse content similar to 05/12/2011. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!



Hello and welcome to Stormont Today. And there may be a Christmas tree


in the Great Hall, snow at Parliament buildings and mince pies


in the canteen, but the season of goodwill is still on the back


burner. A suspect a lot has been about Grandstanding rather than


what we can genuinely do about the pension problem. And flying through


question time like a one horse open sleigh, Danny Kennedy's no nonsense


style. No. I can advise the member that we're doing that. Strict


answer to the question. No. take a look at this: it's the Great


Hall as you've never seen it before, but just what was going on here on


Saturday night? We'll reveal all. And are Belfast traders facing a


difficult season, I'm joined by Joe Jordan from the chamber of commerce.


19 shopping days until Christmas, but what sort of festive season


will it be for our shops? Joe Jordan can give us a picture of how


things are going so far in Belfast. The car parks seemed full, the


traffic particularly last week. It doesn't feel as if it is a bad


season. Not so far. Early indications are that foot fall is


on the increase. We have had reports that the numbers are up. We


don't know if the spend is up or not. But things are look


encouraging. How difficult a year has it been for traders in best


fast? It has been a very difficult year, it is the fourth year of the


recession and people are spending less on gifts and leisure


activities. Are you noticing any difference, you represent hotels


and pubs and clubs, are people not going out as much and spending


money in the shops? It is a general down turn for all. It is not that


one is doing better. But it is difficult times for everyone.


there anything the MLAs can do? fantastic news from Danny Kennedy


that he was introducing free car parking after half four is a big


plus and will encourage people into the city. Thank you. More later. If


brevity is the soul of wit, then Danny Kennedy must be by far the


wittiest of MLAs. Watch him dispense with awkward questions as


if he were swatting flies. That in a minute, but first here's the


Employment and Learning Minister who's creating jobs and trying to


improve ties with the EU. There is going to be four staff in addition


to what is out there. And I will cover the different departments. If


you go through each of the 12, all have different aspect of their


interaction with Brussels. If we end up with all 12 departments


sending out their own representative, I would imagine


that would be an area where there could be accusations 06


overstaffing. So it is important we try to pool resources and I am keen


to make sure the voice of my department are best represented.


But I think the current and the new proposed arrangements should be


more than adequate. If not, we will keep them under review. Once


again... We have a member who has continued to look at the chair.


Members might need some training around rising in their place. Mr


Newton. Thank you I too was on the trip to Brussels. On resench and


development. And recognised -- research. That Mr McKray is a man h


is far sighted and able to look to the future on these areas of


skilled -- skill development. Could I ask the minister ref reps was


made to the work that is done by the University of Ulster and


Queen's University. But surely as in other countries there are


examples that should be encouraged where those colleges who are


further education colleges and who are edge gauged -- engaged in


research and development work, some to a high standard. Come to a


question. We should colleges in Northern Ireland to be involved in


R & D. Thank you. It is a pity the chair does not have opportunity to


respond to leading comments that were made. I do take on board the


point he makes about FE colleges. There is an innovation fund that my


department has which we are examining which aims to support the


colleges in term of how they engage with the business community and in


term of developing new products and services and new ideas. That is


something that is doing well and we have a number of good success


stories. On to regional development and the beleaguered A5. Can the


minister confirm if the capital funding for the project is ear


marked funding and could he say if all the necessary prep toir work


has been carried out by the road service project team?


announcement by the Irish Government has meant that it is


necessary to have a discussion on funding issues. And of course, the


member will be aware that at the recent north/South ministerial


council, it was agreed officials from my department and the


Department of Transport in the Irish republic would have


discussions in reling to the FI. I expect those discussions to take


place in January. -- in relation to. I would say it is important that I


await the findings of the inspector's report, in case there


areish tkwhrues have to be incorporated -- issues that have to


be incorps praited. Since the public inquiry that was carried out


on the A5 was based on the presumption that the republic


Government would be supplying �400 million and since we know that is


not going to be the case, why is the minister waiting for the


outcome of this public inquiry, when he knows that it will not go


on in its present form? I am grateful for the question. I would


be grateful if he would indicate his preference as to the route of


the A5. We have never had that, the benefit of that guidance. Now brace


yourself for a quick fire round. Well by Stormont standards.


mentioned a meeting in January 2012 between your officials and theirer


parts in Dublin. Could you outline the term of reference for that


meeting? No. Given the death blow to the scheme given by the republic,


would the minister agree it would be more relevant now to be going


through the necessary processes and preparations so that other projects,


which are viable and which can be made reddied swiftly would be ready


to go I can advice the member that -- advise the member that we're


doing that. Will he bring up improvements to road at the next


meeting? Mr Speaker in strict answer to the ge question, no.


