11/09/2012 Stormont Today


11/09/2012

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


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Hello, and welcome to Stormont Today. Coming up in the next 30

:00:27.:00:30.

minutes: the Finance Minister warns that austerity measures could

:00:30.:00:34.

extend to the year 2020, and tough decisions could be on the way.

:00:34.:00:39.

have even had people here talking about us selling off the family

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silver, et cetera. If they're assets that we have that we're not

:00:42.:00:46.

either using or fully using that we dispose of those to bring in

:00:46.:00:50.

additional revenue - there may as well be hard decisions to be made

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about additional revenue strings that we need for the future. Find

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out what mistake this MLA claims was designed, modelled and made

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here at Stormont. This isn't something which some in this House

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would be very quick and very glad and very eager to blame upon direct

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rule. This was a mistake in this House. This was a faux pas made in

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Stormont. Also: the SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell on why his party

:01:20.:01:24.

wants Sinn Fein support for a motion of censure against the DSD

:01:24.:01:34.
:01:34.:01:35.

During yesterday's proceedings, members were treated to a quick

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economics lesson from the Finance Minister Sammy Wilson. Today, he

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was on his feet again as he was grilled by his fellow MLAs in

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Finance Questions. The Minister began by answering a question from

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Sinn Fein's Boylan. The first thing I would say is our

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budget is protected for the period up to 2014-15. However - I have

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made this clear to the Assembly time and time again - that we do

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have to prepare in the longer run for what we can do to restructure

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the way we spend money, and I mean, almost every week in this Assembly

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there are demands for more money to be spent on one thing or the other.

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We can't, and the first thing we should not be doing is making

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commitments which are unfunded for the future because that puts

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further pressure on budgets which are a bit uncertain anyhow.

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Secondly, we have to look - and this will require very, very hard

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economic decisions, I think - we have to look at some of the

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restructuring we need to do - for example, what do we do with some of

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our public services where currently we can't bring in private sector

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money or pension fund money or other additional resources to do

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some of the infrastructure work because of scores against Adele,

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and that may well mean that we've got to make hard decisions about

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the structure of some of the public organisations that we currently

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have in Northern Ireland and which cannot draw in at present private

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money, and lastly, of course, we've got to ask, well, for many of the

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assets that we have - and I mean, sometimes people defend them. We

:03:24.:03:28.

have even had people here talking about us selling off the family

:03:28.:03:32.

silver. If there are assets that we have that we're not either using or

:03:32.:03:35.

fully using that we dispose of those to bring in additional

:03:35.:03:39.

revenue. There may well also be hard decisions to be made about

:03:39.:03:44.

additional revenue streams that we need for the future. Thank you very

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much indeed, Mr Speaker. Given that the dogs in the streets of

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Whitehall have been barking all summer about the fact that there is

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a further crisis in public expenditure ahead of us, maybe the

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Minister could give us some good news and inform us that he has in

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fact successfully concluded the negotiations around the transfer of

:04:00.:04:04.

corporation tax powers to this region and give us a date which we

:04:04.:04:08.

can expect to get that power back in our hands. I wish I could give

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that kind of news, but of course, the transfer of those powers is

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dependent upon not just the willingness of the Executive to

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have the devolution of those powers, but also the willingness of the

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Government at Westminster to make that devolution, and as I have said

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to the Assembly time and time again, and in fact, it ties in very well

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with the question that the previous questioner made - if we're going to

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make commitments for the future, for example, on the devolution of

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corporation tax, then I think that this Assembly would expect me and

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the rest of the negotiating team from the Executive to ensure that

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that comes to us with the least possible cost, especially if there

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will be further austerity measures and further pressures on the Budget

:04:54.:04:57.

in the future, and for that reason, we'll continue to fight with the

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Treasury over the cost of devolution of corporation tax. We

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know we're going to have to pay a price, but we want to make sure

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that that price is fair. It's reasonable, and it's a realistic

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assessment of what the true cost would be. I have met and spoken to

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Ulster Bank on a very regular basis since the whole problem occurred

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with the computer system, and, indeed, a couple of days before did

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compensation scheme was announced, I was in communication with Ulster

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Bank to talk about the detail of the scheme and also give them some

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advice from my experience as to what I believe should be included

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in it. I thought that many people might well regard this as derisory,

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but I think it's got to be - so I'm not going - it was a decision which

