08/03/2016 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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Delays in patients accessing health service treatment -


never far from the top of the agenda - continue to cause problems


And it wasn't women's hour - not even women's day -


but women's week, as the Speaker aimed to raise the profile of female


The Health Minister is questioned over lengthy waiting lists...


We have been trying, once we resolved welfare reform, the budget


was back on a stable footing and we have been addressing the problem and


I have made it a key priority. Calling more women to public life -


the Assembly celebrates It is up to women to put their


shoulders to the door and shove it but it is up to assembly members


that we hold the door open and encourage many others to come


through. And I'm joined by the News Letter's


Political Correspondent, Sam McBride, with his take


on another busy day on the hill... It's only Tuesday and already it's


been a week of ups and downs On Sunday, Simon Hamilton said


an extra thirty million pounds, on top of the forty million


announced in November, would be made available


in the next financial year Yesterday, he was criticised


by a patient waiting two years for surgery and a GP who called


the injection of money a 'band-aid'. The topic was bound to come up


during question time today, I recently announced that I would


ask the independent NHS pay review body for a recommendation regarding


the pay award and I said that I would honour their conclusions. I


have now received the response and they suggest that certain economic


factors could point towards the option of an ill aboard and they


suggest they have seen no evidence to suggest that large numbers of


staff are leaving Northern Ireland because of pay. They recommend a 1%


increase for all staff in Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the


UK and I am happy to confirm that I am accepting their recommendation


for a 1% pay award. This will be challenging in our tough budgetary


times but I am clear that it is an appropriate reward for our working


staff. How confident would the Minister be that waiting list will


continue to decrease and we would get seriously to grips with this


problem? Part... We can invest and we are investing and I think we


should note and welcomed the additional investment I have


announced in the last number of days on top of the ?40 million going in


this year and sometimes I think that people think that is the only money


going to waiting list, this is on top of the ordinary activity of the


trusts which ensure that cases continue and there are more


outpatient appointments. This is additional on top of that. There is


a constant churn of people going out and coming onto the list and there


has been a 14% increase in referrals, never mind issues with


finance, but there has been a 14% increase in the number of referrals


from GPs and others to hospital for outpatient and other appointments


and we have got to, keep our focus on continued investment in getting


to grips with this. I acknowledge that waiting lists are too long, it


is one of my priorities to address that and that is why we have been


investing the money to help 150,000 people across Northern Ireland to


get the procedures and operations they require. We need to continue


that investment and that is why I am pleased that the First Minister has


indicated that one of her priorities is prioritising health expenditure


and I agree with her when she says we need to reform our system, but we


need to spend a minimum of ?1 billion extra over the next five


years. The department received an additional ?80 million last year and


yet the situation in my constituency continued to deteriorate. All the


Minister be in the situation when will he be in a situation to get to


grips with the crisis in waiting times? We're in a position because


of budgetary pressures and because of that 14% increase in referrals


where we have unacceptable in long-awaited list and I think if was


standing here before the member and the house saying that is the way it


is and we are not doing anything, I think he would be right to criticise


me. We have been trying, once we've resolved welfare reform, the budget


was back at a stable footing and we have been addressing the problem and


it is a key priority in terms of the big allocations out of the monetary


rounds, for the budget for next year to tackle this issue.


Simon Hamilton - and Sam McBride from the News Letter is with me


Health is seen by many as the most challenging ministry, no matter how


much money there might be you get the sense it will never be enough.


That is true. In some ways, maybe 15 years ago, assembly health ministers


had that fact masked by the fact that the economy was booming with


the Labour government that was spending beyond its means but


spending generously in terms of the health service and we benefited.


Over the last period, we have had both the crash of the economy and


the welfare reform impasse which has taken a lot of money out of the


executive budget and health has suffered. Waiting list, as Simon


Hamilton admitted, are now seriously very concerning lead going in the


wrong direction when you look at grass, they are sharply going up.


That is the difficulty for the DUP but also for people who are waiting


for importing procedures. Health has the biggest budget and the biggest


impact on the population. It does. We all have experience of health,


from the breadth of our children to people dying in hospital 's


everyday, we all know it is a massive issue most of us it is a


good experience, the difficulty politically is that people expected


to be a good experience and if there is any issue, that comes back to


health managers or to the Health Minister. It is a thankless task, if


it goes well, that is what we expect other that does not, we complain.


