11/02/2013 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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Hello and welcome to Stormont Today. Coming up on the programme - MLAs


pay tribute to the young PSNI officer killed on duty at the


weekend. We are, sadly, the losers as a


society for a young woman who has passed on as a result of this


accident. The Employment Minister announces a


review of policy on apprenticeships. My ambition is to have a system of


apprenticeships that is regarded as gold standard across Europe.


Our political correspondent is here to analyse today's events on the


hill. Today's business began on a sombre


note as MLAs paid tribute to the police woman who died in a crash in


Londonderry at the weekend. 27 year-old Phillipa Reynolds was a


back-seat passenger in a police car when it was hit by a stolen vehicle


on the Limavady Road. The DUP's Gregory Campbell, who tabled the


matter of the day, said his prayers were with the officer's family and


PSNI colleagues. I, like many people in Northern


Ireland, a walk on Saturday morning to the terrible news of the death


of Constable Phillipa Reynolds. But none more so than the family and


close friends of the young woman. As you have said, Deputy Speaker, I


do not wish to allude to the circumstances which are before the


court, but merely to ensure that the entire community, as


represented in the Northern Ireland Assembly, share with the grief that


the family and friends of this young woman. We are, sadly, the


losers as a society, for a young woman who has passed down as a


result of this accident. I think what we need to do today is to


stand united with the police family, to stand with the wider community


as the police serve this entire community as they have done over


the past 40 years and assure them of our thoughts and our prayers at


this very difficult time. A what is absolutely clear is that Phillipa


Reynolds died doing the job which she was enthusiastic about and to


which she was dedicated. She was working on behalf of everyone in


this community. I spoke over the weekend to the chief constable and


the deputy chief constable and other officers in Belfast. It was


absolutely clear that this tragic death has affected the PSNI deeply


yet it was also appear in the conversation I had early on


Saturday morning with an officer in Strand Road that there was also the


resilience and determination, both to do the job in general and to


ensure that those who perpetrated the Act were caught. There is a


resilience and a strong determination of the PSNI to


determine to do their job and make Northern Ireland saver for all of


us. It is clear that full of the Reynolds was a remarkable young


woman and the PSNI and we as a community have lost a bright young


talent he would have made a distinctive contribution to our


community. Enclosing, I'd like to offer very, very sincere


condolences to her family. When young people die in such tragic


circumstances, it has an effect be on the family but I think we can


only imagine the tremendous impact and our thoughts are with them at


this stage. I have the honour to serve in the PSNI and I know the


camaraderie that exists when officers are on jittery. -- on duty.


I know the fund people can have, I know the characters they meet in


their life as police officers. But the friends you make when on Patrol


are those that will be with you for the rest of your days. I know what


it is like to be in a police car or when it is hit by another one, as I


was in a police car that was rant on one occasion, and I am paying


for it yet. For a young woman, 20 and years of age, to lose her life


in such tragic circumstances, it is something you cannot comprehend. We


cannot comprehend it but our thoughts and prayers must be with


her family, because they are the people that have had the biggest


loss. This incident highlights the risks and dangers faced by the


police and indeed by all our emergency services on a daily and


nightly basis. And why we must give them all the support that they need


to to serve and protect our community.


I'm joined now by our political correspondent, Gareth Gordon. As


far as the day's politics concerned, we had a draft bill on political


matters and the secretary of state, a long time coming and then


suddenly it appeared out of nowhere? Yes, the Northern Ireland


Office have good at the possibility at making a number of changes to


the way the system of government at Stormont but it is not going to


happen. Late this afternoon it published a draft bill which is


remarkable for what it does not do. They had been looking at the


possibility of extending his Assembly term until 2016 but they


said no compelling case could be made so the term will end up in


2015. Then there was the possibility of providing foreign


opposition. Again, is said such a change could come about with the


grain of the parties. In spite of the lone voices. What about a


smaller Assembly as advocated by the DUP? Again, a no, so we are


stuck with 108 MLAs. It makes it clear that double jobbing between


Westminster and Stormont should end with this Assembly team? Yes,


everybody expected it. At the parties have prevented it already.