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Ulster Bank had to make. They made it in concert with the Financial

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Services Authority. It's a part of a package, of course, because

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there's not just the refund. There's also the reimbursement, and

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where there was reimbursement, there will be a 20% top-up on top

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of that to a maximum of �100 I think it was. There was also the

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reassurance to customers about credit rating, and there was also a

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recognition, you know that there had been difficulties caused by

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individuals. I suspect that at the end of the day that there will be

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many people who, despite what Ulster Bank will do to compensate

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them for the problems that there were will still be very, very

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unhappy, and I note in discussions with Ulster Bank I had indicated to

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them that in some cases - especially some of the cases I had

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heard that really money would not be the way in which you compensate

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people anyway, because they went through a horrific time, and I

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suppose the important thing now I am looking forward to is the

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financial services have demanded a review of what happened, why did it

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take so long to sort it out, and I am looking forward to seeing that

:07:05.:07:11.

report. Can the Minister tell us why many of those revenue-raising

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initiatives didn't reach the level predicted in that famous draft

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Budget speech, which I am sure every member of this House reads

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nightly after their evening prayers, of course. Must say, the member

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leads a very sad life if he reads the Budget statement nightly, but I

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think the important thing is, if one looks at it - I mean, I don't

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know which particular measures the member is referring to. As far as

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the capital receipts are concerned, we actually exceeded the amount we

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raised - I think it was 170 million as opposed to 142 million, which

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was the target. The - there are so much that haven't been realised yet.

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The Department for Regional Development is working on the money

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- the �40 million we intend to raise from the Harbour

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Commissioners, but given the fact that was in the last two years of

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the Budget, the - that money wasn't to be realised by this time anyway.

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The money from the housing associations - we've already raised,

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and housing associations, by changing - by changing - well, yes,

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in fact. As I am reminded, despite the scepticism that there was, the

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housing associations are quite happily working along with that,

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and realising the money for that, and the money from the regional

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rates increase, of course - we're realising as well, so, I mean, I'm

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not too sure which particular measure the member is referring to.

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The Finance Minister Sammy Wilson. I am joined in the studio by the

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chairman of the CBI here, Ian Coulter. How concerned are you,

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first of all, at what the Minister eluded to - this idea that the

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future might hold even more tightened purse strings in terms of

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public finances in the medium to long term? I think he's right. I

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think we're secure until 2014-15, but I think after that, there is a

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recognition - and I think we have to grasp the reality - that at the

:09:17.:09:20.

end of the day, there is going to be significant cuts following that,

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and I think it's hugely important that Government and business now

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start working together to create ways and create opportunities for

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the growth of the private sector off the back of that. There was

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also some discussion in the chamber about corporation tax... Sure.

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Whether the new Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, is going to pick

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up where Owen Paterson left all. Do you think now he's gone this is a

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dead duck? No, far from it. I think it's important we stay focused on

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this point, because to me this is the single biggest issue facing

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Northern Ireland today. Teresavilleier, if you look at the

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speech she's made in the Republic of Northern Ireland, the tax cut on

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this economy, very, very positive about it. I also think it's good we

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have Owen Paterson still as a Minister around the Cabinet table,

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so hopefully what we hope to achieve is to have two Ministers

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who understands the issues and are in favour of it. The cost

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potentially could be �700 million. It's a gamble at the end of the day,

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isn't it? I disagree with the cost amount, and I also don't think it's

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the correct question. If you go back to the Treasury paper of March

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2011, if we follow the formula and the footpath set out in that the

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cost is significantly lower. 700 million is the figure the

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Minister is quoting. Sure, but I don't actually think - again, we've

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got to go back to what the Treasury released, which was a carefully

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considered and constructed paper by them. We have to go back and say,

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these are competely different figures. It's quite a game of

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shadow boxesing going on between executive Ministers like Sammy

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Wilson and Treasury officials at the moment. Ultimately the point I

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come back to on this is, what is the cost of this if we don't get

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it? I think everyone in Northern Ireland if we don't get it, will be

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looking for jobs in the next ten years or members of their family

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will. This is the issue that's going to determine this and how

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easy it's going to be. One issue that is never too far away from the

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political agenda at the moment is the Executive's strategy on

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retailing and rates. There are a lot of businesses here who are very

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unhappy that the rates are as high as they are, and they say that up

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to a third, some people would say, of retail units are actually empty

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at the moment. Do you think the Minister needs to be doing

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something more about that? I think if it would be possible, it would

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be a great thing to do. I - the problem isn't all of us. I think on

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the vacant units, certainly we need to look at something there.