Yesterday's snow coincided with a question on road gritting that


required a more lengthy answer. Over the weekend we have seen the


advent of wintry conditions. I very much hope that everyone will be


able to travel safely at this period. Could I say that road


surface officials have been working very hard to provide gritting on


the road network. And I know that is appreciated by members of house


and public representatives. Some over 300 staff on a nightly basis


will be helping to create safer conditions across the road network.


Members will know that it is not possible, nor economically sensible


to promise to grit every single road and every path way. And that


is why both the salt bins and the grit pile ps play an important role.


I would want to encourage people to help their neighbours and provide


self help in areas and to avail of the facilities of salt bins and the


grit piles as much as they possibly can. We all know the TUV leader Jim


Allister asks plenty of questions about the running of the Assembly


and Executive, but does he get any answers? Apparently not and he's


not happy. I have 40 written questions which have passed the ten


day requirement for answer. Six of them were questions tabled before


the summer recess. 12 of them tabled in September. Nine of them


tabled in October. And really if a member is to do the work that


they're sent here to do, the standing order requirement of


ministers attending to answers within the ten days needs to be


adhered to. 20 of those 40 questions relate to office of MM,


DFM and those two departments seem to be particularly remiss in living


within the guidelines and they're more than guidelines, they're


requirements of the standing order. I would ask for your guidance and


assistance. Basil McRae is with us now. Is he right? There is a


problem with the way we deal with questions. But there is the


recognition that you take a loot of time and effort to produce answers.


And if all 108MLAs are asking as many request questions a Jim, you


would need an army of people to give the answers. We need to find a


better way of doing it. It is frustrating for members, but there


is some mitigating circumstances. So should the number of questions


that MLAs are allowed to ask, be restricted. What is the point in


saying it will be back in ten days if there is no chance. Well it was


raised in the last Assembly. Some people think the number of


questions that you ask and I'm not saying Jim is in the category, the


more you ask the cleverer you're being. If you want a real answer,


write to the minister explaining your requirement and it come wack


through -- back through a different channel. But that is circumventing


the procedures. Well it is a mimic of what happens in Westminster and


they don't suit the way that we do business here. But people are


reluctant to give them up, because there is always some information


that comes out and you do get the opportunity from time to time to


talk on television and it highlights a particular issue. The


Assembly does have to preview its processes. It is not working well.


The information is not getting out and we're not reassuring the people


that we're doing the job they expect us to do. It is not for the


want of trying. But the process are not right. He issued confuegz,


saying your don to -- confusing statement, saying your going to San


Diego. What is going on? surprised you hit the is confusing.


It couldn't be more clear. For the absence of doubt is that I'm on a


boston college scholarship, which is taking me to Boston and then to


San Diego. This is nothing to do with the committee. It was a


personal thing I applied for. But it does deal with the real problems


that Northern Ireland is facing. That is how we create employment


for young people, how we create business leaders and it is, I think


I'm only politician on the grouping. With the controversy it did have


people scratching their heads. So is there still an attempt by you to


get some committee members to go to San Diego at another date? To be


clear there is no amendment by -- attempt by me to do anything. I


chair the committee. I don't tell it what to do. But what is


important all that MLAs should be au fait with what is happening. We


have a responsibility for employment and learning. There is


some difficult news coming down to Northern Ireland. It is frightening.