Simon Hamilton has been in the post for less than a year, how has he


done? He has done well, he has not dropped the ball in a political


sense. When you look at the statistics it is hard to argue that


he has been massively successful in that the waiting times are getting


very long and you could argue that is not entirely his fault, it is the


fault of not enough funding, but wider institutional. Edwin Poots was


very bold to the point of closing the Accident and Emergency unit at


his local hospital. Since then, we have seen the cutback of


streamlining your care, centralised bigger hospitals which doctors say


is what needs to be done but politically it is suicidal in some


cases for local politicians. We have had this spectre of some DUP


ministers arguing that services should be reduced at a local


hospital and some of their colleagues arguing that they should


not. That is difficult to reconcile. They have not followed through on


that. Given that challenge, do you think the DUP will want health in


the next mandate? I do not think anyone wants health. It is always


one of the last pics and I do not see any reason why that would be


different. Developing, it is more likely to be further down the line


because there are massive issues that make it bigger before they get


better. Given the number of 'final stages'


we've brought you in recent weeks, you'd be forgiven for thinking


that bills only complete their legislative journey


in the final few months The first bill to vault its final


hurdle today concerned Shared Sheard education provides the


opportunity to raise educational standards for young people, to learn


about each other from each other and for teachers, youth workers and


early years practitioners to learn from practices and share good


practice. Share and education can facilitate mutual understanding


through ongoing and purpose of engagement in learning and young


people from different community backgrounds. Shared education poses


no threat to any school sector, youth work or early years settings


or community. The hope is that the cooperation between schools will


hope -- Michael helped to lift standards and that is something for


all our children, from whatever background should be something we


are aspiring to and if that is a positive outcome, of shared


education then that is something that we can welcome. I think there


is a positive step forward with this bill, clearly as with all


legislation in this house, the key test will be as we move ahead in the


next mandate towards implementation and seen how this works on the


ground and it is important that the same effort and attention given to


this bill is also applied to our education system in terms of the


delivery of the objectives and that is something which I suspect this


house can talk about. Shared learning partnerships are working


successfully in many areas including my local area and we have schools


sharing teachers, sharing resources and now schools are sharing


buildings and there is a great variety of various types of sharing


that goes on. It, this is demonstrated the ability and


willingness of our schools, pupils and parents to move to a greater


degree of sharing across the traditional religious divide. We


believe that shared education could and should be a supportive mechanism


for developing other models of long-term sharing, such as jointly


manage schools, integrated schools and federations. The UUP is


supportive of innovative solutions developed by communities for the


children. I hope to be proved wrong, I hope in a few years' time we will


be able to look at the situation and say, the shared education agenda was


a major step forward in terms of bringing our children together,


which is what we are all about, a shared future in a small way and I


would also hope that the experience of sharing across sectors and


between schools will lead schools and parents and governors to realise


that there is no bogeyman, that the children could be educated together


under one roof and without having to worry about which sector they came


from where they lived or what the ethos of the school was, that they


would be able to go to the best school, near a school of their


choice. Today the Assembly was presented


with a report outlining potential Members called for the next


Justice Minister to take on board their recommendations


on how the entire legal and criminal process can be made fit


for the 21st century. And the Chair of the Justice


Committee, Alastair Ross, Good evening. Thank you for joining


us. The findings and recommendations in this report promised to


completely change the way much of the justice system is run, if they


implement. Yes. To set a little bit of context we recognise there is


less government money around but the public expectation is higher and


what we tried to do was find evidence -based policy is that


reduced the cost to the taxpayer but improved outcomes. We have


identified a number of areas from problem-solving courts to use


justice and early interventions to the use of technology to improve


outcomes and help engage with the justice system. Wide range of


suggestions we have in the report that they think all of them are


achievable and the committee has done the survey and we want to see a


number of recommendations included for government. There appears to be


a particular focus on how young offenders are dealt with. We


recognise that once a young person enters the criminal justice system


it is a revolving door and we need to do what we can to divert them


from entering the system and some of that is early intervention and we


will work with education, appropriate to versions, restorative


justice that can make a big difference and ensure that young


people have a second chance. We do not want them at the age of 15, 16,


17, 18 losing opportunities and that is something that the committee


agrees with. At the same time, it has to be said that if a young


person knowingly breaks the law, they have to take the consequences.


Of course and many of the diversions are around low-level first-time


offenders and the more serious offences will have to be dealt with


in a traditional system and that is appropriate. We try to ensure that


the justice system acts proportionately and rationally in


terms of the approach. Community restorative justice has been tried,


is that the next logical step? There are number of things. We need to not


only look for criminal justice responses, sometimes health care is


appropriate and if a community has been wronged, a proportionate


response might be that the young person helps to clean up the area


and works alongside the community to improve things and back and repay


their debt to society in a more constructive way.


