07/12/2015 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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Nigel Dodds unexpectedly joined his fellow DUP MP, Sammy Wilson,


in announcing he doesn't want to lead the party late this afternoon.


Tonight, the man who wants to remain in the role of deputy leader tells


us why he continues to believe the party can't be led from Westminster,


and why he thinks the current Finance Minister, Arlene Foster,


is the person to take the DUP forward.


It seemed a done deal, the DUP leadership was heading


for a job share, but now it's looking like a one woman show.


It would be wrong to try to lead the party from Westminster because I


wouldn't be able to give the parties are full-time focus it requires.


In the chamber there was some feistiness as the


Deputy First Minister responded to the final double-jobbing MLA.


Over the course of the next summer, we have a big decision to make over


his future, whether or not he will remain in this house or go to


another place. I hope he continues to remain in this house and


continues to enjoy sharing power with Sinn Fein.


And here with his thoughts on today's big surprise development


So, the man tipped to be crowned the third leader of the


Democratic Unionist Party has surprised just about everyone by


Nigel Dodds caught everyone out this afternoon when he told the media


that he no longer wished to be considered for the party leadership.


And he went even further by giving his full endorsement to


Arlene Foster, who could now become DUP leader and First Minister.


Mr Dodds, has been speaking to our political correspondent Chris Page.


As many of you know, I have previously been on record as saying


both publicly and to senior colleagues that I didn't believe


that a modern Northern Ireland party in the context of devolution now


firmly established could be led properly and fully from Westminster.


