08/10/2012 Stormont Today


08/10/2012

A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Mark Carruthers is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont.


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Hello and welcome to Stormont Today. Coming up: Saying no to health care

:00:29.:00:34.

reform. The Health Minister warns of dire consequences. If we do not

:00:34.:00:41.

proceed with welfare reform we will have longer waiting lists for hip

:00:41.:00:47.

operations and for people who require heart surgery. More money 4

:00:47.:00:53.

struggling farmers. We hear from the Agriculture Minister. And the

:00:53.:00:56.

First and Deputy First Ministers announced their strategy and say

:00:56.:01:01.

they have not given up their corporation tax fight. We are still

:01:01.:01:11.
:01:11.:01:12.

With me today is our political correspondent Martina Purdy. The

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first thing to say is that welfare reform is in fact what everyone has

:01:16.:01:21.

been talking about here today. even Prime Minister David Cameron

:01:21.:01:26.

this evening was warning of serious consequences if Stormont does not

:01:26.:01:30.

pass this welfare bill. As you know, it has already passed in England

:01:30.:01:35.

and Wales. It is the biggest shake- up in welfare for decades and it is

:01:35.:01:40.

designed, they say, to simplify the benefit system which has become too

:01:40.:01:44.

complex and to encourage people into work. So some of the King

:01:44.:01:52.

changes -- key changes are six benefits will be made into one

:01:52.:01:56.

universal credit. Another big change that the disability living

:01:56.:01:59.

allowance will become something called Personal Independent's

:01:59.:02:04.

parent, and instead of solve assessing, filling in a full and

:02:04.:02:08.

getting that payment, you will have to go to an individual Assessor

:02:08.:02:13.

every three years. And not everyone is happy about those changes.

:02:13.:02:16.

long been controversial and Sinn Fein have been resisting them at

:02:16.:02:22.

Executive level for some months. But eventually last month agreed

:02:22.:02:26.

that the bill should come before Stormont, because the reality is it

:02:26.:02:30.

would cause a crisis in the finances of Stormont and would

:02:30.:02:33.

cause difficulties in the benefits system here. It would be really

:02:33.:02:38.

radical if they do not match this bill. So Sinn Fein have now decided

:02:38.:02:42.

that for the second reading tomorrow, which means a substantial

:02:42.:02:46.

debate on the issue, they want amendments. They have tabled an

:02:46.:02:50.

amendment and they want the bill deferred because they say it is not

:02:50.:02:56.

tailored for Northern Ireland. When Sinn Fein signalled last week

:02:56.:03:04.

during an Executive meeting, there is raised a press statement, they

:03:04.:03:09.

were accused of Pontius Pilate like tactics, of washing their hands of

:03:09.:03:11.

the responsibility of bringing it before Stormont and trying to blame

:03:11.:03:17.

others. So we are waiting to see how the other parties respond. The

:03:17.:03:22.

SDLP may try to have a working group set up here to understand the

:03:22.:03:28.

impact of this legislation in Northern Ireland. Just before we

:03:28.:03:33.

let you go, it was a busy week last week for the Ulster Unionists party.

:03:33.:03:39.

A difficult week, with Mike Nesbitt's sacking of his Assembly

:03:39.:03:45.

deputy, John McAllister. Have things settled down? There has been

:03:45.:03:50.

an embarrassing row. The feeling on the ground here it is that Mike and

:03:50.:04:00.

John have a breed -- agreed dues disagree. -- Mike and John have

:04:00.:04:04.

agreed to disagree. They are going to work at their problems behind

:04:04.:04:07.

closed doors, although Peter Robinson issued a speech today

:04:07.:04:11.

which she gave at the weekend and he spends a good lot of that speech

:04:11.:04:20.

attacking John McAllister. We will hear more from you later.

:04:20.:04:23.

