11/02/2013 Stormont Today


11/02/2013

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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Transcript


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Hello and welcome to Stormont Today. Coming up on the programme - MLAs

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

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weekend. We are, sadly, the losers as a

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

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accident. The Employment Minister announces a

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

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apprenticeships that is regarded as gold standard across Europe.

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

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hill. Today's business began on a sombre

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

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

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

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

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

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PSNI colleagues. I, like many people in Northern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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absolutely clear that this tragic death has affected the PSNI deeply

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

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

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

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

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resilience and a strong determination of the PSNI to

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

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

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

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talent he would have made a distinctive contribution to our

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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cannot comprehend it but our thoughts and prayers must be with

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

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

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

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

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to to serve and protect our community.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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possibility of extending his Assembly term until 2016 but they

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

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2015. Then there was the possibility of providing foreign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stormont seats and the one remaining of the Deputy First

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Minister Martin McGuinness has given up his Westminster seat in

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

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

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in Eastleigh where Chris shoon resigned in a blaze of unwelcome

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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loyalist victims campaigner Willie Fraser has also signalled his

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The First Minister has warned that reaching a comprehensive agreement

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

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Peter Robinson was speaking during question time when his department

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was also asked about a sexual orientation strategy and gay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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he agree that it would be a significant confidence-building

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measure if those terrorists he sustains in government would

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

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Minister for example trying to pretend to us all that he

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

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

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

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why he would have put forward a preference for a voluntary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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position where they fail to respect, tolerate and understand the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Maze, some storytelling facility so that victims without harassment of

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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change the definition here in Northern Ireland? There are no

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

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

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The Office will continue to act against any form of homophobic

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

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

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

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

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

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Northern Ireland should aspire to a system of apprenticeships that is

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

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employment minister Stephen Parry. I strongly endorse the concept of

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apprenticeships. They constitute a form of training that is warmly

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embraced by the community. An apprentice is someone who is

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trained while being employed. I believe that in our evolving

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

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

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is going through considerable transformation, bears in terms of

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

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

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apprenticeships and youth training. Our excellent universities already

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provide clear pathways towards higher skills. Northern Ireland has

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

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and flexible further education sector, with six excellent colleges

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

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need to ensure week are providing alternative not academic pathways,

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including a higher level qualifications. Pathways which I've

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

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

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

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

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hierarchy between academic and vocational or technical training

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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:18:13.:18:13.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What we are dealing with this review is looking at

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apprenticeships and youth training. But nothing ever happens in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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that an apprenticeship is as worthwhile as college or university.

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

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

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which might not necessarily have been associated with apprenticeship.

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

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

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

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been talking to some businesses where they have had some

:20:35.:20:40.

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

:20:40.:20:45.

level with technical skills. Although there is no formal

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accreditation. Some of this training is happening but has not

:20:49.:20:54.

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

:20:54.:20:58.

Northern Ireland has a wonderful industrial heritage, people

:20:58.:21:05.

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

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

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

:21:15.:21:22.

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

:21:22.:21:27.

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

:21:27.:21:32.

highly qualified IT graduates, not apprenticeships. They actually do

:21:32.:21:37.

want people with apprenticeships but the key point is that the

:21:37.:21:40.

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

:21:40.:21:46.

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

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

:21:50.:21:56.

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

:21:56.:22:00.

example, they will be looking to take people from traditional

:22:00.:22:05.

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

:22:05.:22:11.

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

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

:22:16.:22:21.

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

:22:21.:22:26.

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

:22:26.:22:33.

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

:22:33.:22:38.

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

:22:38.:22:42.

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

:22:42.:22:46.

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

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

:22:51.:22:56.

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

:22:56.:23:02.

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

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

:23:07.:23:12.

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

:23:12.:23:15.

today's questions to the Social Develop minister.

:23:15.:23:20.

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

:23:20.:23:24.

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

:23:24.:23:27.

remembered that Westminster has brought forward these proposals and

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

:23:31.:23:39.

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

:23:39.:23:46.

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

:23:46.:23:50.

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

:23:50.:23:53.

range of support measures to mitigate and support those

:23:53.:23:59.

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

:23:59.:24:03.

evictions and tenants being declared homeless. I have asked

:24:03.:24:09.

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

:24:09.:24:14.

explored to prevent social tenants are being evicted. Further support

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

:24:18.:24:23.

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

:24:23.:24:28.

housing payments. The reform changes have identified the

:24:28.:24:33.

potential for stock mismatch and tenant mobility. This has been

:24:33.:24:38.

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

:24:38.:24:48.
:24:48.:24:48.

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

:24:48.:24:52.

whether they are able to bring forward smaller accommodation that

:24:52.:24:57.

would increase their stock of one bedroomed units in those designated

:24:57.:25:04.

areas of particular need. Given the historical circumstances in the

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

:25:09.:25:14.

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

:25:14.:25:20.

actually can be realised? Member speaks about the historical

:25:20.:25:24.

situation and the historical situation is that unfortunately, in

:25:24.:25:27.

the past, the social housing development programme did not take

:25:27.:25:31.

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

:25:31.:25:37.

they should have been a better range of accommodation provided in

:25:37.:25:41.

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

:25:41.:25:44.

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

:25:44.:25:49.

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

:25:49.:25:54.

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

:25:54.:25:57.

been introduced by the coalition Government and it is something that

:25:57.:26:04.

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

:26:04.:26:08.

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

:26:08.:26:12.

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

:26:12.:26:17.

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

:26:17.:26:27.
:26:27.:26:27.

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

:26:28.:26:32.

Building more homes and providing support to those seeking to

:26:32.:26:38.

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

:26:38.:26:42.

place to raise tenant awareness and to help social tenants consider

:26:42.:26:48.

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

:26:48.:26:52.

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

:26:52.:26:57.

assisting tenant mobility. Helping them to move to more appropriate

:26:57.:27:02.

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

:27:02.:27:07.

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

:27:07.:27:12.

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

:27:12.:27:21.

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

:27:21.:27:25.

being imposed directly by the coalition Government. It is foisted

:27:25.:27:31.

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

:27:31.:27:36.

put measures in place. The Social Development Minister, Nelson

:27:36.:27:39.

McCausland. A few final thoughts. Basil

:27:39.:27:47.

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

:27:47.:27:55.

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

:27:55.:28:00.

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

:28:00.:28:05.

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

:28:05.:28:09.

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

:28:09.:28:13.

possibility of legal action. He seems supremely confident of his

:28:13.:28:20.

position whatever happens. But whatever happens, it is impossible

:28:20.:28:25.

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

:28:25.:28:28.

other thing is the growing controversy over horse meat and

:28:29.:28:36.

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

:28:36.:28:38.

Health and Agriculture committees who are meeting during May and will

:28:38.:28:44.

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

:28:44.:28:49.

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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