I have stated that publicly, I've talked to senior colleagues about


that. Given the level of expressions of support over the last


couple of weeks, I have further reflected on the matter, I have


taken counsel, I have prayed about it, I've spoken to colleagues. I am


firmly of the view and I have concluded it would be wrong to try


to lead the party from Westminster because I wouldn't be able to give


the road the full-time focus and time it requires and still carry out


my responsibilities at Westminster as Parliamentary leader, especially


in the context where there are so many opportunities for unionism, for


Northern Ireland in a House of Commons where we have a government


majority which is so small. And I intend to carry out that role at


Westminster serving my constituents, serving the party in Northern


Ireland to the very best of my ability. I'm also very conscious


that Diane, my wife, is fully committed as MEP for Northern


Ireland. And it would be wrong for me to put personal standing above


what I believe is in the best interest of the party and the people


we serve. So, I believe the best way forward is to back Arlene Foster as


leader of our party, going forward, in the Assembly. She has served as


acting First Minister and demonstrated leadership credentials


of the highest order here in the Assembly, where I believe a leader


of the party needs to be. And I intend to work alongside her as


deputy leader, as Parliamentary leader, as part of a strong team of


committed DUP representatives at every level, and that is in the best


interest of unionism and Northern Ireland. If any politician needing


their party, you have been involved in so many years, how difficult was


this for you? All things being equal and natural, I would have considered


it a great honour. I consider the positions I need at the moment a


privilege. I have held the position for a long time and my personal


integrity demands that I continued to weigh these things, and what is


not in my best interest but in the best interest of the party and the


country. And I honestly believe that in the modern political setup of


Northern Ireland, of a devolved government the leader of the party


needs to be in Belfast. And if I was still in the Assembly, I would have


no hesitation whatsoever. At I am not, and circumstances acted I am in


Westminster. I continue to do that working Westminster in partnership


with the new leader. And I will take the party forward in that way, and I


believe that is in keeping with my integrity, and in keeping with the


best interests of the party. In a Democratic party, people are


perfectly entitled and open to putting their candidates forward,


and we will wait to see what happens. I believe firmly that


Arlene Foster is clearly the person who should take the party forward,


someone who is already active as First Minister in the Assembly on


two occasions. I believe her working with me and the rest of the team in


the Assembly will provide the very, very positive future for Northern


Ireland, for unionism. Nigel Dodds talking to journalists,


among them our own Chris Page, Rick Wilford and I were discussing


Peter Robinson's successor on last Tuesday's Stormont Today


and we did make the point that while everyone was assuming


Nigel Dodds would be crowned the new leader, he hadn't actually


confirmed he wanted the job. How much of a shock


is this announcement? I think it is a huge shock because I


was at the party conference two weeks ago. It was almost like a


public an ointment in front of the party faithful praising Nigel and


Arlene Foster, pointing at Nigel as the next leader. I talked to the DUP


press office and they all said this was going to be the next leader and


First Minister. There were no doubts, no equivocation, no


ambiguity, this was the package. It is pretty clear from what he had to


say, he is backing Arlene Foster to take over, and for him to remain as


deputy leader. It's interesting because it almost makes it sound as


though there is some deal done already. He says I will continue as


deputy leader. I don't know whether or not there will be an election or


if there is a gift on behalf of the leader but he understands that


whatever happens he will remain deputy leader of the party, he will


continue doing that happily to serve Arlene Foster. Do you think that she


would want to be First Minister's and leader of the DUP? My ritual


thought about this, going back to 2013, my understanding was the party


itself had made a decision that would make things easier if the


roles were split so none of us were surprised that this package deal so


it seems odd that Arlene Foster seems to be taking both positions.


It may be something to do with the fact the election the six months


away, the Assembly will be broken up middle of March. So that will give


her time to lead the election campaign. So that might be more


useful to allow her to do both roles in a very key election. It does look


like the job was sitting there on a plate for Nigel Dodds. Can you think


of another situation where a politician had the leadership of a


party sitting there, if you're she wanted it, and walked away? I can't.


Back in 2008 when Peter Robinson took over from Ian Paisley, some of


us thought that might be a moment for a contest in the party. This was


handed to Nigel. For some reason, and we may never know, for some


reason he has decided he doesn't want it. I think oddly enough that


will spook a lot of people. Until yesterday, that was their dream


ticket, that was the couple who were going to keep the DUP on the road


and give them an election victory. Here's the thing I don't understand.


He said in that interview he would have no hesitation whatsoever in


putting his name forward if he was an MLA but he believes the party


needs to be led from Westminster. If you wanted to lead the party, he


could be an MLA by mid-January, they would find a way of doing it. There


is a pretty safe seat coming up in East Belfast. It could be done. It


could be done in his own constituency. OK, it would force a


by-election. If he had wanted it, it could have been done. They would


have made it happen. I don't believe the party said no. We don't know


what has happened. Very quickly, Sammy Wilson said he was ruling


himself out and backing Nigel Dodds. Nigel Dodds has ruled himself out,


does Sammy come back into the frame? It's interesting Sammy doesn't


appear to have a conversation with Nigel, or if you did Nigel didn't


tell. So, conspiracy theorists Sammy was out of the picture before he


moved himself aside. Fascinating stuff. Plenty to talk about. Thank


you very much and we will speak to you later.


