12/12/2011 Stormont Today


12/12/2011

A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Tara Mills 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. And with Europe dominating

:00:23.:00:26.

the news all weekend, the troubles of the EU have spilled over into

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the debating chamber here. And, as for Mr Cameron, the reviews are

:00:30.:00:40.
:00:40.:00:42.

mixed. He failed to consult any of the devolved institutions.

:00:42.:00:48.

sensible step he has taken, which is to be commended. Protecting the

:00:48.:00:53.

United Kingdom's interests for want has been to the forefront. As the

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year draws to a close, it's time to reflect on the past - and the

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culture minister has found some new anniversaries to commemorate.

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suffrage for men and limited suffrage for women. And is there

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any sign of Christmas cheer for businesses here? With his thoughts,

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Alastair Hamilton from Invest NI. Growing a dynamic and innovative

:01:18.:01:21.

economy remains a top priority for the Executive, but with the

:01:21.:01:24.

eurozone debt crisis, and slow recovery in America, it's no easy

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task. So, in this time of economic doom and gloom, can the Executive

:01:29.:01:33.

achieve its targets? Our guest this evening is perfectly placed to

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answer that. Alastair Hamiliton heads the organisation tasked with

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selling Northern Ireland as an inward investment location, as well

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as supporting home grown companies to create jobs. The jobs that we

:01:46.:01:53.

are supposed be creating, 25,000, is it achievable? I believe it is

:01:53.:01:59.

going to be stretching but it is achievable. We come off the back of

:01:59.:02:09.
:02:09.:02:09.

tremendous delivery over the last four years. We achieved job

:02:09.:02:16.

creation and that 80% of those jobs must have salaries above the median.

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We come from the situation where we have a track record of delivery.

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The climate has got tighter and over the last three months where we

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all fought we might see more of a recovery, unfortunately, that does

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not seem to be developing. But I believe stretching targets other

:02:36.:02:43.

way faster challenge ourselves and to challenge the business community.

:02:43.:02:46.

The incoming ministers said he thought that Invest NI would have

:02:46.:02:51.

to change his remit in a were to get those jobs. We have been

:02:51.:02:55.

working on that for the last year and a half. What it means is that

:02:55.:03:01.

we are going to offer our services be on the 2,500 companies in

:03:01.:03:05.

Northern Ireland that historically we have supported. In the new year

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we will offer advice Reece services and access to other support

:03:09.:03:13.

measures to the entire business population.

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The appointment of the justice minister was controversial from the

:03:16.:03:20.

start. David Ford was appointed on a cross-community vote - the only

:03:20.:03:22.

Executive minister not to be selected using the D'Hondt method.

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And it still rankles. But there could be reform in the air, as was

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revealed in Question Time. I am wondering if there has been any

:03:35.:03:41.

discussions around the issue of using this opportunity to reduce

:03:41.:03:51.
:03:51.:03:52.

the number of overall government departments in the Executive.

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number in his capacity of the Ulster Unionist Party will be aware

:03:57.:04:01.

that the options paper does include options which indicate

:04:01.:04:07.

consideration of the number of departments. Of course, that will

:04:07.:04:12.

also be an opportunity for members who follow through on the draft

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programme for government, as one of the aspects of the truck programme

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for government was to look at the overall provisions of the assembly

:04:20.:04:25.

during the course of 2012. Whether at this stage all at that stage it

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certainly will be a matter that will be raised. He will have a full

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role in terms of the consideration of this element of justice 2012

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over the next number of weeks. I would hope that this is a matter

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that we can resolve fairly quickly and painlessly. It seems that the

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positions that most people recognise are manageable and I

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would expect that the matter could be resolved within weeks rather

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than months. Could I ask how the First Minister to indicate how the

:05:01.:05:07.

process will be taken forward? do have that meetings of the party

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leaders. The committee helpfully ask each of the parties for their

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views. Some of them provided those queues in more detail than others.

