10/09/2012 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.

Similar Content

Browse content similar to 10/09/2012. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!



Hello, and welcome to the first programme in the new series of


Stormont Today. And after the summer break it didn't take our


MLAs long to get back to business. Recent events in north Belfast


occupied the mind of the SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell who


accused the Social Development Minister, Nelson McCausland, of


breaching his Ministerial Pledge of Office. During recent weeks, the


reactions of the DSD Minister to events in North Belfast have


brought this House into serious disrepute by failing to give - the


Minister failed to give full support to the upholding of law and


order, and to my mind Minister Nelson McCausland has clearly


reached article 1.4 and 1.5 of the Ministerial Pledge of Office.


Money matters came to the fore when the former economics teacher Sammy


Wilson used the VAT debate to serve up a financial lesson. One of the


central precepts that you've always got to remember is cerebsu parabus


all other things being equal, and of course, all other things don't


stay equal because we're living and working in this economy. Sammy


Wilson demonstrating that Latin and economics can mix. Our political


reporter Stephen Walker is with me in the studio. There were further


details released about the development of the Maze site and


the people who'll be responsible for driving that process on. That's


right. The Maze closed 12 years ago, and since then it has been a


subject of controversy. Today we have the names of 11 people who


have agreed to sit on this corporation. The chairman will be


Terrance Brannigan, a well-known businessman, chairman of Glentorn


football club and in the past he has been involved with the CBI.


Interestingly, he's a member of the DUP. His party membership was


raised by some Stormont sources this morning as if it was going to


be an issue but when Martin McGuinness came out he said it


wasn't. Like-wise, the DUP didn't object when it became clear a


former Sinn Fein councillor, Joe O'Donnell, would be on the board.


On the board as well is a former police Assistant Chief Constable.


We've now got the names. Suppose this really marks another staging


post in this entire proposal. had the SDLP leader Dr Alasdair


McDonnell has accused Nelson McCausland of breaching the


Ministerial Code. That's right. Obviously, recent events in North


Belfast very much to the fore in Alasdair McDonnell's mind, and this


relates to these events that were taking place in North Belfast


across the summer, and he brought this issue to the floor of the


Assembly, and this is what Alasdair McDonnell had to say. The Minister


failed to give full support to the upholding of law and order, and to


my mind, Minister Nelson McCausland has clearly breached Article 1.4


and 1.5 of the Ministerial Pledge of Office. Mr Speaker, is there any


way in which you can take some action and sort this situation out?


I rule, Mr Speaker, I have no role in deciding whether a pledge of


office by any particular Minister, which even includes the Ministerial


Code of the conduct has been breached - a member will know these


are complex issues. They are difficult issues, but certainly, as


Speaker, I have no role whatsoever, but I'll be keen, certainly, to


talk to the member outside the chamber on the complex issues on


whether a Minister has broken a pledge of office or his role as a


Minister within the executive. we know what Nelson McCausland


makes of that accusation? Well, my understanding is that he's quite


relaxed about all this. He contends that he did not break the


Ministerial Code. He says he did not endorse civil disobedience. The


DUP say their focus is not on debating, in their words, the


minutiae of all of this, but they say their focus is on finding a


resolution to the entire parading issue. For now, thank you very much.


Tourism dominated enterprise questions. The Minister Arlene


Foster being quizzed on everything from golfing visitors to


genealogical tourists. But first the Minister was asked about access


to high-speed broadband and mobile phone coverage in rural areas.


Building on its previous investments, my department is


currently scoping two projects aimed at further enhancing the


region's telecommunications capabilities by ensuring access to


broadband services of at least two megabits per second to all premises


and ill proving access to 3G mobile services. Under the proposed 3G


mobile project my department aims to reduce the premises in Northern


Ireland with no conch from any operator from the current 11 of


11.7% to at least the UK average of .9%. Could I thank the Minister for


Her answer, and I'm well aware there has been a lot of money


invested in broadband, but Minister, could I ask if you intend to carry


out an assessment on those firms that have received money to provide


broadband in rural Ireland? Because clearly, it's not happening, and


know some of the firms I have dealt with - and I would like an


assessment of that also, could you indicate how much more money is


there available to be allocated to address this in rural broadband?