We need to be smart on crime and we need to look at areas where outcome


can be improved, distinguishable between what works and what doesn't


work permit shall be criminal justice system is right in response


to this. There is no absolute guarantee that your committee will


necessary pick up on this. No, it would be part of our legacy report.


The next minister will pick up some of the suggestions as well. I


suspect they will go and I suspect they will will be a hugely


successful collaboration, with the legal profession and the legal


sector, police, all of these organisations coming together once a


month to look at the evidence base outcome for all the different


initiatives. I really good report their and we could use it in the


next mandate. The Finance Minister also faced


questions today and it was his turn to answer MLAs asking about the hot


topic of Brexit. Most ministers have been asked


for their position on the EU referendum debate


and Mervyn Storey was only too happy The EU funding totalling 676 million


has been secured for the 2007 13 BC and the five A programmes and the


2000 1420 piece for the five A programmes for the delivery by SU


PB. The special EU programmes body is the managing authority for the


direct programmes. Funding under these programmes is secured why the


Northern Ireland executive, Irish, and relation the Scottish allotment.


Will the Minister offers some suggestions of how such funding


would be best attained in the future? The member was to draw us


into the debate around what would happen post the referendum. I have


made it very clear that the debate which leads us to and during the


referendum needs to be on the basis of facts, it has to be the basis of


figures and one figure that those parties who are suggesting that we


should stay within the European Union has to deal with is the fact


that we have ?20 billion which goes every year to the coppers of the


European Union. An organisation that has a looted bureaucracy, an


organisation that can't secure our borders, an organisation that cannot


resist meddling in our courts decisions and I think that that the


many other reasons, let financial reasons, there is a case that is


currently being made to ensure that our money is best spent in Northern


Ireland to the benefit of our tissues, to the benefit of our


farmers, to the benefit that of our committee. Could I ask the Minister,


has his department carried out any audit as to the potential


implications of Brexit, negative or otherwise, specifically for Northern


Ireland? Because I think that faith in the Tories to deliver to Northern


Ireland and a post Brexit, I think would be pretty much ill founded. I


hear members who are always asking for more information. All the


information is out there that needs to be out there in terms of making a


judgment on a decision. That is the fact that Her Majesty 's tragedy,


irrespective of who is the Government of the day, whether they


be the Conservative all the members colleagues in the Labour Party, and


we know how well they were able to spend money. They spent money that


well that the bust almost the Treasury so I think the memo will do


better to have a conversation with his colleagues in the Labour Party


that causes into the financial mess. The Conservative Party had to try


and resolve. However, the issue that still needs to be resolved is for


the Treasury because they will have more money which will not go to


Brussels but will come to Belfast and to other parts of the United


Kingdom and that I started back, I would have to go round all the


the members constituencies to keep you all happy.


Mervyn Storey in robust form at the despatch box.


Yet another piece of legislation made its final passage


The Rural Needs Bill obliges all public bodies to take


into account the needs of those living in the country


The Agriculture Minister and members of the Agriculture Committee


were pleased to see the bill reach its final stage.


As we move forward it will be important to ensure that the public


authorities named in the bill comply with this in a consistent and


meaningful way. This bill is to have real impact on the lives, it can't


be allowed to become a box ticking exercise. The reporting and


monitoring of arrangements will help to ensure that this will happen as a


result of these amendments, the Department is required to publish an


annual report. What I am glad that there will be a statue duty on


public authorities to take rural needs into account when incrementing


Government policies and delivering public services I'm still somewhat


disappointed with the limited scope of the bill. This bill represents


another missed opportunity. We only have to look at other parts of the


United Kingdom where there are significantly more protection than


place for rural communities, for instance, I try to place presumption


against rural school closures on the face of a bill, like Scotland and


England, given the limited scope of this bill it was not possible. This


bill has come about as a result of the brutal White paper and action


plan with the commitment to strive for an inclusive rural society where


all rural drivers enjoy the same quality of the as other people


referring in urban settings. The effective implementation of rural


proofing across central and local Government. And other public


authorities as may be specified. I think this is a historic day for the


Assembly. This rural bill, the final stage of this rural bill is


something that is the little for quite a number of years and I want


to congratulate and compound the Minister Michele O'Neil for bringing


this forward. The rural dweller and I am one of them myself, has for a


long time been an estimated within their own communities. I served


nearly 20 years as a councillor. In a rural area and it was a fighting


match year in, year out with meetings with the council to get the


right money laid aside for facilities in the rural areas. In an


act this is a great new story for our communities. I think for us, we


can be very, as Assembly, be very proud that we have left a fantastic


legacy out of this mandate. The needs of rural communities will be


reckless. For me, given that it is International Women's Day, I am a


proud minister to say that I've led the way in delivering for rural


communities and to make sure that we look to the future, broke me to stay


so the disadvantage, they do feel that they have a statue that now,


that their needs will be taken into account. It is a great newspaper


Michelle O'Neill acknowledging International Women's Day.


