11/06/2013 Stormont Today


11/06/2013

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 in tonight's programme:

:00:24.:00:27.

The Health Minister outlines the way forward for the Northern Health

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Trust. You have to do better. We will do better. That is why we are

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continuing to make differences here and challenge and change and we will

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get there, with the Northern Trust. Despite recommendations from a

:00:44.:00:46.

review panel, the Education Minister refuses to withdraw extra payments

:00:46.:00:51.

to small schools. I can assure the Assembly that where there is the

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case that small schools that have been identified as strategic

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important will receive the resources they need to provide the best

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possible education for the children they serve.

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We'll have reaction from the Chair of the Education Committee to that

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announcement. The Health Minister has revealed

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that a report into the Northern Health Trust says it is in a poor

:01:16.:01:21.

position and requires extensive support to improve.

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Edwin Poots told the Assembly in a statement that the review team he

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brought in last year has made five recommendations to improve the

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organisation. I have now received the report from the turn around team

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detailing the findings of phase one of the review. The report addresses

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the term of references comprehensively. I'm grateful to the

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team for significant work in taking this forward. Given the needed to

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reduce waiting times, in relation to unscheduled care, the review

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examined performance, including quality and safety of services,

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outcomes and patient experience, at the Trust's emergency departments

:01:56.:02:00.

and identified specific areas and aspects of the work of the Trust and

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its relationship with ovide providers of health and social care

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were improvement in is required. It report provides team's assessment of

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leadership capacity at the Trust and the changes necessary to improve

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performance. The report makes five distinct recommendations. They are -

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to enhance the leadership capacity at the Trust and empower clinicians

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to lead change. Ensure support to deliver an improvement plan in three

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phases. Gain assurance that is governance and quality systems are

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robust. Gain assurance that mortality data is robust. Put in

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place performance framework that will ensure delivery of the

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improvement plan and contains clear consequences for non--delivery

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alongside incentives for delivery. The analysis identified that the

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northern health and social care trust is in a poor position and

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requires intensive support to improve. It is reassuring to note

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that the team concluded that the Trust can be turned around. That is

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essential to improve the patient trust and experience it at the

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Trust. However, support needs to be provided to enable it to do so. In

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relation to the Causeway Hospital the report signals the need to

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remove any sense of uncertainty in regard to its future management

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arrangements. I'm Dean remove that uncertainty. I told the House on

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19th March that TYC consultation had indicated significant sfor for the

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action, as set out in the Vision to Action document. I asked officials

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to begin work to take forward an options appraisal. Whether it should

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remain within the northern trust or transfer in the near future to the

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Western Trust. Work on the options appraisal has been begun. Also

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ommend recommendations the issue of mortality data has come up are you

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indicating there has been doubts about how the data was collated and

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if so what impact that had? What does it mean for the future?

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terms of mortality there are multiple ways of calculating

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mortality. The Met old that the northern trust uses doesn't give any

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particular concern. However, just to be absolutely certain, the report

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suggests running another methodology such as that of the Dr Foster

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organisation to provide maximum assurance. So we are not saying

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there is any risk there, but we want to double up there to ensure that we

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have that. Could the Minister tell us what are the monitoring and

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evaluation techniques to be used to ensure delivery of the

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recommendations and the time frame of achieving the same? Well,

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certainly, on some of the recommendations, I would want the

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time frame to be almost immediate. I would want to see improvement at a

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very early point. That is certainly something that we are looking at.

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The longer term is that we would be looking for the phase one

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improvement to be actually completed within six months. My view is that

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the public have to get better. They deserve better. We have to do

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better. We will do better. That is why we are continuing to make

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differences here and challenge and change and we will get there with

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the northern trust. The Health Minister, Edwin Poots.