Any company that receives Government money are always


assessed after the end of the contract to see if they have


delivered in respect of the targets that were set in the terms of


reference, and that's exactly what will happen if the member is


referring to the sixth call in - for on-wave as has happened with


all the other companies as well. We will continue to fill that gap. The


member knows that we have been working very hard in respect of


this. In its latest Ofcom research, it estimates that 94% of households


could access a super-fast broadband service of 30 megabit per second or


better, and I think it's important that we benchmark that against


what's happening in the Republic of Ireland, where DCNR and Dublin


estimate just over 20% of households currently have access of


a service of 10 megabits, so things are a lot better in Northern


Ireland in respect of broadband access that doesn't take away from


the fact that there's more that we can and will be doing in the future.


I am quite happy to say to the member that we are accessing money


from the UK in respect of broadband, but unfortunately because we were


so far ahead of other parts of the UK, we're now being penalised in


that respect of that, and we're not getting as much money as I believe


we should we should be getting to follow up with these projects.


However, we'll still keep fighting that battle. There has been a lot


achieved today in respect of broadband, but there's still more


to do. There is potential to develop geneological tourism


through the promotion of Ulster Scots particularly in the United


States, where we have targeted this specific segment through tourism


Ireland's extensive marketing programme. I also recently launched


a free app that'll help Northern Ireland harness the tourism


potential of the 30 million people worldwide who have Ulster Scots


roots. Our tourism bodies continue to engage with the Ulster


Historical Foundation, the Ulster Agency, the Orange Order and other


bodies in Northern Ireland with a view to ensuring all aspects of


their culture and heritage are reflecting. Bearing in mind an


unemployment rate of around 66,000 people out of work, does the


Minister believe there are other measures she can take currently in


respect of any anticipation of a reduction in corporation tax which


is looking very slow, when she thinks she can put other measures


in place, and how much of a reduction does she anticipate


seeing in that 66,000 unemployed? Well, if I knew how much of a


reduction was happening to the unemployment register, I would have


a crystal ball in front of me, Mr Deputy Speaker. We all want to see


the reduction of unemployment. This House are all united in relation to


that and can I say to the member, Invest Northern Ireland have


informed me this week of a comprehensive plan they have to


work with a lot of our indigenous companies, and right across the UK,


in particular, we have seen a flattening out, indeed, a


depression - and going back into recession over this past number of


months, and there is a great need to work with our local firms to try


to give them the capacity to employ more people, and I am pleased to


say that we have seen that right across Northern Ireland with small


companies who are increasing their employment, and I'm very pleased to


say that we're being able to support them. Can I ask her that in


the context of promoting jobs and golf tourism in Northern Ireland to


take account of the views of a number of traders who had expressed


concern that the spectators when they arrive and go into the


tournament unfortunately were unable to avail of many of the


sights and shops of Portrush until the tournament closed to take


account of that when negotiating and dealing with incoming tour


operators to promote all of Northern Ireland and its tourist


infrastructure when events like that are on. I thank the member for


his supplemental question. Of course, that issue has been raised


with me before by him and indeed by others. I think the key to all of


this was that the Irish Open was a phenomenal success. I recognise for


some of the traders during the actual tournament they didn't get


what the retail experience that they thought they were going to


have. But I do have to say to the member that since then Portrush has


experienced a renewal - a revival, if you like, and a lot of people


have said to me as they have gone to Portrush over the summer that


they really think that the place has been transformed, and a lot of


work went into the area before the Irish Open, and I think the legacy


will be people visiting Portrush now and, rightly so, Mr Deputy


Speaker, I did spend some of my summer holiday in Portrush on the


north coast, and it was a very, very enjoyable experience, but the


important thing is, the fact that we were able to bring record crowds


into Northern Ireland for the Irish Open - and in fact, it was double


the attendance of the Scottish Open. I think that puts it into context.