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Whether they were keeping their cards close to the chest at this

:05:26.:05:30.

stage, I do not know, but they have provided us with the opinions of

:05:30.:05:36.

reach of the parties on that basis. They have drawn up the options

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paper though, in truth, the options relief all round two stems. One

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which is effectively the present system of the has suddenly deciding

:05:49.:05:56.

on across community vote, or alternatively doing it by D'Hondt.

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There are a number of permutations are riding those but they are other

:06:02.:06:12.
:06:12.:06:16.

two limitations being considered. - - surrounding those. Could I thank

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the First Minister for his answer. Does the First Minister recognise

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that as a result of the gerrymandering that brought about

:06:28.:06:35.

the election of the alliance Minister for Justice, it does the

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First Minister recognise that and recognise the unfairness which has

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emanated from that? As a result, to Alliance party now has two members

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in the Executive whereas both the Ulster Unionists... Order, can the

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member put his question? There were two Questions there and I suppose

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the quick answer is no end yes. on to arts and leisure. The issue

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of anniversaries re appears on the question list. What criteria have

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been used to establish which centenary and the virtues will be

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:07:32.:07:33.

supported by the Department over the next decade? -- Centenary

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:07:43.:07:50.

anniversaries. My predecessor had... I would encourage another centenary

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advance, the 1913 Lochhead, suffrage for men and suffrage for

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women, they will help to prepare more inclusive celebrations. 2012

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also marks Her Majesty's diamond jubilee. The Department of Culture

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in London is overseen that event. What corporation has the minister's

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department been having with the London department? Will she meet

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Her Majesty she comes to Northern Ireland drawing head Jubilee?

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have had no discussions with the Department of Culture in England.

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And what about the Irish language Act? The preparations for it must

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be costing taxpayers' money, unionists wanted to know.

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estimated cost for implementation has not yet been established as the

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legislative approaches still ongoing. I find it somewhat

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difficult to understand that any preparation for any draft act would

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come without cost. Given the fact that an Irish language get would

:09:15.:09:21.

require community support and support in this assembly, which she

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accept that it would be a complete waste of time and money?

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relation to scoping out, stepping Ed what approach to be taken around

:09:35.:09:42.

an Irish language act, that does not cost a lot of money. Regardless

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of the latter question, I am preparing an Irish language fact,

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because this is about rights. Regardless of your position, that

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is what I intend to do. There will be lots of discussions about the

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impact of David Cameron's beat go on the UK as a whole. But what

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about the devolved institutions? Not only did Mr Cameron appear to

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fail to consult his devolve partners but he failed to consult

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any of the devolved institutions, despite the fact that his actions

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could have profound implications for those jurisdictions. Northern

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Ireland has a land border with the eurozone in the south of Ireland

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and therefore we are entitled to be consulted about any UK government

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action which fundamentally impacts the decay relationship with the

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eurozone. Anything short of that is disrespectful. This is a sensible

:10:53.:10:57.

step that the Prime Minister has taken, one that is to be warmly

:10:57.:11:07.
:11:07.:11:11.

commended. Hopefully the nature and can make significant progress and

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we allied ourselves as a European nation state but one which keeps

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control of its economic and pollution -- political affairs

:11:25.:11:35.
:11:35.:11:36.

within the nation state. Let us acknowledge that the type of

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obsequious endorsement of David Cameron's position from the party

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opposite does not do any good for the economy here, it makes no

:11:46.:11:56.
:11:56.:11:57.

contribution whatsoever. The United Kingdom retains the power to pursue

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its own monetary and economic policies that will be based on the

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interests of the United Kingdom, of which, thankfully, Northern Ireland

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is still very much an integral part. Other countries will note face

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uncertainty and lengthy negotiations over every budget that

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they said. The United Kingdom will have its own destiny. Does David

:12:25.:12:29.

Cameron's stands make your job harder or easier? It all depends on

:12:29.:12:38.

the outcome of his position. If it does not deliver stability in the

:12:38.:12:48.
:12:48.:12:50.