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With me now is Janice Smyth, the Director of the Royal College of

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Nursing in Northern Ireland. What do you make of the Minister's statement

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today, first of all? I think there will be a huge sense of relief that

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we have got a report that records the issues that have been raised now

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for some time. I think that certainly nurses and other

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healthcare professionals working there, and the public, will, I

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think, shy a huge sense of relief that the concerns have been taken

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seriously. That we have got recommendations. We have an action

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plan and a phased implementation process. I think that the Minister

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has been frank and honest today. the problems have been identified

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and there is a plan in place to deal with them. Yes.Have confidence that

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plan will be implemented and the shortcomings will be dealt with?

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Well, the College has confidence that the Department recognised,

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albeit some might say late in the day, we had significant problems in

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that Trust, there were issues being raised by many people including the

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Royal College of Nursing. What I would say to you today is that Royal

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College of NursinGordon Brown will certainly beholding to account those

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who are responsible now for getting on with that actually making it

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right because this is the last opportunity to do that. It's really

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important that we get that right. We will do all we can to support people

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to make sure it happens. Is very important. One of the things the

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Minister mentioned today was this plan will give more power to

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clinicians to lead change. Is that sensible, in your view? I think it's

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really important. I think there is plenty of evidence that nurses and

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other healthcare staff were raising concerns about some of the things

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that were happening. Were making suggestions about what might make it

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right. Those were falling on deaf ears. If we want to make a

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difference to how we care for people, we need to empower the

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people who are responsible for delivering that care to get on with

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the job and do it. The Minister said the public deserves better and will

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get better from the Northern Trust in future. Do you believe him?

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believe his commitment to it. I believe that there is a plan to do

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it, but I think that people will say that proof of the pudding will be in

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the eating. Let us watch and see what happens. We will keep a close

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eye on what is going on in terms of the nurses and nursing. Thank you

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very much. A proposal that would have saved �28

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million a year has been rejected by the Education Minister.

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The recommendation to cancel extra payments to small schools was put

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forward by an independent review panel, but John O'Dowd said he won't

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be implementing it. Withdrawing the money could have led

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to the closure of hundreds of small schools.

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The Minister made his position clear during a statement to the Assembly

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today. The review panel's views is that the current means of funding

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small schools does not (inaudible) the panel recommended that I remove

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all small schools factors from the current funding. However, it has to

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be recognised that small schools would in that scenario have to be

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supported with funding outside the new formula to deliver education for

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the pupils. There has been much concern expressed with this

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recommendation, while I'm accepting the recommendation in principle, I

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am not implementing it at this time. I can assure the Assembly that where

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there is the case small schools that have been identified as

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strategically important will receive the resources they need to provide

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the best possible education for the children they serve. The difference

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from the current position is that these small schools will be planned

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and approved. They will not be there just because they have always been

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there, but because they represent the best solution for young people

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in that area. The review recognised that the issues schools face in

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overcoming barriers created by social deprivation are significantly

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increased with children from less affluent backgrounds. The panel

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recommended that funding for sow Yeo economic deprivation should be

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weighted towards schools with significant concentrations of

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disadvantage. It will be no surprise to members to note that I accept and

:09:51.:09:59.

fully endorse these recommendations. It is my intention to apply the same

:09:59.:10:07.

elgentleman blt criteria for free school meals. The post-prime

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t-primary pupils will have free school means in the same way as our

:10:10.:10:15.

primary pupils. The Minister clarify how to the House today what is his

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definition of a strategically important small school and how will

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that be determined in the light of his announcement today? I do fear

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that while reference was made to surpluses in some primary schools, I

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trust that this is not an attempt to rob the rich to pay the poor?