It was the turn of the Health Minister to face questions at the

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dispatch box. Edwin Poots updated ministers on an incident at a care

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home in Londonderry last week which led to suspension of a number of

:04:34.:04:39.

staff. But first he was asked about primary care services. The Minister

:04:39.:04:43.

will know that change always causes some people concerned. Could I ask

:04:43.:04:47.

him to take the opportunity here this afternoon to assure the House

:04:47.:04:51.

that it is not part of his vision for the health service in Northern

:04:51.:04:57.

Ireland and any aspect of primary health care service delivery would

:04:57.:05:00.

be delivered through any other vehicle except the National Health

:05:01.:05:09.

Service. Of course changed has caused concern but that does not

:05:09.:05:15.

mean you should not be reached. If the member is asking am I looking

:05:15.:05:19.

to engage in some privatisation process of primary care, that is

:05:19.:05:25.

not something on the agenda. We are dealing with issues in more detail

:05:25.:05:30.

tomorrow but it's fair evident that is not part of this. Can I ask him

:05:30.:05:38.

to give an update on how the welfare reform cuts will impact on

:05:38.:05:42.

transforming the new care strategy. Devera interesting question to ask

:05:42.:05:48.

because welfare reform does have an impact. Were we to do something

:05:48.:05:55.

completely daft and cost the Assembly in Northern Ireland �220

:05:55.:05:59.

million, that would probably cost us in this department around �100

:05:59.:06:04.

million, so if we do not proceed with welfare reform and stay with

:06:04.:06:09.

parity, we will have longer waiting lists for hip operations, for

:06:09.:06:13.

people who require heart surgery, we will have people dying as a

:06:13.:06:18.

consequence of that. My overriding priority and that of the Western

:06:18.:06:28.
:06:28.:06:28.

Trust is to ensure the safety and I can advise that the trust has put

:06:28.:06:33.

in place an improvement plan to bring about the change required to

:06:33.:06:40.

end sure that... The improvement plan will transfer the culture of

:06:40.:06:48.

care from a racing to a social care home, more in a keeping with a

:06:48.:06:54.

nursing home. Implementation is being ever seen by a board made up

:06:54.:06:59.

of senior managers within the trust. The trust is reporting progress to

:06:59.:07:03.

the Department through the Health and Social Care Board. The relation

:07:03.:07:08.

to the process which he has put in place, I know he is aware that

:07:08.:07:14.

staff training was a big issue. Is he satisfied that the process going

:07:14.:07:21.

forward and staff training is adequate? It is absolutely

:07:21.:07:27.

essential and we are doing a considerable amount of work. When

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we have for Cannes people in care, the ability for individuals to take

:07:33.:07:42.

advantage of that -- vulnerable people. The ability for individuals

:07:42.:07:48.

to take advantage of that is increased greatly. I think that

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after all the time we have had to take into consideration vulnerable

:07:55.:08:01.

people, in terms of the care provided for them, it would be very

:08:01.:08:03.

disappointing in 2012 that this sort of behaviour can still happen

:08:04.:08:08.

in our facilities. The Health Minister, Edwin Poots.

:08:08.:08:12.

From hate crime to body scanners, just some of the areas discussed

:08:12.:08:17.

during Justice Questions, but first Mr David Ford began by asking a

:08:17.:08:22.

question of when the new Police Ombudsman will start to look again

:08:23.:08:29.

at historical cases. It has made the issue of lifting the suspension

:08:29.:08:33.

of investigation into historic cases a priority. There's a lot of

:08:33.:08:37.

work going on in the ombudsman's offers at the moment and the

:08:37.:08:41.

expectation is the criminal justice inspection will do the Independent

:08:41.:08:47.

allegation which spot of restoring confidence during December. We hope

:08:47.:08:50.

the work would be able to proceed from January onwards. Would he

:08:50.:08:55.

agree that we have to take steps, that one of the things that let you

:08:55.:09:01.

lack of public confidence in the past was external interference,

:09:01.:09:08.