The Enterprise Minister, Arlene Foster, flying the flag for


Portrush. Now, talking about tourism, should Northern Ireland


get a reduced rate of VAT to help some sectors of the industry here?


DUP members are calling for the Executive to press the Treasury to


do just that. Here's one of the idea's proposers, the DUP's Simon


Hamilton. There is a demand to look at things


that can be done to assist the sector. One suggested solution is


to reduce the rate of VAT for the sector and some tourism-related


services. This is an issue that's been pushed by the likes of the


pubs of Ulster, by the hotel sector and indeed by others, and I have


been encouraged by the contacts I have had over the last number of


days from people from the restaurant sector, from pubs and


from hotels. The context of this is there was a unanimous decision


taken by all 27 EU Finance Ministers who used - were just for


VAT in restaurants and catering. Hotels have been able to reduce


their VAT - our Government have been able to reduce VAT since 1975.


Those who would say that our Government at Westminster aren't


interested in this subject - our Government at Westminster


representatives in the EU voted for this. If they think it's good for


the whole of the EU, then you would think they might be interested in


it for the UK itself. 21 states have lower VAT for hotels, and some


13 have availed of this ability to reduce for the hospitality sector


and have a lower VAT for food. The simple question is, why would so


many EU member states pursue a policy of lower VAT for hospitality


and tourism-related services if indeed it didn't work and have a


positive impact on their economy? You look at Germany - they have 7%


for food and hotels. French have 5.5% for restaurants and hotels.


They have seen an increased number of apprenticeship, in the number of


jobs. They have seen wages go up as well and staff turnover go down,


but we don't have to go do France, Germany or any of the mainland


European countries to see the benefit of a reduced benefit of a


reduced VAT to the hospitality sector, we just need to look south


of the border to see the experience they have had. It has been


estimated a 5.5% decrease in VAT could increase jobs in the


hospitality sector. I note caution. In taking this forward, the


Assembly and Executive must think carefully which direction the


policy should be developed. We shouldn't be seeking a race to the


bottom against the Government in Dublin. We should instead be


seeking further and deeper cooperation on this and other


tourism-related matters with the Government in the rest of the


island. I believe while this is very welcome. It's very topical and


has a lot of support from the hospitality industry, it does lack


ambition and demonstrate lax of confidence among the proposers. It


lacks ambition in it merely seeks to lobby the British Treasury to


act on behalf of our businesses and tourism sector. I can only guess


this is due to the lack of our proposalers to make decisions. What


we should be doing is being more ambitious. We need to clearly set


forward the argument to transfer relevant fiscal powers so this


chamber could make decision and not What is the impact of this? Many


people have asked this. Do we know it would have a positive a impact?


I suppose with all of these things, when the you change and economic


variable, whether it is a tax rate or spending or whatever, and there


are a lot of other things happening in the economy, it is not always


possible to identify the cause and effect for the size of the effect.


But what we do know is that a number of governments across Europe


have changed the rate of Zainab on tourist product. -- of VAT. And


there has been a change. Let me give you an example. In France, the


rate was changed in July 2009 to 5.5% and the economic statistics


indicate that as a result, probably about 15,000 bankruptcy is were


avoided, 30,000 job losses were avoided, 35,000 apprenticeships


were created, and 25,000 jobs were created in 2010. You could argue


there were other factors which influenced those. But the change in


the tax rate was bound to have contributed to those particular


statistics. And we could go on and give examples in Germany, the Irish


Republic, etc. It is not an exact science as -- and as I ate used to


teach economics, one of the central precepts is all other things being


equal and of course all other things do not state the court. We


are living and working in a dynamic economy. -- things do not state be


cold. But evidence shows there is a positive effect. Can you measure


it? Probably not. The calls in this Assembly adding to the debate going


on within the Coalition government and outside, this call today is it


worth while call. It adds to the debate.


The Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson. Well, one of the proposers of the


VAT motion is the DUP's David McIveen, and he joins me now.


Interesting idea, but not likely to cut much ice with Treasury


officials, surely? I think this is going to be a


process. If Northern Ireland can take the lead on this issue, I am


very confident that other devolved assemblies or take a similar


opinion and a united approach will put pressure which on the Treasury.


You think this will be a change for everybody across the UK, not just


Northern Ireland? Correct, because they Iraq European rules in place


when it comes to deviation of VAT rates, so this would be UK wide.


could cost as many in Northern Ireland, couldn't it? We have -- we


have to look at the bigger picture, 3,300 jobs could be created at a


Conservative estimate. A new job creation does not come from nowhere.


Initiatives are going on with the First Minister and the Finance


Minister and Enterprise Minister. But financial stimulus is an


effective way of creating jobs. Bocchino how painful the process


has been surrounding the efforts to change the rate of corporation tax


-- but you know. That has been an agonising debate for many years. So


if this happens, it is going to be in the next Parliament. In it will


take time, we accept that. But we accept corporation tax was an issue


around the land border and this is also around the land border, but


remember this initiative will be a nationwide initiative and we are


very confident we can take this message to the Treasury. And will


that be support for this in Wales, England and Scotland? If they can


see the benefits, that is important. We will see!


Well, the summer has come and gone, but not the debate over National


Parks! The question of creating National Parks here for the first


time is still very much alive, and only last week, public meetings


once again demonstrated the strong feelings generated by the issue.


Today, it was raised in the Assembly, with the Environment


Minister being asked if he is now changing his mind.


Listen to the Minister replied to the original question, and having a


listening to him having a reply to the supplementary, do I take it you


are telling of this Assembly today you are not proceeding with a


national park? What I said and I repeated as that I am taking stock.


That is not saying I am not take -- I am not proceeding. It is my


obligation to hear all the voices when it comes to the issue of


National Parks, and there are many and different frissons. In one part,


it is clear or legitimate concerns have been raised by the farming


community. In the same part of that area, a legitimate support for the


principle of National Parks has been coming forward from the


commercial community. So there are many voices when it comes to


National Parks. But I would be reckless as if I did not listen and


-- if I did not listen to what people were saying. So far from


abandoning the proposal, I want to have a conversation with all those


for and against over the next few weeks, John Donne that I will make


a judgment on what my best advice is to the Executive and to this


House. But given the scale of what our people are facing, do we not


have an obligation to forensically interrogate any and all opportunity


to grow drops in this part of the world? I give it a scale -- given


the scale of worklessness that faces this part of the world, do we


not have an obligation to recognise that given the scale and beauty of


our natural environment, there are opportunities for heritage led


development that we need to take over the next five or 10 years, on


whatever the court or expression that has, perhaps that is the


challenge for me as a minister and 2 us. I hope whatever way we do it,


we measure up to that task. The Environment Minister on the


continuing debate over the rights and wrongs of National Parks. The


traumatic subject of suicide was very much on the agenda at Stormont


today. Families and community groups spent most of the day here,


lobbying MLAs and raising awareness through workshops and entertainment,


inside and outside the building. To mark World Suicide Prevention Day


MLAs also discussed the issue in the Chamber.


I was speaking sum up -- to someone yesterday and were shocked to see


we saw a rate of more than four suicides per day in 2012. Those


that take their lives suffer from up a wider problems, financial


difficulties, broken relationships or loneliness and isolation is. But


what remains is a shattered family. In my own constituency, at present


this motion and I want to pay tribute to the excellent services


in my constituency to help those in despair or contemplating suicide.