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that has to be done we are going to do it. All the evidence points to

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the fact that young people coming from socially deprived backgrounds

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face a greater challenges in education than those coming from

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more affluent backgrounds. If the evidence points in that direction we

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have to deal with it. Now, I think what I have done, the way I'm

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setting out the common funding formula, ensures that all schools

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are treated fairlied and equally. The Minister signalled today an

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investment of �10 million into the school budget next year, could the

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Minister outline if there will be investment further in targeting

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social need in the year ahead? you. I estimate it will cost

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approximately �30 million over the next twole financial years to fund

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the additional funding in the formula for targeting socialal needs

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and to allow pupils attending post-primary schools to be elible

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free school meals and free school uniforms as well. Why is he

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attacking the voluntary schools when he seems to be using one. Examples

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that how good they well work and why doesn't he look at adopting all the

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things that show voluntary schools work extremely well for everyone if

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we could sfeed through? I don't accept that I'm attacking voluntary

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schools. I attack the social engineering that takes places in

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relation to how they allow pupils to access their schools. The question

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that I have for the Minister, it does follow on from free school

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meals as an indicator, it is recommendation 20 say there is will

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be a further examination of other factors that might well be taken

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into account. I'm sure the Minister will be aware that many people who

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find themselves described as the "working poor" 1p income above Ella

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blt what investigation, how will that be taken forward? When might

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the Minister draw... Reach a conclusion on that analysis? We have

:12:38.:12:44.

actually, my predecessor, expanded the Ella blt for free school meals.

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We have further expanded. There will be 15,000 more pupils in

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post-primary schools entitled to free school meals as a result of my

:12:54.:13:04.
:13:04.:13:04.

announcement today than if I would Minister's statement is the Chair of

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the Education Committee, Mervyn Storey. Are you satisfied with the

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Minister's position on the funding of small schools?

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The Minister has not moved according to the recommendation to remove the

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small schools factor but what needs to be clearly identified for those

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teachers in schools listening to the programme is that what the Minister

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said in a document released at the same time as a statement, it said,

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we are not removing it yet. Clearly, the Minister bottled out today in

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deciding to announce publicly that he was going to remove the small

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schools factor, but he intends in the coming weeks and months to look

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at a way whereby the factor will be removed.

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Why would he have done that today when he had the cover of the

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recommendation from this report to go down the road of closure?

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He has been under immense pressure. There is huge concern around the

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future of small schools. He said on one hand he was going to do this --

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was not going to do this, he then rejected out of hand having a small

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schools policy, but in a statement, he said he was going to abide

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further information and criteria in relation to how you define what is a

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strategically important small school. There were mixed messages

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from the message -- from the Minister today because he is feeling

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the heat around the immensity of this problem.

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Just to deal with one of the eye -1 of the wider issues. It is his

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Roache the socio- economic issues and protect some schools, perhaps at

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the expense of others. -- his Roache.

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Free school meals and using socio-economic criteria of blunt

:14:58.:15:01.

instruments to determine the allocation of funding and while free

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school meals is an issue in potent particularly in working class a

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distant areas, there has been a row take and we need to ensure that is

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maximised rush artist and areas. So that young people do benefit. -- in

:15:19.:15:23.

Protestant areas. But there needs to be provision for pupils on an

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educational basis because many pupils falls short of the free

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school meals criteria. You asked specifically if he was going to have

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to rob the rich to pay for the war and he said, if that has to be done,

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we are going to do it, did that surprise you? -- to pay for the

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poor. No, he is happy to attack the successful who benefit the

:15:51.:15:54.

unsuccessful, and I think the Minister needs to be clear that

:15:54.:15:58.

schools that even financially prudent should not be penalised in

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the process of distributing funds. Mervyn Storey, thank you very much.

:16:04.:16:07.

Following yesterday's approval of departmental budgets, today, the

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Finance Minister was back in front of the House, this time with the

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second stage of the Budget Bill. And the Minister warned the Bill must

:16:13.:16:15.

receive Assembly approval before summer recess, or departments and

:16:15.:16:20.

other publics bodies could have difficulties accessing cash.

:16:21.:16:25.