And people will ask us what are you going to do? So the committee will


look at a number of places where there is evidence of good practice


and evaluate whether there are lesson to be learned and whether


there are costs involved and the committee will take a decision if


anybody goes anywhere. Hopefully you can shed light on the mischi --


mystery pictures of disco in the Great Hall. We had this is the


fourth year, the pride of Northern Ireland, which is a celebration of


all of the good things that young people do. And in particular we


have a lot of carers, a lot of people that have had difficulties


in their lives. And it is an opportunity for them to tell the


good story about what they do and we let them have what I would call


a disco, but I gather now is a rave! We do these things and they


get some food and some prizes and get to dress up. It is a fantastic


experience. Wonderful stories and wonderful people. They did


themselves proud. Thank you. The work of some committees was


disrupted by last week's public sector strikes. Some were


rescheduled to accommodate members who were unhappy at the thought of


crossing pickets lines - while others carried on regardless. So in


our weekly look at the work of the committees, we start with last


Wednesday and the OFMDFM committee. There is a letter regarding strike


There is a letter regarding strike action today. For members to note.


Equality Commission for annual report. In relation to the letter


about the industrial action today, I want to go on record for some of


the issues that the committees are dealing with today. This morning we


were looking at a -- agreeing budgets for work experience for


unemployed 16 to 24-year-old and we are discussing child care and an


investment fund for tackling dereliction, unemployment and


deprivation in key areas. So it is possible to respect someone's right


to be involved in this action today, but given that we are elected by


people from across the community, with varying views and needs, the


reason I'm involved in this work today is because we're trying to


come up with budgets and programmes to tackle some of the issues that


people have decided to make issue with. I want, I know there seems to


be an interest in the work of the committees today and I want to put


on record some of the issues that we're trying to progress and we


will hopefully go to helping some of the issues that people are


raising in public. Also there was pickets around the entrances to the


buildings I had at least two calls today in relation to people feeling


intim date, with people who were standing across the road stopping


vehicles. That is not complying with the legislation in terms of


pickets outside any public building. Or any place where the public have


access to. And I think it just doesn't help the cause. Everyone


has the right to be on strike today. But equally, everyone has the right


to... Come to work and to come to their place of work without being


harassed or stopped, or in any way intimidated by anybody. I see the


difficulty, with people coming to the office saying, I have to take


this job. Although they're being told, believing that they can lose


benefit if they don't do it. And then they are sent to a meaningless


job to maybe fill a shell of in a supermarket. And when we are told


that people should be trained up to meet any new high paid jobs.


think there is always advantage in getting somebody into a work place.


I appreciate your point about some job that perhaps they don't feel


has any particular relevant -- relevance to what they want to do.


But even getting young people into the work place, getting used to


routine of work and the discipline of work is a stepping stone. No one


is saying it is the answer to all known ills. But it is a start and


getting them used to the work environment and that kind of thing.


Basil MacRae talked of hard times and people in the south have had


more difficult type, what has been the level of cross border shopping


this season? The level is down slightly. But there is evidence


that there are still people coming from the south to avail of cheaper


prices. We don't want to get rich on the back of other people's


misfortune, but the announcement that their VAT rate is going to go


up to 23%, will that bring more people across the border? I think


you're right. In a perverse way that is good for us. What about the


voices around the city centre, people get the sense that there are


not as many people coming up this year, but are traders saying that


isn't the case? I had a chat with a man who introduced hi �4.50 all day


mark charge. He saw people coming from the south, because they had


certainty of how much it would cost to park in Belfast and they were


factoring that into their shopping. Thank you. It may have been last


week's strike, but the issue of public sector pensions was up for


discussion in the chamber today. Speaking ahead of the debate,


finance minister Sammy Wilson warned that members and ministers


must share the pain and revealed that an Independent Review Panel


will soon be examining members' pensions. The motion, originally


proposed by the SDLP, called on the executive to reverse an increase in


pension contributions. But when it came to the vote, an Ulster


Unionist amendment which called for more negotiations between


government and the unions, won out. Their message was loud and clear -


this notice about self pressration, it is about fairness and justice.


Why should working people be penalised for actions of bankers?


Public servants are being unfairly targeted in a bid to sofl a


financial crisis that was not of their making. -- solve. Not only is


this an attack on their pockets resulting in on average �63 less in


take home pay, but it is an attack on their morale. I was in west


Belfast around the picket lines, speaking to the people who thought


it in their need to take action to put a halt to this. And I think


instead of some of us walking through the line, some stood and


engaged with people. And talked to them about the issues. And I have


to say many o' of the people I was talking to were very low paid


workers. Many are under the �32,000 level and which our amendment has


put forward to protect people under �32,000 or less. I would say to the


SDLP if they read our motion again, in a even Euan way, is that we're


calling on all ministers to explore this. Will the minister. Mr Wilson.