And the Assembly isn't just marking the day,


it has devoted the entire week to raising the profile


Earlier, a cross-party motion marked the creation of a women's


parliamentary caucus here in Stormont.


A political career path is deemed as not family friendly due to long


sections and the demands placed on member's times. It remains true that


women are main carers in our society and as such we need to expose


strategies to prove worklife balance and improve issues around childcare


and other caring responsibilities. This will be another key protein for


the women's caucus. If more women will take up more high-profile and


positions, it will help the media will inspire more women to take up


higher positions. I would commend it to everybody. We can't sit back and


wait on the societal changes. We must change our own society and it


is my hope that the women caucus will drive these changes so the male


and female ratio of this Assembly is much closer to 5050 by 2020. I want


to thank you for your commitment that you have had at women in


politics and in public life and I know a few months ago, Catriona


Ruane and I ambushed you in your office and have some ideas that


would be good for International Women's Day. You took those ideas


are not needed you make this Assembly celebrate International


Women's Day, you brought it into International women's week. I would


like rabbit in the headlights. I was so nervous and so intimidated by


this chamber but it has been through this support that I've had from my


party colleagues, from other people within this chamber, but I can stand


here today and not feel like that rabbit in the head lights. We also


have a First Minister who is a women, we have two junior ministers,


we have a Minister for agriculture and culture arts and leisure. That


didn't happen by accident. That happens because women were taken


power and also being supported by men in parties who understood the


importance of true equality within each of our parties. I lost my mum


in December and she was a strong women who had a great life, reared


seven children and freely in different times she read those


children. It is because of women like my mother and all our mothers


who fought the good fight in their way, in their time. You won't make


the progress you want to make in this place without the support of


men, that is a given. I am hoping that a lot of other men who maybe


don't need much persuasion will come on board with the initiative as time


goes on. 2016 saw the first of First Minister in Northern Ireland and I'm


kind God she's not here because I must admit Arlene Foster is someone


I've always admired. I would be quite embarrassing visit she was in


room. I dyed my hair because -- I admire her because she is a good


politician. She is not only a good team are politician, generally she


is a good politician. We are forced to be reckoned with. We have


achieved much in our numbers and we have much to be proud of. Is up to


women to put their shoulders to the door and give it a hard shell. It is


up to Assembly members here that we hold that door open and encourage


many others to come through. Sandra Overend and Sam


McBride has rejoined me. Do you think we need great is to


encourage more women to play in active part in Northern Ireland


politics? Some say we do. It has to be said that has been some


criticism. I think waiters are ultimately not the answer because I


think they can be quite demeaning to women. They could suggest that women


really need some sort of like to get on in politics. These strong


political figures show that actually it you are good enough, you can get


on. Ideally at this point in time, there has never been bettered by


good time in which to be a female pills politician in Northern Ireland


going forward for election. If you are women going forward for


election, parties are my full that they need a certain percentage. If


there is not a crater, your other pretty good chance of getting in


there. There are some pretty impressive female politicians in the


parties that. Having as female first Miller has got to be an


encouragement for all parties. It is like Margaret Thatcher when she was


Prime Minister. Particularly in a party like the DUP that has been


criticised sometimes unfairly, it is a bit like the Conservative Party,


they were the first to have a female Prime Minister and the DUP have


surprised many to have the first female leader. They have chosen them


in seats where they are likely to win and that is quite significant


and if you that is where potentially could have people put in where they


never have a chance of winning but instead you are really addressing


the issue. Join me for a special edition


of The View from Dublin on Thursday But before we go, can I assure


the Justice Minister Can I is usual welcome the support


from the vast number of members who've spoken and in GB huge crowds


we can here. I suspect the whole BBC Stormont Today team are hunched over


their laptop screens watching in the basement.


It's a huge weekend of sport, live across the BBC.


The FA Cup quarterfinals and round four of the Six Nations.


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.