In particular, what we deem to be our 4th emergency service, search


and rescue. Over 600 people took their remind us in 2010 and 2011. -


- their own lives. That is 600 families who have lost a loved one,


communities that have lost talent and potential and part of their


legacy. We in this House must stand with those communities and a flat


as much support and preventative services, one life is too many.


we must also bear in mind that the specific circumstances of every


person who becomes suicidal are unique. Front-line preventive


treatment to care for people in emotional despair will and must


remain essential. Voluntary and community groups have a vital role


in delivering this from my support. They are often the port -- the


first port of call for individuals and these families facing these


daunting circumstances. This was published in evidence last year


showing 70% of people who died from suicide in the previous decade in


Northern Ireland had not been in touch with mental health services.


So clearly a lot of people in serious emotional crisis are not


accessing statutory mental health services, and this is something


that needs to be looked at. It is also a reason it is vital for at


the statutory and community sector to work together to provide suicide


prevention suicide services that reach out to all those at risk.


The vexed issue of suicide, prompting a great deal of agreement


among MLAs this afternoon. Well, today may have been the first


sitting in the Chamber for MLAs since their summer break, but


committee meetings restarted last week.


Up for discussion at the OFMDFM Committee was the planned inquiry


into institutional abuse, and some groups are unhappy, saying the


inquiry doesn't go far enough, as we'll hear now in our weekly look


at committee business. The commission is at a loss to


understand why it with regard to any living victim there is a need


to fix instalment. We recognise with regard to dead victims, and


you have to draw a line. F but where a victim is living, it is the


commission's view that victim's case should be embraced up by the


mandate of the inquiry, so we would be of the opinion that with regard


to living victims, a date should not be said, but simply an


acknowledgement that if the victim is still alive, regardless of that


be before or after 1945, baby given their full right of audience to the


inquiry -- the baby given. To the wider issues of sexual abuse


outside the constitutional context, we share the view that this is an


issue that needs to be taken account of. Sexual abuse of


children did not just happen in institutional care settings, it


also occurred in many other social contexts that have to be taken


account of as a matter of international human rights law.


Facts nevertheless we consider it is difficult to take account of


those who mentioned sexual abuse in the current legislative project and


we do not think it would be wise or prudent to withdraw the bill to


widen the bill. But rather, we consider that a separate piece of


legislation would be required to deal with those elements of sexual


abuse there are not currently covered, elements that would


embrace any other forms of sexual Fabrice -- abuse that take place


outside the home. The to terms of human rights abuses, which we


consider these two have been, are high -- do have a right to


restitution, at rehabilitation, etc. -- victims of human rights abuses.


I cannot sit at this committee, I have never come into this building


without mentioning, what can we do for the people who have not made it


this far? The people for whom already this has been too much and


they have taken their own lives. Is there something, is their


consideration for their relatives? For their children. And I think...


And they are talking about opening this out like a parachute. We give


consideration to the people in work in institutions and we give as much


consideration to them and their families and their surviving


relatives. In the same way that we would get it. And again, I would be


clear about the fact that it would not be at Asda and -- that it would


not be an extra, it would be the right. Not just a consideration.


if we are going to acknowledge that we understand down generations,


then of course we would have to. The Ulster Unionist leader Mike


Nesbitt. Stephen Walker is with me for a


final word. Stephen, a busy day here today and a busy few days


ahead. It has been very busy today and it will be a very busy


political agenda over the next few days. Tomorrow, there will be a


protest at Stormont involving trade unions over the issue of welfare


reform. That has been very controversial. On Wednesday, aware


air connections will come under the spotlight at Westminster when


members of the Northern Ireland affairs committee look at the issue


of air links from Northern Ireland to other parts of the UK. Evidence


will be given as part of an investigation into airline strategy.


And as we move towards the dark autumn night, a reminder of the


great sporting summer we have had because on Thursday night, there


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.

Download Subtitles