The Budget Bill is admittedly technical and on the surface it can

:16:25.:16:29.

be hard to translate the figures it contains into real-world public

:16:29.:16:32.

services. But it is important to emphasise that every doctor,

:16:33.:16:40.

teacher, road improvement, hospital, indeed, every public service

:16:40.:16:45.

provided for under the authority of the Assembly is affected eye this

:16:45.:16:53.

will and requires its legislation to operate legally -- is affected by

:16:53.:16:58.

this bill. So perhaps it appears dry and the figures are surreal, but it

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is a crucial piece of legislation for public services.

:17:02.:17:08.

At a strategic level, more effective Assembly input and scrutiny of

:17:08.:17:12.

expended chat will help to further demonstrate that devolution is

:17:12.:17:21.

making a difference to deliver an efficient governance in the North.

:17:21.:17:27.

-- scrutiny of expenditure. In terms of the immediate business today, on

:17:27.:17:32.

behalf of the Finance and personnel committee, I support the general

:17:32.:17:36.

principles of the bill. With unemployment and youth

:17:36.:17:39.

unemployment all remaining stubbornly high, we must ensure all

:17:39.:17:45.

resources are used affect degree. At the outset, I remain particularly

:17:45.:17:51.

concerned at the latest economic outlook for Northern Ireland which

:17:51.:17:55.

showed we are slipping behind the rest of the United Kingdom in almost

:17:55.:17:59.

every economic indicator. We must therefore question whether this

:17:59.:18:01.

budget is strong enough to reverse that trend.

:18:02.:18:09.

We are together building a united government, I will as I go on

:18:09.:18:13.

probably appear script -- appear sceptical about this document, but

:18:13.:18:17.

at least it is a recognition that bringing our people closer together

:18:18.:18:22.

is a vital priority for social reasons and for sound financial and

:18:22.:18:26.

economic reasons. It is concerning so little detail is available in

:18:27.:18:31.

terms of cost or whose budgets will be affected. It is not reassuring

:18:31.:18:36.

but a proposal to remove all peace wars in Belfast within ten years

:18:36.:18:42.

should be brought forward without reference to the Minister of

:18:42.:18:50.

Justice. -- wars. I cannot form an opinion on this bill because like

:18:50.:18:54.

everybody else, I do not have sufficient information. This is a

:18:54.:18:58.

sham, this is going through the process of pretending to deal with

:18:58.:19:03.

the issues when we are not, so I put this challenge to the Minister who

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normally does not bother to respond to me because he thinks that is the

:19:07.:19:13.

way to go and do politics. I am absolutely happy to take an

:19:13.:19:17.

intervention! Order, please, the member will

:19:17.:19:21.

resume his seat. I would remind members and ministers that you

:19:21.:19:26.

should not crowd -- you should not shout across the chamber.

:19:26.:19:30.

I have no difficulty with scrutiny of the budget and I think it is

:19:30.:19:34.

essential we have good scrutiny of the budget. Not only scrutiny of the

:19:34.:19:42.

budget as it is presented, but also on an ongoing basis. I will let the

:19:42.:19:52.
:19:52.:19:53.

member get in front of the TV! Do you want me to speak for you?

:19:53.:19:59.

We are a regional economy. We are dealing with a global recession. We

:19:59.:20:07.

are also dealing with a world wide banking crisis. I do not think that

:20:07.:20:13.

I, as Finance Minister, have ever claimed, nor would I ever be silly

:20:13.:20:19.

enough to claim, that our budget, even though there is �18 billion

:20:19.:20:23.

involved of spend here, that that is ever going to be sufficient to

:20:23.:20:29.

reverse all of the weight of the global economic pressures.

:20:29.:20:32.

The Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson, and the second stage of that Budget

:20:32.:20:37.

Bill was passed. And the second stage of that -- and the second

:20:37.:20:43.

stage was passed. There is not long to go now until the G8 Summit in

:20:43.:20:45.