EU zone then it will make things more difficult. The EU is still an

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important export location for our companies. The second thing is a

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round devaluation. If we see euro devaluation that will make it more

:12:59.:13:04.

difficult both on trade and of inward investment. Lastly there is

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a strong play that the Prime Minister is making around financial

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services. Our most important area for inward investment into Northern

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Ireland is the financial services sector. We are the second most

:13:21.:13:28.

important location behind London That was one of the big debates

:13:28.:13:33.

over the weekend, even some of the banks in the City of London may now

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downsize and potentially look at Dublin or Paris S that something

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that concerns you? It Does, because it's vitally important for news

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terms of our foreign direct investment strategy. We have global

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firms in Belfast and across Northern Ireland that have

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retracted to a near shore opportunity in London around

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financial services and anything that risks or jeopardises that will

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definitely have an impact on our strategy and plans. You mentioned

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more exports to outside of Europe and the finance Minister yesterday

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was saying that - playing down perhaps the significance of all of

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this. We can't ignore the European market, can we? No, it's still 49%

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of our exports. That is reducing and the Republic of Ireland last

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year went down by 16%. The rest of the EU went up by 16%. Just to put

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it into context, it's expected that the growth in areas outside Europe,

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India, China and Russia and Brazil, will grow by 6% per year up until

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2016. EU forecast at best 2%. Still important to us, but the focus that

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we have today is onevers -- skwrrs outside the EU. We recruited trade

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advisers and one is in Europe. month we finally got confirmation

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that the education and skills authority will go ahead. But the

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deputy chair of the education committee, David McNarry, has

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raised concerns about how Catholic council for maintained schools or

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CCMS, will move into the new authority. Earlier, I asked him and

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fellow committee member Colin McDevitt about the plans.

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understand if people have strong views about the idea of faith

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because - I believe that can be accommodated. I just think that,

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you come up with something and you say who's going to benefit from

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this? We keep on talking about moving on, shared future. All I am

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saying is come on, let's replicate that for the children. What is the

:15:40.:15:43.

justification for the CCMS not taking the hit in terms of job

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losses? I think it's worth clarifying that. CCMS have

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downtkaoeuzed and quite considerably. That's not true.

:15:51.:15:57.

They got �1 million - why, because they got �1 million to recruit

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people for the post primary review. Those people were to be object a

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temporary basis. We are now waiting on the the question back to the

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committee how many are staying and employed. They increased their

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numbers. You make many criticisms of CCMS. I am not making any.

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are many to be made. You can't say they haven't got on with dealing

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with some of the hard realities. CCMS are ahead of the board in

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terms of facing up to the fact there are empty schools and empty

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school desks and we need to start amalgamations and changing

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:16:43.:16:50.

composition. The real issue going forward is whether we have the

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courage to enter a debate about building on what we have, rather

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than trying to destroy it and strt anew. I think if we build on what

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we have and listen to Protestant Church leaders, leaders in the

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Presbyterian Church and Methodist Church, their calls for joint faith

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schools, if we listen to the bishops who saying we want to have

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a conversation about joint faith schools. Where they make sense and

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where there is community demand for them and we seize that opportunity,

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I think we have the great possibility of transforming our

:17:18.:17:21.

education system the way the vast majority of people would like it to

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be transformed, which is on the values that are cherished and we

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hold strong, on the really positive aspects of those faith-based values

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that many schools hold dear, but without in any way perpetuating an

:17:36.:17:38.

artificial segregation which will do the society no particular

:17:39.:17:45.

service in the future. Tkhauz not sound fair enough? My discussion is

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about a discussion in getting it generated. I have been to see the

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Minister, I had a very useful discussion with him last week. I

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hope I can move that on. There was general agreement on a number of

:17:57.:18:03.

issues. Some issues we won't agree with him on, but that's all about

:18:03.:18:09.

discussion and negotiation. What I seem to have had is I have had a

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brick wall with CCMS. CCMS haven't got any property, they have no