Can I thank the members who have taken part in this debate, although


I suspect given how little has been said about pensions and how many


members have waved the flag and told us how much they supported the


strikers, didn't go through the picket lines, refused to break the


strike, I suspect a lot of this has been about Grandstanding rather


than what we can do about the pension problem that we have here


in Northern Ireland. People have accused, because we have had an


arrange Westminster the Conservative Party, because we're


we're cheer leading for them. You would think to hear some members of


Sinn Fein that the financial crisis that has affected the United


Kingdom started 18 months ago. You wouldn't think to hear them that


actually the entire debate about pension reform and I think has Lord


Hutton said, we should have been doing this years ago. You represent


Belfast traders, but where do you get your customers from and are you


in competition with the other towns around Northern Ireland? I think


there is competition between towns and cities in Northern Ireland. We


would very much see it as an open market policy. In that, everyone's


free to travel where they want to. So we can encourage them to come to


Belfast. Do you feel that in some way the parking freeze and charges


is a bit of a pay back for the towns that don't, that didn't get


the park charges that there was some talk about airlier in the


year? I think in fair tonnes the minister, it was Belfast Lisbon and


Newry that got the suspended charges. So he has done it across


the board. It is a whole other debate of did Belfast compensate


the 30 towns that didn't get the charges. I don't think that was


fair. But we are where we are. Thank you. Three weeks ago the


First Minister told members that he would know by the end of November


about EU funding for a peace and reconciliation centre at the Maze -


a key part of the planned development there. Here's what he


said. The one that we are certain that we want to move forward with


is the proposition that there should be a piece and -- peace and


reconciliation centre and we have applied for funding from the


European community and we should know the outcome of that hopefully


before the end of month. And we're keen that the agricultural show


would move from Belfast to the more agricultural setting of the Lagan


valley and that would be a very strong anchor to the site should


they choose and should we be able to an agreement there. With no


official announcement I asked her political editor what his source


were telling him. Well I think they have missed that target date. There


is talk about it happening in December. Maybe we will hear news


about Maze centre before Christmas. Tinge European side of it seems to


be hopeful. Any senior European officials who have been here have


been supportive. It must be considered by a steering committee


of the European special programmes body. So far as the executive's


concerned there might be a bit of if you like choreography to go


through. They would want this announce tpltd which will be


considered as being good news for nationalist and Republicans, being


timed at the same time as an announcements about the royal


Ulster agricultural society going to site which may be considered


more good news in terms of unionist community. I suspect they want


everything together. But we haven't got a date yet. So the SDLP


unveiled some fresh faces today. But there was a familiar name?


Alister Macdonald wants to inject fresh blood and has the idea of


shadowing councillors, in areas where they are weak and he hopes to


build from the grass roots. But there was one familiar name, Peter


Devlin is a son of Paddy Devlin and Paddy Devlin split from the party.


I asked his son why that happened. Going back to the 70s, my father


left, it was over decisions that he thoughts were right at the time.


Which have now come full circle. My father backed the police then when


other nationalists didn't. As I said, times have changed. We have


moved on and I want to be part of whole system now. I'm daunted


talking to you, when your dad was in the old Stormont he had a


reputation for settling political arguments by resorting to his fists.


You not planning to do that? I hope not. I'm not a fighting! So no. I


won't be doing that. And thankfully things are more genteel here.


we miss the old day of brawling in the hall. It I quiet now. Now Joe,


the whole face of retail has changed during the recession and we


have a sale each week, it is worth waiting to Boxing Day for a bargain


or get out now? I think Belfast has not looked so good for over 40


years. We have had a lot of Government departments pulling


together to make tilt spectacle -- it the spectacle it is now.


Retailers had to think of how to bring people in. Should they come


after Boxing Day, yes I think they will get even better bargains.


Thank you. That's it from Stormont for now. Join me tomorrow at the


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.

Download Subtitles