which we must be free of in future? I appreciate his point about the

:09:09.:09:12.

allegations of interference which went on previously, including the

:09:13.:09:17.

findings of the Tony McCluskie report of inappropriate behaviour

:09:17.:09:21.

as suggested between an official of the Northern Ireland Office as then

:09:21.:09:26.

was. But the suggestions that there was interference historically have

:09:26.:09:32.

not been suggested in terms of current operation. I am determined

:09:32.:09:38.

to see that the good work being done by my department in terms of

:09:38.:09:44.

sponsoring the Ombudsman office will continue. Given the increasing

:09:44.:09:48.

sectarian hate crime, will the Minister strengthened the court's

:09:48.:09:51.

capacity to increase sentences to highlight the odious nature of

:09:51.:09:56.

these crimes? It can be very difficult to obtain a conviction to

:09:56.:10:02.

include the hate element of a hate crime, even though it may be

:10:02.:10:06.

relevant league -- a relatively easy to get a conviction for the

:10:06.:10:11.

offence at such. I have asked for people to look at this and it

:10:11.:10:16.

changes are needed I will consider them. In many cases we should

:10:16.:10:20.

recognise that we should recognise that even though a case is not

:10:20.:10:25.

prosecuted with the addition of hate crime, cases are successfully

:10:25.:10:29.

prosecuted for the basic underlying offence and that does not mean that

:10:29.:10:34.

people are getting off, but there's obviously work to be done. Can he

:10:34.:10:44.
:10:44.:10:44.

give us an indication that there is a prison in Magilligan in the

:10:45.:10:49.

future and that it will remain where it is and not be moved to the

:10:49.:10:53.

proposed location? Given that there is an ongoing consultation, I

:10:53.:10:59.

cannot give this assurance. I can give an assurance that contrary to

:10:59.:11:05.

what -- what may be the perception, it is because the consultations are

:11:05.:11:10.

genuine and seeking people's opinions. I am determined to see we

:11:10.:11:14.

have a prisoners' state which is fit for purpose in the future and

:11:14.:11:19.

not dealing with the situation of 30 or 40 years ago. If people can

:11:19.:11:24.

suggest appropriate ways to using the -- of using the Magilligan of

:11:24.:11:30.

site rather than another site, then I looked forward to seeing bring --

:11:30.:11:36.

hearing from them. The Justice Minister, David Ford.

:11:36.:11:43.

The Agriculture Minister has announced new methods to help solve

:11:43.:11:47.

what farmers today describe as a crisis. Supermarkets were in the

:11:47.:11:51.

firing line, with claims that farmers are often paid less for

:11:51.:11:56.

their food than it costs to produce. At the very foundation of potential

:11:56.:12:00.

economic growth is farming and the industry is under severe strain.

:12:00.:12:03.

The heart of this matter is that many of our local farmers who are

:12:03.:12:08.

being paid less for their products than they cost to produce. This is

:12:08.:12:13.

putting them under severe financial pressure. More must be done to help

:12:13.:12:17.

our farmers receive a fair price for their produce, but there was

:12:17.:12:20.

one of the most important industries in Northern Ireland

:12:20.:12:26.

could collapse. The IFE chain is controlled by major retailers. --

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the food chain. They are controlling the farm gate price. It

:12:34.:12:39.

is a vicious circle that goes round and round. The one person that is

:12:39.:12:44.

suffering all the time is of the farmer. The Ulster Farmers' Union

:12:44.:12:47.

are absolutely right to stand up for the clear and Present danger

:12:47.:12:51.

which exists and indeed threatens the long-term future of this

:12:51.:12:55.

industry. Would she agree that because there is such an imbalance,

:12:55.:13:00.

as many of us would describe it, at the amount of profit coming back

:13:00.:13:05.

from the retailers to the farmers, that one way of actually resolving

:13:05.:13:10.

that might be at the planning service could actually but criteria

:13:11.:13:15.

into planning that those major retail stores could not give -- get

:13:15.:13:21.

planning permission without giving back a reasonable profit? I welcome

:13:21.:13:31.
:13:31.:13:51.