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assets, they tell me. They belong to the Catholic Church. I am saying

:18:19.:18:25.

would you not gift your property to the schools estate, if we really

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are serious - let me finish, if we really are serious about having one

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state-funded structure of education that benefits everybody and doesn't

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give any exceptions to others. What I want to say is that school he is

:18:40.:18:47.

state worth between �5-6 billion. But a lot is derelict, a lot is

:18:47.:18:53.

empty. What we can't do is to get people to see how we could realise

:18:53.:18:57.

in real revenue terms those assets for the communities in which

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they're in. They may be parishes, I don't understand parishes, I talk

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about communities. For the communities in which they're in. We

:19:04.:19:09.

are running around trying to raise money for community halls,

:19:09.:19:12.

associations etc. The The schools close three months in the summer

:19:12.:19:16.

time. They close on a Friday for the weekends and they have the

:19:16.:19:21.

facilities. The one last thing just let me say, if we get there, right,

:19:21.:19:24.

and we are talking about schools going to be closed next year we are

:19:24.:19:29.

going to have announcement after announcement school closures, let's

:19:29.:19:34.

not just close four schools and say those four schools will be

:19:34.:19:38.

amalgamated into the best of the worst, knock them all down, build a

:19:38.:19:41.

brand new state of the art school for all the children in that

:19:41.:19:48.

community, share the assets, pool the resources. Now, I think people

:19:48.:19:51.

and parents will respond to that because who is it going to benefit?

:19:51.:19:58.

Them. Not all parents want that sort of education. Most of them do.

:19:58.:20:02.

Look, there is no evidence to suggest that the real choice that

:20:02.:20:06.

the vast majority of parents is for a one-size fits all type of

:20:06.:20:09.

education system. Parents treasure the diversity in our system and

:20:09.:20:12.

diversity is good. Be it in education, in society. It's good as

:20:12.:20:17.

long as it's built on respect. There's been plenty of speculation

:20:17.:20:20.

about the re-introduction of prescription charges but today, for

:20:20.:20:23.

the first time, the health Minister confirmed he is going to put the

:20:23.:20:27.

issue out for consultation. Edwin Poots was speaking to the Assembly

:20:27.:20:34.

during a rebate on the establishment of -- a debate on the

:20:34.:20:40.

establishment of a a special fund. We spend on a range of cancer

:20:40.:20:43.

medicines. As Minister I am determined to see this investment

:20:43.:20:48.

is used effectively and indeed efficiently. My priority is to

:20:48.:20:53.

ensure all patients here are able to access the full range of Nice

:20:53.:20:56.

approved drugs, including cancer drugs. However, these drugs will

:20:57.:21:00.

need to be paid for in future years and that is the reality which we

:21:00.:21:04.

face and it's the context I am considering a range of options, how

:21:04.:21:11.

this might be done. Including the potential re-introduction of some

:21:11.:21:14.

prescription charges. Such a decision would, of course, be

:21:14.:21:20.

subject to public consultation. This debate is therefore timely,

:21:20.:21:23.

tpwaus highlights the life- threatening aspect of cancer and

:21:23.:21:28.

the ability of modern drugs to help fight cancer. If we were to

:21:29.:21:33.

introduce a small prescription charge, it would actually only

:21:33.:21:38.

apply to 11 11% of all prescriptions. The decision that

:21:38.:21:43.

this Assembly will have to wait, the executive, and indeed I as

:21:43.:21:48.

Minister, is one that we can continue to help many a little, or

:21:48.:21:54.

help a few a lot. I think it's a very challenging one, but I do

:21:54.:22:00.

think that it is important that we give this due consideration and,

:22:00.:22:04.

therefore, I will want to go out to consultation early in the new year

:22:04.:22:08.

as to whether we should re- introduce a prescription charge.

:22:08.:22:12.