County Fermanagh, and today, the Justice Minister faced a barrage of

:20:45.:20:48.

questions on how much it will cost, though David Ford refused to be

:20:49.:20:52.

drawn on an exact figure. And the Minister also faced a query about

:20:52.:20:55.

the PSNI re-hiring retired officers. I would like to ask the Minister, is

:20:55.:20:59.

he aware that PSNI has engaged in this practice in recent times to

:20:59.:21:05.

rehire retired police officers and not advertise well paid jobs? Would

:21:05.:21:09.

he agree that open doors for newcomers, the PSNI needs to shut

:21:09.:21:16.

the revolving door? His question -- I thank him for his

:21:16.:21:21.

question but I am not aware of this. The issue of the appointment of

:21:21.:21:28.

agency staff is a different issue from the issue of rehiring and I

:21:28.:21:32.

refer to that as being subject to an enquiry and I look forward to the

:21:32.:21:35.

report. The PSNI and departmental officials

:21:35.:21:39.

continued to work on the forecast cost of the policing and security

:21:39.:21:44.

operation associated with the G8 Summit. The cost will not be known

:21:44.:21:48.

until sometime after the summit and some costs such as compensation

:21:48.:21:51.

claims and legal aid will be incurred after and will depend on

:21:51.:21:55.

the level of unrest. I welcome the report to the policing board last

:21:55.:22:01.

Thursday, where it was advised a letter of assurance had been

:22:01.:22:03.

received from Danny Alexander had been written assurance that the

:22:03.:22:08.

majority of cost to the policing operation will be met by the

:22:08.:22:11.

government. PSNI will bear the cost of purchases and developments

:22:11.:22:16.

already built into policing spending plans, some of which have been

:22:16.:22:18.

accelerated as part of the G8 operation.

:22:19.:22:22.

The Justice committee look for answers to this last week and the

:22:22.:22:26.

official refused to tell us the in -- tells the information. What is

:22:26.:22:32.

the estimate of the overall cost associated with the G8 and what

:22:32.:22:40.

proportion will be carried by the Department of Justice and the PSNI?

:22:40.:22:43.

Well, Deputy Speaker, I thank my committee chair for his usual

:22:43.:22:51.

inquisition. I cannot give a forecast of the overall cost.

:22:51.:22:56.

Because there are many undetermined factors which will not be determined

:22:56.:23:00.

until significantly after the conference is over. What I can say

:23:00.:23:06.

is that a sum of money will fall to PSNI and to the Department of

:23:06.:23:10.

Justice related to expenditure. For example, a variety of capital

:23:10.:23:15.

programmes have been at -- have been accelerated to enable the policing

:23:15.:23:19.

operation to function well, those are issues on which we would have

:23:19.:23:23.

been spending money otherwise. But as I said, we have now seen the

:23:23.:23:27.

letter which has been sent by the chief secretary to the Chief

:23:27.:23:32.

Constable and that makes clear the expectation that the funding other

:23:32.:23:35.

than that for accelerated spending will fall to the UK Exchequer and

:23:35.:23:41.

not to the Department of Justice. Can the Minister give some

:23:41.:23:47.

indication of the quantum in terms of the capital costs associated with

:23:47.:23:51.

staging the G8 and can he give an assurance there will be no revenue

:23:51.:23:55.

difficulties or the police moving forward?

:23:55.:24:01.

-- for the police. I am always reluctant to say there will be no

:24:01.:24:03.

revenue difficulties for policing costs. We look at the events that

:24:03.:24:10.

could happen, we do not know what it will cost for the policing of the

:24:10.:24:13.

number of special events happening this summer and the issue of

:24:14.:24:18.

parading. So I would be cautious to say there is no pressure on the

:24:18.:24:22.

police in that respect. I am assured that the key additional costs of

:24:22.:24:27.

being fully funded elsewhere but we will ensure as we look at a

:24:27.:24:31.

difficult financial situation that we get the best value for money.

:24:31.:24:34.

The Justice Minister, David Ford. The number of farmers involved in

:24:34.:24:38.

organic farming here has fallen by almost 40% since 2006. The

:24:38.:24:41.