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Certainly, when you look at - there are other issues around this

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baseline - planning as well, making that system easier. Vacant rates

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are a burning issue. Is that that something you would want to pick up

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with him? Absolutely. Stay with us because we're going to talk to you

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later. For now, Ian Coulter, thank you very much indeed.

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The Health Minister was in the chamber this afternoon to address a

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range of issues, including the contentious matter of future child

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cardiac services at the Royal in Belfast, but first, let's hear the

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latest on the ongoing debate about the future of services at the

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Causeway Hospital, in particular, I am aware of concerns of the local

:12:22.:12:30.

community. I am advised that the northern Trust has no plans to

:12:30.:12:40.
:12:40.:12:42.

reduce maternity services. Indeed, services have been enhanced by

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providing... I acknowledge that plans to do make reference to

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maternity services. In the future, a review of maternity provisions

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will be carried out to identify the needs of the local population and

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to develop more choice for women. Such a review would be subject to

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local consultation. Every Chad deserves the best possible start in

:13:11.:13:21.
:13:21.:13:24.

life. -- every child. A focus on the spectrum of maternity services

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is required if we are going to improve outcomes for mother, baby

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and partner. I will not be making any decision on congenital

:13:33.:13:38.

paediatric services until I am satisfied that there has been full,

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open and transparent consultation. My overriding concern must be that

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the service we provide is safe and sustainable. The review panel did

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not find any immediate safety concerns, but they did not that

:13:57.:14:01.

paediatrics in general in Belfast is not sustainable and the

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potential risks should be addressed within has six months. I have asked

:14:05.:14:15.
:14:15.:14:20.

the Health and Social Care Board to develop criteria of to identify

:14:20.:14:28.

future delivery of the service in Northern Ireland. This group

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includes patient representatives, parents. There will be a full, open

:14:33.:14:43.

and transparent consultation on the criteria, it service specification.

:14:43.:14:48.

I expect a consultation to begin in October 2012. The responses will

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help inform the way forward in terms of defining a preferred

:14:52.:14:56.

service model for children in Northern Ireland who require

:14:57.:15:06.

specialist cardiac care. This is a regular item for discussion that

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North-South council meetings. I met with the minister recently and are

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discussed our mutual wish to fully explore the potential for services

:15:21.:15:31.
:15:31.:15:33.

in an all island bases. -- all Ireland basis.

:15:33.:15:39.

I thank the Minister for his response. Can he assure the House

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that Pierret representatives will play a full role in the working

:15:44.:15:48.

group that he has established and that their voices and concerns will

:15:48.:15:58.
:15:58.:15:59.

be heard? As I indicated, the Health and Social Care Board would

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do just that and ensure that parents are represented on that

:16:02.:16:12.
:16:12.:16:12.

board. For many people, the quality of care is the number one priority.

:16:12.:16:21.

Families very often have other children and in terms of trying to

:16:21.:16:28.

work and retain some income during the child's illness, this can be

:16:28.:16:32.

very stressful, particularly if they have to go to England for the

:16:32.:16:37.

treatment. In all of these things, we will give due consideration to

:16:37.:16:45.

these issues and the concerns are raised by parents. I would speak of

:16:45.:16:55.
:16:55.:17:00.

a nephew who has received life- saving care in Belfast. This house

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and parents and mothers in the community demand from you absolute

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assurances that you would do your best to ensure that Belfast and

:17:09.:17:13.

Dublin fully co-operate to develop equipment and services as good as

:17:13.:17:19.

or better than that of Birmingham. I can give that assurance.

:17:19.:17:27.

Edwin Poots. In the stomach, the magic number is 30 if you want to

:17:27.:17:37.
:17:37.:17:42.

force a debate on the floor. And that is what is being aimed in an

:17:42.:17:52.

attempted to have the social must - - social minister censored. You

:17:52.:18:01.

have signatures of your for team members, but the 13th you need 30.

:18:01.:18:07.

Are you going to get any more? have opened it up to other parties.

:18:07.:18:14.