The DUP only have to have their MPs -- MLAs rather, retaining their


Westminster seat. That is Sammy Wilson and Gregory Campbell. Four


of Sinn Fein's five double jobbing MLAs, they have resigned their


Stormont seats and the one remaining of the Deputy First


Minister Martin McGuinness has given up his Westminster seat in


Mid-Ulster. We now have a date for that by election? At long last, it


has to be said. Contrast what has happened here to what has happened


in Eastleigh where Chris shoon resigned in a blaze of unwelcome


publicity last week. The voters there will go to the polls in 28th


February. That is not what happened in Mid-Ulster were Martin


McGuinness resigned at the end of last year. Yet, the by election or


not be held until March 7th, a week after Eastleigh. Early days as far


as that campaign is concerned, given that the announcement of the


date was only made today but do we know how the runners and riders are


shaping up? We have known that Sinn Fein's candidate will be Francie


Molloy. He is the deputy speaker here at the Assembly and he will be


the favourite. The SDLP's can live will be Patsy McGlone and the


loyalist victims campaigner Willie Fraser has also signalled his


intention to run as well but the bid speculation before this by-


election has been his will they be a unionist candidate, on a green


one candidate as in a Fermanagh us with Tyrone. Their last candidate


failed by an here for God's but Mid-Ulster is a different kettle of


fish. It is a very nationalist area so it would be a major surprise if


Francie Molloy did not win back seat for Sinn Fein but it seems


that the possibility of a unionist unity candidate is receding. We


learnt that the Ulster Unionist Party in Mid-Ulster are holding a


selection meeting on Thursday which of course is our times day so it


looks like they intend running a candidate. Unless it is alas no


surprise come it doesn't look like they will be a unity candidate.


The First Minister has warned that reaching a comprehensive agreement


on how to deal with the past will continue to be a difficult process.


Peter Robinson was speaking during question time when his department


was also asked about a sexual orientation strategy and gay


marriage. First though, a question on a key public appointment.


Can I ask the First Minister for an update on the chief Executive's


position? We went out to public advertising for those posts and be


received a number of applications. It was a general view that after it


had gone through the official -- officials that there was not


sufficient choice for the Deputy First Minister and I to move it


forward and therefore we have gone out to advertise again and I hope


there will be a public interest and people will put their name forward


for a important positions of a chair and board members. Does he


recognise that it is a major problem, the prevalent belief that


the IRA will never tell the truth about the past and therefore, does


he agree that it would be a significant confidence-building


measure if those terrorists he sustains in government would


publicly tell the truth about their past instead of the Deputy First


Minister for example trying to pretend to us all that he


mysteriously left the IRA in the 1970s? We would want everybody to


tell the truth, whether a member of the Assembly or minister in the


Executive. I am only left wondering if he feels the way that he does,


why he would have put forward a preference for a voluntary


coalition with Sinn Fein when he did, rather than going forward with


a mandatory coalition, as we did. The First Minister is a minister


without a terrorist past but can he confirm that if and when he is in


the capital of the Irish Republic at any formal event promoting jobs


in Northern Ireland for example, if there were a toast to the President


of that country, that he would stay and toast the President, unlike her


recent event in London when the Deputy First Minister did not?


they should be nothing and anyone's past that should put them in a


position where they fail to respect, tolerate and understand the


protocols that are involved and certainly when in the Irish public,


I have to recognise and respect the head of state. When the First


Minister today join with me in calling on the two governments and


all parties in this house to sit down soon to develop an ethical


basis on which we should do with a pass? We have had discussions in


terms of how we handle the past and my finger is a recognition that


before we set up this administration, we had to agree on


the past and our goals for the future. It is unlikely that this


administration would be set up. I think it is vitally important that


we do deal with issues from the past, we do that in terms of


considerable funding that we give to victims' organisations. We have


done that in terms of recommending that it would be appropriate for us


to build into the new peace and conflict resolution centre at the


Maze, some storytelling facility so that victims without harassment of


cross-examination by a lawyer has, can tell their story, can indicate


the hurt that it has caused them, the effect it has had on their


lives. I am not sure and I have had no indication that there is


agreement around this chamber, never mind outside, not even within


the victims sector for any one way of dealing with the past.