With shorter days and the less likelihood of good drying, some

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feel so will never be done. Potato prices are better but will not

:13:55.:14:00.

compensate. The Agriculture Minister is with me

:14:00.:14:05.

now. Thank you for joining us. How serious are the challengers for

:14:05.:14:09.

farmers? It has been a difficult farmers? It has been a difficult

:14:09.:14:15.

farmers? It has been a difficult year. Factors have impacted upon

:14:15.:14:22.

the farmers like the weather, they have used up their winter feed.

:14:22.:14:28.

Also there are falling farm gate prices. And we have the rise in

:14:28.:14:33.

input costs. It has been a difficult year. I welcome the fact

:14:33.:14:38.

that we had the debate. I was able to announce that I will be able to

:14:38.:14:42.

put additional money into farmers' pockets. This has been widely

:14:42.:14:49.

welcomed by the industry. Will this extra money which is being paid

:14:49.:14:54.

through Single Farm Payments make a difference? It is �50 million, will

:14:54.:14:59.

it make a tangible difference? you ask people individually, they

:14:59.:15:05.

would say no. It is alongside a range of other programs and schemes

:15:05.:15:10.

that we have. We are providing practical advice and information

:15:10.:15:15.

and working closely with them to help them in terms of how they do

:15:15.:15:22.

things, can be streamlined things, but is it enough money? It is

:15:22.:15:29.

progress. Can I be clear, Minister, is it new money? Is is an

:15:29.:15:34.

additional �50 million or you robbing Peter to pay Paul. It is

:15:34.:15:44.
:15:44.:15:50.

new money. It is an addition. ask you about a you moving at the

:15:50.:15:52.

Department of Agriculture and Rural Development headquarters to

:15:52.:15:57.

Ballyclare Kelly -- Ballykelly. You think it will be more efficient,

:15:57.:16:01.

are the buildings that are there, a former MoD buildings, are they fit

:16:01.:16:07.

to be told furred to the use as your new headquarters. When you

:16:07.:16:11.

look at some of them, they are for sale on Ferris website, they look

:16:11.:16:21.
:16:21.:16:21.

pretty ropey! Some buildings are less than 20 years old. We may need

:16:21.:16:26.

to have new buildings alongside. I have been in some of them and in my

:16:26.:16:30.

opinion they are fit for purpose and can be transformed into

:16:30.:16:35.

practical office accommodation. The wider point is that we are looking

:16:35.:16:40.

at decentralising and bringing public sector jobs to be more

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widely spread. I would like to see other departments following suit.

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You should not always be able -- have to travel into the Belfast

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area to get a job. So we are spreading jobs and giving

:16:53.:17:00.

opportunities to other areas.. will see what happens, and when it

:17:00.:17:05.

happens. The Investment Strategy for the next nine years was

:17:05.:17:07.

announced by the First and Deputy First Ministers. Martin McGuinness

:17:08.:17:10.

told Assembly Members that the strategy will tackle years of under

:17:10.:17:20.
:17:20.:17:21.

investment. The new strategy for 2011-2012 will add a 5 billion in

:17:21.:17:31.
:17:31.:17:31.

the first four years and a total of �13.3 billion over its lifetime.

:17:32.:17:41.
:17:42.:17:42.

Despite a previous investment package to adjust the deficit, the

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amount received through the block grant will fall by 20 % up to 2014-

:17:49.:17:55.