We had a good meeting with Sinn Fein this afternoon. The public is

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that Nelson McCausland his way out of line on this and he has to come

:18:17.:18:21.

back into line. If a Belfast city councillor be made in the way that

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he has behaved, they would be reprimanded. We cannot see why an

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MLA and a much for senior position -- in a much more senior position

:18:34.:18:40.

should behave in this way. What has angered you so much in what Nelson

:18:40.:18:50.
:18:50.:18:50.

McCausland has said? He said that he had totally condemned violence.

:18:50.:18:58.

He explained, justified condoned atrocious behaviour of their Young

:18:58.:19:08.
:19:08.:19:09.

Conway Volunteers are 12th July. -- on 12th July. Then he justified and

:19:09.:19:15.

encouraged the breaking of the law around Black Saturday. He says

:19:15.:19:19.

about there is an issue of civil disobedience here. It is not civil

:19:19.:19:23.

disobedience. The Parades Commission, and we have worked with

:19:23.:19:27.

the Parades Commission four years to deal with contentious parades,

:19:27.:19:33.

90% of them are now dealt with. The Parades Commission the rulings of

:19:33.:19:41.

we do not like them sometimes, but we tolerate them. We reserve the

:19:41.:19:48.

right to debate individual cases with them. But Nelson has are

:19:48.:19:51.

problem with the Parades Commission and he was encouraging these people

:19:51.:19:55.

to break the Parades Commission ruling. But he is not supporting

:19:55.:20:02.

violence. He has clearly condemned violence. Where do you think he has

:20:02.:20:10.

broken or preached at their Ministerial Code? -- breached. He

:20:10.:20:15.

has encouraged people to behave in a sectarian and very nasty way.

:20:15.:20:25.
:20:25.:20:25.

has refuted that. Nelson's pledge is to uphold the law and promote

:20:25.:20:35.
:20:35.:20:39.

good community relations. stated operating in R way conducive

:20:39.:20:43.

-- in a way conducive to promoting good committed to the relations.

:20:43.:20:48.

Nelson, instead of teaching these guys to behave themselves, we all

:20:48.:20:53.

have to put our next on the line sometimes and tell them to stop, he

:20:53.:21:00.

says it... He says he is trying to articulate the frustration in

:21:00.:21:07.

Unionist quarters and he has totally condemned violence. He is

:21:07.:21:14.

encouraging these people. If people do not see that, we had been on a

:21:14.:21:19.

dated -- we have been inundated. The SDLP has not asked for these

:21:19.:21:29.

parades to be stopped or blocked or interfered with. All we have asked

:21:29.:21:32.

for is for a wee bit of respect. Nelson McCausland has made it clear

:21:32.:21:38.

that he is not encouraging people to break the law. Will it you get

:21:38.:21:43.

these additional signatures or is this political posturing? There is

:21:43.:21:47.

no political posturing, Roper to the heat on Sinn Fein. The people

:21:47.:21:55.

out there are angry at the way Nelson has behaved. -- no putting

:21:55.:22:02.

the heat. I am very hopeful that after our discussions at this

:22:02.:22:10.

afternoon, they are on at the same page as us. I would be very hopeful

:22:10.:22:15.

and very positive. We will find out in due course. We will leave it

:22:15.:22:20.

there. The regulation of charities was

:22:20.:22:27.

back on the agenda here for. There was an attempt to deal with this in

:22:27.:22:34.

2008, so why was the issue being visited again now? The claim is

:22:34.:22:40.

that's dormant messed-up by not defining what constitutes a charity.

:22:40.:22:46.

We have to acknowledge how wrong it was caught. And who got it wrong?

:22:46.:22:50.

Who were the advisers? What was the department doing to get it so

:22:50.:23:00.
:23:00.:23:02.

wrong? The present Minister was not then that Mr, I acknowledge that. -

:23:02.:23:11.

- was not bend the minister. But it was the same department. Expert

:23:11.:23:15.

advisers in the department brought forward legislation which was

:23:15.:23:19.

supposed to be considered, supposed to be thought out, supposed to be

:23:19.:23:25.

precisely addressing what was seen to be the legislative need. And yet,

:23:25.:23:29.

patently, getting it wrong. Perhaps a win there Minister comes to

:23:30.:23:36.

answer, he can begin to explain it. How was it that the department got

:23:36.:23:46.

it so wrong? Why is it today that we have to pick up those pieces?