Can I remind him of his words to this House on 17th September? I


croaked, his confirmation to have that draft ready and out for


consultation by the end of 2012. Can he tell us what has led to the


slippage? We remain committed to publishing the strategy. We are


continuing to work with many people within the sector, continuing with


our officials are to work through. When we can bring this strategy to


the house we will do so. Can the junior minister confirmed that


following last week's House of Commons, there are no plans to


change the definition here in Northern Ireland? There are no


plans to change the definition of marriage here in Northern Ireland.


But can I equally say, I am against all friends -- forms of homophobia.


The Office will continue to act against any form of homophobic


bullying that exists in society. It is wrong, it should not occur. But


your specific question was, the house had a motion before it about


marriage of people of the same sex. That was defeated by this assembly


on the 1st October 1920 12. It is not an issue that is under active


consideration. -- October 2012. Junior minister Jonathan Bell.


Northern Ireland should aspire to a system of apprenticeships that is


regarded as a gold standard across Europe, that was the call from a


employment minister Stephen Parry. I strongly endorse the concept of


apprenticeships. They constitute a form of training that is warmly


embraced by the community. An apprentice is someone who is


trained while being employed. I believe that in our evolving


economy, there are now new types of employment and therefore training


where the apprenticeship concept would be of value. As our economy


is going through considerable transformation, bears in terms of


the types of goods and services, and the nature of employment and


job opportunities, I have decided to launch a major review of


apprenticeships and youth training. Our excellent universities already


provide clear pathways towards higher skills. Northern Ireland has


a clear footprint in higher education. We also have a strong


and flexible further education sector, with six excellent colleges


providing skills and qualifications at a range of levels. But we also


need to ensure week are providing alternative not academic pathways,


including a higher level qualifications. Pathways which I've


just as rigorous and just as valid. Apprenticeship have lost some of


their earlier status and there are several reasons. They are still --


and there are still perceptions that they are only for manual jobs.


Often, other pathways of education are held in better esteem. A false


hierarchy between academic and vocational or technical training


and education has been created. This can lead to some rigidity. I


want the review to examine how the apprenticeship pathway to a career


can be seen as equal or even better than the academic route to enjoying


a high levels of a steam, returning it to the level of prestige it once


a jury at -- it once enjoyed. My aim is to have a system of


apprenticeships that is regarded as gold standard across Europe. I will


draw to the minister's attention a statement by the CBI to the


committee -- to the committee to set out some difficulties. Of the


2000 people that applied, 300 did not bother to turn up. Of the 1,700


who set basic skills tests, only 600 came through. Of the 600 that


came through and do practical tests, only 283 that. And of the 200 that


were interviewed, only 45 were taken on. This shows that


apprenticeships cannot be taken in isolation. We need a total solution.


What we are dealing with this review is looking at


apprenticeships and youth training. But nothing ever happens in


isolation and there are are other avenues on the way. I have spoken


directly to RNID and I am aware of their particular issues and are


happy to engage with them. What consideration has or will be given


to the German model, who seemed to have different pathways, and indeed


it has to be set, are leaning away so far as the youth employment is


concerned? We are going to look very closely at what is happening


in Germany. He's right to say that there are very clear alternative


pathways that have been established over many generations. We will not


be able to just lift that and drop it into our society, given that we


have a number of different features locally, which may be are not


reflected elsewhere. That way may be holding common with the rest of


these islands. But there will be lessons to derive from that in


terms of how we better this within industry, how we can build up the


esteem of an apprenticeship, how we can communicate to young people


that an apprenticeship is as worthwhile as college or university.


I am joined by the minister Stephen Farry. You said you were looking at


apprenticeships for a much wider jobs -- range of jobs, some of


which might not necessarily have been associated with apprenticeship.


What sort of areas? For example, the ICT sector, engineering and


creative industries, but we also want to hear from employers as to


where they feel we should be making investments. For example, I have


been talking to some businesses where they have had some


apprenticeships. They are training people on the job at a much higher


level with technical skills. Although there is no formal


accreditation. Some of this training is happening but has not


been formally recognised. It is important we look back and see that


Northern Ireland has a wonderful industrial heritage, people


associated with manual trades. The workshops of the world. But today


in the 21st century, with the nature of jobs and employment,


things have evolved dramatically. But isn't that the. Accra, that was


then, this is now. -- isn't that the point? That was then, this is


now. Some of the industry is investing in Northern Ireland want


highly qualified IT graduates, not apprenticeships. They actually do


want people with apprenticeships but the key point is that the


skills requirements in our economy are going to be much higher than


has been the case before. We have to upscale across a broad front.