So the big talking point of the day was very much outside


the Assembly chamber, but that didn't stop some robust conversation


The Deputy First Minister faced questions and, when asked by


Gregory Campbell to clarify his own role in the Troubles, he was


During the talks process, good process was made on the things on


the past. And a number of key issues to which we were working. This was


unfortunate but it is recognised that this is not an issue on which


there can be a half-hearted agreement for the sake of


expediency. The fresh start agreement commits the British and


Irish governments to reflect on options for resolving the legacy


issues, building therefore on the sound basis that already exists


through our discussions. Thank you. The Deputy First Minister


refers to good progress. That is true. Does he not agree that are to


progress would be made for example if you tried to shore up whatever


credibility he has in terms of his past, for example of -- in a number


of occasions I've alluded to his possession of a submachinegun as


contained in the saddle report. His involvement, if he had any in the


two policeman shot three days before Bloody Sunday. And the murder of a


prison officer. They all happened when the Deputy First Minister was


the two IC of the provisional IRA, yet he denied knowledge or


involvement in any of them. Where does his credibility stand? Well, I


never imagined for one minute that the fresh start would extend to the


member who has just spoken. Not for one minute. And the member is often


in this chamber prepared to quote all sorts of falsehoods and innuendo


about my past. The reality is in relation to these saddle report,


which I am glad he mentioned, the most significant ruling made by Lord


Southall was that he believed the IRA's evidence. I went forward as a


member of the IRA. My evidence was believed by Lord Southall and the


evidence of the paratroopers and the British Army was rejected. So it


isn't a great issue for the member to raise in this house, particularly


as someone who comes from the city of airy. So I think from my


perspective, I look at all of this on the basis that over the course of


the next month, the member will have a big decision to make over his


future, whether or not he will remain in this house or go to


another place. I hope he continues to remain in this house and


continues to enjoy sharing power with Sinn Fein. Does he agree that


the blanket of national security that the British government wrapped


itself in the talks was a further example of their resistance to the


truth? And truth telling on their terms only? Would he also agree the


evidence of many years is that republican and loyalist


organisations do exactly the same. Resist the truth and will only tell


the truth on their terms. The big test, I would suggest to the member


of West Belfast, is to establish the structures and mechanisms that we


agreed. At least a considerable amount of agreement on. That will be


the test as to whether or not people are willing to come forward and


contribute. My willingness on behalf of being asked by the Bloody Sunday


families to come forward as a member of the IRA to talk about the


situation in relation to Bloody Sunday, I think that is a very clear


indicator of where I am, informed in relation to it. I've done it, I've


been there, I have worn the T-shirt. Martin McGuinness underlining


what he says is his commitment Long before anyone knew she might


well get a free run at the DUP leadership, Arlene Foster was


a busy woman in the chamber. The Finance Minister, for a short


time longer, at least, was seeking support to extend Westminster's


Enterprise Bill to Northern Ireland. However, the Assembly voted not to


adopt the legislation, which would have put an end to six


figure public sector exit payments. The matter before us today poses a


relatively straightforward choice. How much do we wish to spend on


existing public servants, and how much do we want to spend on


providing public services? While exit payments must be reasonable and


fair to public servants, we have to be mindful these costs are met by


employers, and impact on what can be spent on the delivery of services.


It should be noted at the outset the restriction being proposed will not


affect any pension which an individual has already accrued, and


paid for by member contributions. What is proposed as a cap on any


additional funding paid for by the employer as part of an exit


package. In relation to concerns raised over specific circumstances


when the cap would impact on lower or moderately paid a big sector


workers, the department made no promises. When pressed on this


issue, the officials commented there was scope for the Department or


employing authority to grant flexibilities and waivers in certain


circumstances. The officials did not give members and assurance is such a


waiver would be applied in the case of a specific example which was


cited by members of a 55-year-old female public sector worker with 35


years service earning ?27,000 who could be impacted by cap of ?95,000.


It should not be used to bring forward such controversial changes,


and that it does deny the Falls scrutiny of this Assembly to a


matter which is of huge public importance and impacts on the lives


of many people here in Northern Ireland. A major concern for many is


that full details of guidelines on the flexibility to relax the exit


payment cap will not be issued by the department until after the LMC


has been agreed. It must be done in such a way the consequences have all


been considered in advance. The current situation is that this has


not happened, and there was haste, and the commission isn't satisfied


sufficient time has been afforded to scrutinise Asian fully.


Leslie Cree, and the Finance Minister was also


on her feet discussing financial help for businesses affected


by recent flooding during today's Question Time.


Arlene Foster also said she hopes to have a budget for the next financial


She was giving her response to the Chancellor's recent


After the compounds of Spending Review announcement on 25th of


November, we have a clear picture in in terms of the block grant. I've


indicated 5% reduction in real terms and a growth especially towards the


latter end in terms of capital spending. Therefore, we are now


going to engage with all the individual departments. I envisage


there will be rounds of budget by laterals between myself and


ministerial colleagues before Christmas, and we will bring forward


a budget to the Executive. I realise we're not going to have time to have


usual draft budget consultation period. I have tasked officials to


speak with individual stakeholders and, indeed, groups of stakeholders


to discuss the way forward with them once budget, the draft budget comes


before ministerial bilaterals have finished. It is hoped we have a


budget in place for the end of January of next year. Although the


Spending Review was perhaps better, particularly in relation to capital,


than some people anticipated, there will be difficulties for


departments, particularly if we ring-fenced spending in relation to


health, because health, of course, is that big part of the budget here


in Northern Ireland. And, therefore, colleagues will have to look at


efficiency savings again for the year 1617. And we are only setting a


one-year budget at this stage because we feel it would be wrong to


tie the hands of the new mandate after May of next year. They will


want to set their own priorities after that. I asked the Prime


Minister, given the tax credits, what discussions will have taken


place at executive level to reach consensus at what is done with this


money set aside for the needs of the most vulnerable in the society.