Agriculture Minister, Michelle O'Neill, who was sounding a little

:24:41.:24:43.

under the weather today, gave the details during today's Question

:24:43.:24:47.

Time. First up, though, she was asked about the recently unveiled

:24:47.:24:51.

Agri-Food Strategy Board's action plan.

:24:51.:24:56.

I welcome this proposal and I believe that such a scheme would

:24:56.:25:01.

improve productivity and efficiency at farm level, prevent them --

:25:01.:25:04.

dividing the necessary funding can be secured. I believe we can deliver

:25:04.:25:09.

such a scheme. But we have only recently taken our seat at the

:25:09.:25:13.

report and are carefully considering each individual recommendation

:25:13.:25:17.

before we bring forward final proposals on this and other

:25:17.:25:22.

proposals to the executive. I thank the Minister for her

:25:22.:25:29.

response. As a Minister -- as the Minister has a substantial

:25:29.:25:31.

underspend on the development programme, what plans do she have to

:25:31.:25:36.

use this money to help achieve the targets set within this report and

:25:36.:25:40.

to increase profitability across farms across Northern Ireland?

:25:40.:25:45.

The member will be aware that I have a major programme of work going in

:25:46.:25:49.

terms of potential underspend is and I am committed to making sure that

:25:49.:25:53.

by the end of the programme, not 1p will be handed back to Europe and

:25:53.:25:59.

the European money will be spent to the best benefit of our communities.

:25:59.:26:05.

But I believe the rural development programme will be an excellent

:26:05.:26:11.

vehicle to bring forward a lot of initiatives recommended in the

:26:11.:26:13.

report. Through adequate government

:26:13.:26:17.

assistance, the quantity of organic produce will be increased and would

:26:17.:26:22.

be of great benefit to farmer and consumer. Can I ask if the Minister

:26:22.:26:26.

can indicate what additional initiatives her department plans to

:26:26.:26:30.

introduce to strengthen the organic sector?

:26:30.:26:35.

Given that the fact that we have higher commodity prices in recent

:26:35.:26:39.

years, it has resulted in the premiums for farmers so that has

:26:40.:26:43.

been a disincentive for farmers to get involved in organic farming

:26:44.:26:51.

practices. In 2006, there were 224 farmers involved in organic

:26:51.:26:56.

actresses and in 2012, that is down to 139, and that is down to the fact

:26:56.:27:00.

they were not at acting a premium so it is not attractive to a farmer

:27:00.:27:05.

trying to sustain an income. So there is a weak market but there is

:27:05.:27:12.

a niche market for organic products. I am committed to making sure that

:27:12.:27:16.

through the development work we are doing, the fact we still run an

:27:16.:27:20.

organic farm, farmers can look at it and if it is something they are

:27:20.:27:24.

interested in, that is the work we can do. But it is something that is

:27:24.:27:27.

very much market led. I would like to thank the Minister

:27:27.:27:32.

for her answer and I wish her a speedy recovery. I would like to ask

:27:32.:27:36.

the Minister what has been the uptake in support for organic

:27:36.:27:42.

farming? The scheme itself, the organic

:27:42.:27:48.

farming scheme, supports farmers who want to convert to organic

:27:48.:27:53.

production methods and is funded through a programme. There 31

:27:53.:27:59.

participants this scheme currently and a farming about 1100 acres of

:27:59.:28:01.

land under organic management but that scheme is currently closed to

:28:01.:28:06.

new applicants. It opened in March last year and 33 applications came

:28:06.:28:13.

forward but only six progressed through to agreement. But the scheme

:28:13.:28:17.

itself within the countryside management scheme provides support

:28:17.:28:24.

to a further six participants of organically certified land under

:28:24.:28:27.

management, so there is still a small number of farmers involved in

:28:27.:28:33.

organic farming, but it very much depends on the market and all the

:28:33.:28:35.

costs associated with being an organic farmer.

:28:35.:28:37.

The Agriculture Minister, Michelle O'Neill.

:28:37.:28:41.

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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