Now, toilet rolls, just how much are they costing the Assembly? Well,

:22:12.:22:17.

it's not quite clear, but it seems the bill is rather high and it's

:22:17.:22:20.

been upsetting David McNarry. Just one of the more intriguing issues

:22:20.:22:24.

to arise from our weekly look at the work of the committees,

:22:24.:22:30.

starting with education. I was speaking to an assistant last night,

:22:30.:22:33.

complaining about the fact one computer breaks down, it's �100 for

:22:33.:22:36.

a callout and another computer breaks down the same day a separate

:22:36.:22:42.

person comes out, �200. That's absolutely extortionate. I think we

:22:42.:22:46.

need more information on those kind of activities. We are going to be

:22:46.:22:50.

delving into procurement. I have to say, and anybody who's had even the

:22:50.:22:55.

slightest notion of business, couldn't run the departments here

:22:55.:23:00.

in the manner in which they're run and if you had shares, and the

:23:00.:23:04.

shareholders are the public and taxpayers out there, they would get

:23:04.:23:10.

rid of them. It is rather to me a far too flippant easy-going

:23:10.:23:14.

attitude to how we procure stuff here. I don't think we get value

:23:14.:23:17.

for money at all. I really don't. That's even down to the toilet

:23:17.:23:20.

rolls they flipping use in this this place. I have seen the bills

:23:20.:23:26.

for that and it's astonishing. Not that that's a particular interest.

:23:26.:23:31.

Well, we agreed at last meeting was we would sing the national anthem

:23:31.:23:41.

at the end of this meeting! LAUGHTER. That was unanimous.

:23:41.:23:45.

are telling me yes, there is an authorisation chain which can be

:23:45.:23:50.

accessed. Yes. How can that be not deployed to differentiate between

:23:50.:23:55.

the different expenditure, distinguishing between locums,

:23:55.:23:59.

overtime, staff doctors? understanding is that it's the way

:23:59.:24:04.

the financial management systems can report the information and it's

:24:04.:24:09.

not easy on pay roll terms to differentiate the payment

:24:09.:24:16.

straoeplts, that's -- streams. Completely unacceptable. That's

:24:16.:24:20.

balderdash. I do not accept that as an explanation. It's not a serious

:24:20.:24:24.

approach to tell me that is why you can't answer that question. That is

:24:24.:24:28.

what I am told in terms of when the audit office asked us can you

:24:28.:24:32.

actually pull out the figures for your internal locums and exactly

:24:32.:24:36.

what they were paid, that was very difficult to get us to get from our

:24:36.:24:41.

existing financial systems and I assure you that's my complete and

:24:41.:24:46.

truthful answer to your question. You alluded to a fact about the

:24:46.:24:51.

European work directive and I appreciate that there are doctors

:24:51.:24:56.

who will go on and work for other private paid for out of the public

:24:56.:25:02.

purse, talking about three 5-2, which are paying public money to

:25:02.:25:06.

deal with this. What records are being kept by those who work within

:25:06.:25:10.

that organisation delivering operations and working in theatre

:25:10.:25:16.

and doing all of that in a hospital environment, receiving their money

:25:16.:25:23.

from another account, and how is that ekwauted and and added in to

:25:23.:25:26.

ensure they're not breaching the European work directive and I

:25:26.:25:29.

appreciate that you have alluded that somebody can sign off, they

:25:29.:25:34.

can do it if they want to and allow them to have additional hours on it,

:25:34.:25:38.

it sound like what we were dealing with a few weeks ago over the legal

:25:38.:25:41.

profession where you can write whatever you need at times, but I

:25:41.:25:48.

want to - a breakdown of that and in relation to the 352? That's the

:25:48.:25:51.

responsibility of the individual doctor in the first instance. They

:25:51.:25:59.

have a professional responsibility to adhere to the directive or the

:25:59.:26:04.

regulations, that's their personal individual responsibility and that

:26:04.:26:09.

is an ethical issue for individual doctors. There is then a

:26:09.:26:12.

responsibility on their primary employer to be aware of the main

:26:12.:26:20.

issues, but the information will depend on and information from the

:26:20.:26:26.

individual doctor to the employer and 352 are also subject to that

:26:27.:26:30.

area of regulation. Well, as we heard earlier, Europe is the topic

:26:30.:26:34.

of the moment, both here and Westminster and no doubt all across

:26:34.:26:38.