Absolutely. And we all welcome the fact that the Chancellor moved away


from his plans in relation to tax credits. It was always very


difficult to understand how you could say you wanted to encourage


people into work, and then to actually undermine that argument by


taking away tax credits, which were there to help them get into work. So


it was to me a very sensible decision. We set aside a pot of


money to deal with the consequences of the cut in tax credits under the


fresh start agreement. We will now have to at an executive level have


those discussions, spread over four years, so we have some time to


decide. The profile of that money is 60 million each year so we can


decide whatever we want to do in relation to the money, and how best


we can help vulnerable people over that period of time, and I look


forward to those discussions in the coming weeks and months. Can I


sympathise with many of my constituents who have suffered


previously under the storm Desmond. I asked the minister if any business


in particular may apply for rebate? In terms of the rebate? It is


difficult to say whether they will qualify for rates rebate. I was


thinking when I heard... This is the fourth storm, it is the first male


storm, seems to have made more damage than the three females


altogether. Arlene Foster, tongue in her cheek,


I assume. If you're a student living


in a house with others or a landlord renting out a property,


the Houses in Multiple Occupation Its aim is to enable better


regulation of houses with a large number


of residents by doing three things. Firstly, streamlining the definition


of what an HMO is. Secondly, introducing licensing to promote


effective housing management. Landlords will be required to have a


licence before the HMO comes into existence. To apply for a licence,


the landlords fit this to let HMO established, and a safety check of


the home computed. Thirdly, the bill will clarify existing law and may


currently Galatia and enforcement more effective. The proposed system


will mean that a person is acting illegally of they are not licensed


operate a property as a house of multiple occupation. This is a


fundamental change to the existing system. While the committee welcomes


the principles of the bill, we've sought to ensure it will deliver a


new, more robust system of regulation for houses of multiple


occupation. HMOs are important in the housing mix in the North and the


housing crisis, they are important for people who cannot rent. Often it


is important to provide further regulation to better protect


communities and indeed the talents within houses of multiple


occupation, it is also important not to use the sledgehammer approach


because we are living in a society where more and more people because


of high rents are having to share accommodation. There has to be a


common-sense approach. In terms of taking this forward, how


we going to identify the under registration that presently exists,


even in terms of landlord registration, there are landlords


out there whether or not they are in terms of homes of multiple


occupation, they should also be registered in terms of being


landlords and can avoid duplication if you register for multiple


occupation would you automatically register as a landlord could we try


and minimise the level of bureaucracy that exists an insurer


that we capture all relevant information as an efficient


mechanism as possible. I am also concerned that we get the balance


right between the ability to carry out enforcement with regards to


landlords who require that to be done and we also need to mark the


fact that there are many landlords who go above and beyond that which


they need to do in order to provide accommodation for those living in


this type of accommodation. And that bill passed


its second stage on an oral vote. The North-South Ministerial Council


is back in full swing and today's report


from the cross-border body focused on the snappily titled Aquaculture


and Marine Sectoral Format. As the questions to the


Agriculture Minister show, The Ulster aquaculture is playing an


increasingly important role in our agri- foods industry and it is very


weather dependent. In terms of... Can you give us an update into


research that has been done on it becoming more weather resistant and


there was what to cold and moderately warm in some cases. This


industry is very dependent on this or that last year were stock was


lost due to weather conditions. I am delighted that we are progressing


this conversation on an all Ireland basis and we will have our


conference happening in 2016 which will give an opportunity for


agencies to come together and bring international experts in relation to


this and work together to have a sustainable fishery. That conference


will be hugely significant in terms of supporting the industry and


identifying other areas of research and other supports we need to have


in place to help that industry to be diverse and sustainable. Back to


point number 7, Mr McCarthy focused on something else, you are met and


acknowledge that salmon poaching involves a large number of


individuals and remains a challenge, can I ask what steps she is taking


to eradicate poaching salmon in Northern Ireland? It is exactly as I


just said, we have a multi-agency approach and we are working with the


number of agencies including the PSNI to see how we can eradicate


this. It is a crime. It involves the responsibility of policing. I think


that we have to keep continuing in that vein with that collective


effort. That is the only way we are going to be able to drive out what


activity. And Alex Kane is here


for a final word. The Upper Bann DUP MLA Stephen


Moutray has announced he's standing Not a huge price for a. Carla


Lockhart but with 50% in the selection process. Three candidates,


he had to lose one of them. Stephen has paid that easy for them. He has


got them out of what could have been a difficult problem.


And we heard today that while Gallaher's was going up


in smoke, another couple of Northern Ireland politicians


I am not surprised. That goes with the territory. Elected get invited


to events like that. I would not have made such a fuss, so maybe


they're talking about it. I would have confess, this goes with the


territory, it was a great match, we enjoyed it and we did have serious


discussions before and after and we will continue to have those


discussions. Do not pretend that you're sitting at a match, ?1600 a


ticket and having a conversation about workplace problems in the


factory 400 miles away. That is silly.


Join me again at the same time tomorrow, that's 23:15


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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