All of our competitors are doing the same thing. We do not have to


focus only on academic pathways. If we look at the ICT sector, for


example, they will be looking to take people from traditional


academic places but there is also a real hunger to train people on the


job. We have started an ICT pilot at level four. I want to see how we


can take back to greater heights. Will the scope of the review


involves simplification of the system? Because a game, you want to


expand it but she might make it a fairly complicated. -- but again


you might expand it but you might make it overly complicated. We have


to encourage employers to take on apprentices. Without the support of


employers none of this can happen. And then people themselves will


have to be encouraged to consider taking on an apprenticeship. So the


easier we can make it, the better it will be. We have to bear in mind


that in our economy we have a bigger profile of small and medium-


sized enterprises than our competitors. We have to see how we


can join some of those not up. Thank you. If underoccupancy


proposals, the bedroom tax, featured as a hot topic during


today's questions to the Social Develop minister.


He said his department will do all it can to prevent people becoming


homeless but he said his hands were tied by Westminster. It must be


remembered that Westminster has brought forward these proposals and


in keeping with the principle of Parliament, we are repelled to do


the same. However, in order to help people we will put in place housing


services. -- we are compelled to do the same. I have tasked the housing


associate movement to bring forward an action plan. It will provide a


range of support measures to mitigate and support those


households affected. My priority remains doing all I can to prevent


evictions and tenants being declared homeless. I have asked


social landlords to ensure that as far as possible, all options are


explored to prevent social tenants are being evicted. Further support


for the there is groups may be affected, such as those whose


children have grown up and moved on, may be available in discretionary


housing payments. The reform changes have identified the


potential for stock mismatch and tenant mobility. This has been


recognised and his proposed from 2013-14 -- a target for smaller


units will be present in the programme. Landlords will be asked


whether they are able to bring forward smaller accommodation that


would increase their stock of one bedroomed units in those designated


areas of particular need. Given the historical circumstances in the


North and the lack of housing stock, could he indicate when the


proposals will be introduced, and does he really think that they


actually can be realised? Member speaks about the historical


situation and the historical situation is that unfortunately, in


the past, the social housing development programme did not take


account of this, even though people knew for a while it was coming, and


they should have been a better range of accommodation provided in


the programme over a number of years. There are measures we are


looking at and I believe those measures, which I said will be


brought forward soon, will go a long way to addressing the issue.


However, it is a problem not of our making. This is something that has


been introduced by the coalition Government and it is something that


therefore is effectively put upon us and we cannot shake our heads


and hope it will go away, we cannot pretend it is going to go away.


This is something that confronts us directly and we have to look at


what is possible. Can I ask him to act like what measures are being


put in to mitigate the effects of underoccupancy? -- to outline.


Building more homes and providing support to those seeking to


downside. There is a telephone advice line that will be put in


place to raise tenant awareness and to help social tenants consider


their options. We also want to see what he's being done with this in


the rest of the UK. The measures will include promoting and


assisting tenant mobility. Helping them to move to more appropriate


sized housing. Examining options that can be put to those tenants


who need to move and facilitating home swaps and advising on how to


take in lodgers and drink Terence. Also increasing the provision of


one bedroom stock. -- and joint tenants. This is something that is


being imposed directly by the coalition Government. It is foisted


upon us and we have to therefore do what we can I do believe we have to


put measures in place. The Social Development Minister, Nelson


McCausland. A few final thoughts. Basil


muckrake received a formal warning from the Ulster Unionists party. --


Basil McRae. He could have accepted his punishment, had the whip


restored, but he gave a strong indication to you yesterday on the


Sunday Politics that that is not what will happen. There is a


possibility of an appeal against this decision. There is even the


possibility of legal action. He seems supremely confident of his


position whatever happens. But whatever happens, it is impossible


to imagine that he will remain a party member for much longer.


other thing is the growing controversy over horse meat and


they will address this tomorrow? Yes, in a pretty unusual move, the


Health and Agriculture committees who are meeting during May and will


be briefed by officials on what is happening. -- they are meeting


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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