Europe itself. I caught up with our political editor to hear his

:26:38.:26:42.

thoughts on the developments. Clearly, there's a very different

:26:42.:26:46.

view amongst our politicians about David Cameron wielding the veto and

:26:46.:26:51.

that's the reason why, unlike the Scottish First Minister or Welsh

:26:51.:26:53.

First Minister, you are not getting a big call from the Northern

:26:53.:26:57.

Ireland executive that we must meet Mr Cameron and there is an

:26:57.:27:00.

agreement as to whether he showed a lack of respect to the

:27:00.:27:05.

administrations by not consulting them, that's because in differing

:27:05.:27:09.

ways both the DUP and Sinn Fein sort of symphathise with his

:27:09.:27:13.

concerns about sovereignty. The DUP has said it fairly openly,

:27:13.:27:20.

congratulated him. Sinn Fein is saying they're not going to be

:27:21.:27:23.

obsequience. South of the border they're calling for a referendum,

:27:23.:27:26.

so they're not going to welcome the deal either. You have the parties

:27:26.:27:30.

as ever at Stormont pulling in different directions with the SDLP

:27:30.:27:33.

and the Alliance most concerned about what the Prime Minister has

:27:33.:27:36.

done but the others, either congratulating him, or being

:27:36.:27:40.

ambiguous. Staying with Westminster, and the welfare reforms that we are

:27:40.:27:43.

expecting are going through parliament at the minute. But here

:27:43.:27:49.

at the Assembly we seem to be a bit behind? Yes, it was in the news

:27:49.:27:53.

today because the Church leaders met Lord Freud, the Government

:27:53.:27:56.

Minister in khafrpb of this reform which is going to see this

:27:56.:28:01.

collection of you different benefits, such as disability

:28:01.:28:06.

allowance, all being brought into one universal credit system. It's

:28:06.:28:10.

going through the Lords today and it's due to become law around the

:28:10.:28:13.

spring time. Normally we mirror the legislation across the water when

:28:13.:28:17.

it comes to welfare reforms under what's known as the parity

:28:17.:28:22.

principle, but it looks like there will be a gap, even though Nelson

:28:22.:28:28.

McCauseland seems to be less opposed to these reforms than say

:28:28.:28:31.

his predecessor T looks like the Assembly not going to move quickly

:28:31.:28:35.

enough to get a seamless transition. That could potentially cause some

:28:35.:28:38.

problems, although Stormont is saying at the moment they believe

:28:38.:28:41.

that London will continue to fund the existing system, whilst the

:28:41.:28:46.

transition is worked through. you very much.

:28:47.:28:51.

A final word from you then, it's a big question as well, how do you

:28:51.:28:55.

change our economy from the small family business to some of the

:28:55.:28:58.

globele companies that we would like to see? The good news is we

:28:58.:29:02.

have wonderful examples of large global firms that we can learn from.

:29:02.:29:06.

I think the challenge of supporting small businesses is one we feel

:29:06.:29:09.

acute lie. There's been a lot of talk about it over the years. The

:29:09.:29:13.

good news is skaf investment Northern Ireland in the new year

:29:13.:29:16.

will be going into an area of providing a much wider range of

:29:16.:29:19.

support to small businesses and even here tonight the good news is

:29:19.:29:21.

that since the beginning of April this year our financial support for

:29:21.:29:26.

small businesses is up by 11%. good news for people if they are

:29:26.:29:29.

sitting there and have some brilliant idea? Well, absolutely.

:29:29.:29:35.

We are a country of innovators and inventors and we want to see those

:29:35.:29:37.

people come forward with ideas and take them to global markets. Thank

:29:38.:29:41.

A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Tara Mills 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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