15. Because of the financial constraints, it is essential that

:17:55.:18:02.

we make every pound spent matter to get best value. The strategy

:18:02.:18:06.

focuses on investment on the right infrastructure in the right place

:18:06.:18:11.

using the most effective method. This means that we programme our

:18:11.:18:16.

capital expenditure so that whatever the budget it is being

:18:16.:18:22.

fully used to improve the lives of everyone. Will want to address the

:18:22.:18:29.

needs of the economy. Ultimately, the economy will recover and it is

:18:29.:18:33.

important that when we get to that point, that the economy is growing,

:18:33.:18:37.

that we have retained the skills and the abilities of those

:18:37.:18:41.

currently in employment and we will be able to benefit from that

:18:41.:18:46.

recovery and drive on Northern Ireland's economy. There are too

:18:46.:18:50.

many of our young people who are having to leave these shores to

:18:50.:18:55.

gain employment and whatever the Executive can do to retain them in

:18:55.:18:59.

all the island, it should be welcomed. The rises in unemployment

:18:59.:19:07.

have been higher here than in England, Scotland, All Wales. So in

:19:07.:19:14.

that -- that in itself can hardly be viewed as a success. We want to

:19:14.:19:23.

see an Investment Strategy to deliver jobs in all areas of.

:19:23.:19:27.

welcome today's debate but I welcome its true value, given that

:19:27.:19:36.

it is month after the publication of the report. You would have

:19:36.:19:44.

thought that the 2011-2012/you would have wanted to enter in

:19:44.:19:51.

tandem with those. But it is welcome. We get attacked for

:19:51.:19:55.

pushing things through the Assembly and not allowing sufficient

:19:55.:20:05.
:20:05.:20:07.

consultation time. This time, I said to be first -- deputy first Mr

:20:07.:20:17.

-- this is our attempt to encourage debate. We have been able to

:20:17.:20:21.

include �1 billion of alternative finance. A number of other members

:20:21.:20:27.

have raised the issue of corporation tax and I would like to

:20:27.:20:30.

point that that the ministerial working group will meet on 18th

:20:30.:20:37.

October. We are still promoting Plan A.

:20:37.:20:40.

The First Minister, Peter Robinson, extolling the virtues of working in

:20:40.:20:41.

harmony with the Deputy First Minister.

:20:41.:20:45.

Next to the claim by the DUP that more and more people here are

:20:45.:20:48.

relying on charity to feed their families. The party is keen that

:20:48.:20:50.

the Social Development Minister, Nelson McCausland, should support

:20:50.:20:54.

and promote the work of foodbanks. We know that jobs are being lost,

:20:54.:20:58.

that in comes are going down and people claiming benefits. Some

:20:58.:21:02.

people claiming them for the first time in their lives. People are

:21:02.:21:09.

getting increasingly indebted. They have unexpected bills and they have

:21:09.:21:15.

unexpected -- a hard impact. We see right across Northern Ireland a

:21:15.:21:21.

growth in food banks. I think this is in some ways an unfortunate

:21:21.:21:25.

development. It should not be that they have to exist but at least it

:21:25.:21:30.

is a positive response by that sector to one ongoing problem. They

:21:30.:21:34.

have seen it in the community they are living in. It is remarkable

:21:34.:21:40.

what these people are doing. It is often done on a voluntary basis. We

:21:40.:21:47.

are seeing big numbers in terms of the food donated and it is done on

:21:47.:21:52.

a denominational basis -- non- denominational basis. No one would

:21:52.:21:59.

suggest that food banks are the cure to all ills of in society but

:21:59.:22:04.

they are making a vital contribution. My Department is

:22:04.:22:10.

responsible for volunteering and we have published novel island's

:22:10.:22:18.

volunteering strategy for the first time ever. I am continuously

:22:18.:22:22.

astounded -- Northern Ireland's voluntary strategy. I'm continually

:22:22.:22:31.

astounded by the voluntary and that takes place. Millions of pounds are

:22:31.:22:36.

donated annually to support volunteering across the province. I

:22:36.:22:39.

recognise those who give of their time and expertise to support

:22:39.:22:45.

people., Nelson McCausland.

:22:45.:22:48.

The Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson, took the opportunity last week to

:22:48.:22:50.

update the Finance Committee on the situation surrounding the tax on

:22:50.:22:54.

flights out of Northern Ireland, as we can hear now in our weekly look

:22:54.:23:00.

at committee business. This arose because of the very real

:23:00.:23:07.

danger that we were going to lose the Director haul flight to Newark

:23:07.:23:14.

if we did not get to the issue of passenger duty dealt with. It was

:23:14.:23:21.

made quite clear that because of the difference in the rate at -- of

:23:21.:23:27.

flight from Dublin -- because of the writ, flights from Dublin would

:23:27.:23:34.

be more competitive than flights from Belfast. We took the view we

:23:34.:23:39.

could not afford to lose that. The recommendations in your report,

:23:40.:23:49.
:23:50.:23:50.

first of what you are concerned generally, so a mine. So are the

:23:50.:23:58.

finance ministers of both regions. It probably affects us more than

:23:58.:24:04.

anywhere else because at least in Scotland and Wales are, there are

:24:04.:24:10.

direct road links. Most of our links with the rest of the United

:24:10.:24:16.

Kingdom have to be done through flight. We were referring to the

:24:16.:24:21.

importance of connectivity through the economy and especially tourism

:24:21.:24:31.

industry. Have you any indications what this measure will open up? In

:24:31.:24:41.
:24:41.:24:44.

terms of of collectivity in the future? As I said earlier, both

:24:44.:24:47.

departments are looking at what other companies may well be

:24:47.:24:56.

preferred as a result of having a zero rate in Northern Ireland to

:24:56.:25:02.

take flights directly from Northern Ireland to the rest of the world.

:25:02.:25:07.

Identical I'm breaking confidences but we are speaking to a Canadian

:25:07.:25:14.

airline. The target of the programme is to grow exports from

:25:14.:25:21.

Northern Ireland Fortran at -- 20 %. To do that, you are looking beyond

:25:21.:25:29.

Europe. To places where this will is economic growth. Some of those

:25:29.:25:38.

countries are are ready. The we will be trying to get links to the

:25:38.:25:48.
:25:48.:25:56.

Far East, to South America, to the Middle East. Can you elaborate on

:25:56.:26:03.

of thinking that money might be so better spent elsewhere? There will

:26:03.:26:10.

be far greater merit than having it -- in having better links within

:26:10.:26:20.
:26:20.:26:22.

Northern Ireland, that might be shown by a cost benefit analysis.

:26:22.:26:31.

It might help businesses more. Or perhaps better rail links!

:26:31.:26:33.

The Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson, contemplating the benefits of an

:26:33.:26:35.

improved rail link with "down there"!

:26:35.:26:38.

Our political correspondent, Martina Purdy, is still with me.

:26:38.:26:43.

This evening, This evening, MLAs have been

:26:43.:26:48.

discussing austerity measures - who's been talking about that?

:26:48.:26:55.

Sinn Fein led the debate and they are talking about the austerity

:26:55.:26:59.

measures coming from London and Dublin and asking the government

:26:59.:27:03.

how they're going to see the economy through this? The DUP

:27:03.:27:08.

thought they had a better way of doing this. They tabled an

:27:09.:27:14.

amendment focused on what London could do, focused on VAT reduction.

:27:14.:27:18.

The SDLP wanted a Scottish * Commission to see how devolved

:27:18.:27:23.

powers might help us to help ourselves. Both amendments fell as

:27:23.:27:29.

to the original Sinn Fein motion. It was defeated 46 votes to 43. So

:27:29.:27:39.
:27:39.:27:41.

back to the drawing board. Lord Carson's statue has been

:27:41.:27:49.

getting people talking. But it isn't going anywhere? No, although

:27:49.:27:53.

I notice the scaffolding last Friday and it was covered in wood

:27:53.:27:58.

and metal. So I asked about it, perhaps a national symbol was going

:27:58.:28:03.

to go on the plinth? I was assured that Lord Carson would be remaining

:28:03.:28:09.

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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