:23:46.:23:54.

And why is it in the meantime we have had the work of the Charity

:23:54.:24:01.

commissioners stymied and unable to complete a register of charities in

:24:01.:24:08.

Northern Ireland. This would be something that people would be glad

:24:08.:24:14.

to blame on direct rule. But this was a mistake in this house. This

:24:14.:24:21.

was a full part made in at Stormont. The charity advisory group in

:24:21.:24:24.

Northern Ireland, it was the organisation that recommended a

:24:24.:24:34.
:24:34.:24:36.

hybrid approach, taking the best of public provisions and blending them

:24:36.:24:42.

together. That approach was agreed through public consultation.

:24:42.:24:47.

However, legal counsel opinion was that this approach was open to

:24:47.:24:55.

challenge and I was satisfied that the amendment was a required to

:24:55.:25:00.

achieve certainty for the sector. The social development minister

:25:00.:25:05.

Nelson McCausland. As many students are prepared to return to

:25:05.:25:09.

university, the deployment and Learning Minister launched his

:25:09.:25:13.

access to success strategy, aiming to encourage more students from

:25:13.:25:18.

disadvantaged backgrounds into higher education. There remains

:25:18.:25:27.

some stubborn pockets of under representations. That is why my

:25:27.:25:33.

department has been leading on the development of a new strategy for

:25:33.:25:39.

widening participation a higher education in Northern Ireland. The

:25:39.:25:41.

strategy six in to assist individuals with the greatest need

:25:41.:25:44.

by targeting resources to where they will have the greatest effect

:25:44.:25:53.

and impact with the focus set for May on the least likely. The

:25:53.:26:03.
:26:03.:26:04.

strategy it will target groups 5-7, students with a disability,

:26:04.:26:12.

individuals from all parties should but -- individuals from a low

:26:13.:26:19.

participation communities. There is evidence that personal circumstance

:26:19.:26:24.

can have significant effect on participation in higher education.

:26:24.:26:28.

Almost three times as many young people with appearance in

:26:28.:26:33.

professional positions will attend university as young people whose

:26:33.:26:37.

parents are in lower-paid occupations. Research shows that

:26:37.:26:42.

the lack of role models in Egham person's life can lead them to

:26:42.:26:52.
:26:52.:26:53.

never consider higher education. -- In a young person's life. My vision

:26:53.:26:58.

of widening participation is about raising aspirations, challenging

:26:58.:27:02.

stereotypes and empowering those who are most able but least likely

:27:02.:27:07.

to enter our universities. Widening participation in higher education

:27:07.:27:12.

is not about dumbing down. If we are to expect the next generation

:27:12.:27:20.

to compete in the world, there can be no reduction in academic

:27:20.:27:26.

standards. We have to ensure that Northern Ireland has a ready supply

:27:26.:27:31.

of suitably qualified young people, equipped to take advantage of

:27:31.:27:38.

higher education. My department will give funding to expand the

:27:38.:27:45.

rate of participation. All institutions offering higher

:27:45.:27:49.

education courses will be encouraged to offer of reach

:27:49.:27:58.

programmes designed to raise their educational aims of young people.

:27:58.:28:02.

My department will encourage a higher education institutions to

:28:02.:28:09.

develop and pilot a reasonable standard for the most disadvantaged

:28:09.:28:16.

applicants. The learning and development

:28:16.:28:20.

minister. Is he right to be focusing on to bigger and people

:28:20.:28:26.

from disadvantaged backgrounds in education for as long as possible?

:28:26.:28:32.

I think it is a worthwhile subject matter. The one I was more

:28:32.:28:36.

interested in is the apprenticeship area. I think that is where he has

:28:36.:28:46.
:28:46.:28:56.

got it bang on from an. Employer's. Back of view. -- from an employer's

:28:56.:29:06.
:29:06.:29:06.

point point of view. When you talk to members in the CBI, a large

:29:06.:29:14.

number of a managers have come through apprenticeships.

:29:14.:29:20.

But there is a sense either you cannot get on without a degree.

:29:20.:29:23.

With their employers, that is not their point of view. The CBI have

:29:24.:29:29.

been pressing quite hard to lobby for apprenticeships. It is up to

:29:29.:29:34.

this this to respond to that. kind of work he is doing on all of

:29:34.:29:42.

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.