12/12/2011 Stormont Today


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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Hello, and welcome to Stormont Today. And with Europe dominating


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


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


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


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


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


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


culture minister has found some new anniversaries to commemorate.


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


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


Alastair Hamilton from Invest NI. Growing a dynamic and innovative


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


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


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


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


answer that. Alastair Hamiliton heads the organisation tasked with


selling Northern Ireland as an inward investment location, as well


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


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


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


tremendous delivery over the last four years. We achieved job


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


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


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


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


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


way faster challenge ourselves and to challenge the business community.


The incoming ministers said he thought that Invest NI would have


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


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


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


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


we will offer advice Reece services and access to other support


measures to the entire business population.


The appointment of the justice minister was controversial from the


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


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


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


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


discussions around the issue of using this opportunity to reduce


the number of overall government departments in the Executive.


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


that the options paper does include options which indicate


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


positions that most people recognise are manageable and I


would expect that the matter could be resolved within weeks rather


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


which is effectively the present system of the has suddenly deciding


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


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


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


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


that as a result of the gerrymandering that brought about


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


First Minister recognise that and recognise the unfairness which has


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


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


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


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


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


been used to establish which centenary and the virtues will be


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


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


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


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


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


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


department been having with the London department? Will she meet


Her Majesty she comes to Northern Ireland drawing head Jubilee?


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


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


be costing taxpayers' money, unionists wanted to know.


estimated cost for implementation has not yet been established as the


legislative approaches still ongoing. I find it somewhat


difficult to understand that any preparation for any draft act would


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


require community support and support in this assembly, which she


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


fail to consult his devolve partners but he failed to consult


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


could have profound implications for those jurisdictions. Northern


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


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


action which fundamentally impacts the decay relationship with the


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


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


commended. Hopefully the nature and can make significant progress and


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


control of its economic and pollution -- political affairs


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


obsequious endorsement of David Cameron's position from the party


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


contribution whatsoever. The United Kingdom retains the power to pursue


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


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


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


uncertainty and lengthy negotiations over every budget that


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


a strong play that the Prime Minister is making around financial


services. Our most important area for inward investment into Northern


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


important location behind London That was one of the big debates


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


downsize and potentially look at Dublin or Paris S that something


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


terms of our foreign direct investment strategy. We have global


firms in Belfast and across Northern Ireland that have


retracted to a near shore opportunity in London around


financial services and anything that risks or jeopardises that will


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


more exports to outside of Europe and the finance Minister yesterday


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


deputy chair of the education committee, David McNarry, has


raised concerns about how Catholic council for maintained schools or


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


fellow committee member Colin McDevitt about the plans.


understand if people have strong views about the idea of faith


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


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


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


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


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


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


downtkaoeuzed and quite considerably. That's not true.


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


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


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


committee how many are staying and employed. They increased their


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


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


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


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


school desks and we need to start amalgamations and changing


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


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


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


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


Presbyterian Church and Methodist Church, their calls for joint faith


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


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


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


I think we have the great possibility of transforming our


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


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


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


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


artificial segregation which will do the society no particular


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


in real revenue terms those assets for the communities in which


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


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


are running around trying to raise money for community halls,


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


education system. Parents treasure the diversity in our system and


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


medicines. As Minister I am determined to see this investment


is used effectively and indeed efficiently. My priority is to


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


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


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


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


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


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


subject to public consultation. This debate is therefore timely,


tpwaus highlights the life- threatening aspect of cancer and


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


introduce a small prescription charge, it would actually only


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the different expenditure, distinguishing between locums,


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


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


not easy on pay roll terms to differentiate the payment


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


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


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


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


actually pull out the figures for your internal locums and exactly


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


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


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


European work directive and I appreciate that there are doctors


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


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


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


that organisation delivering operations and working in theatre


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


responsibility of the individual doctor in the first instance. They


have a professional responsibility to adhere to the directive or the


regulations, that's their personal individual responsibility and that


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


responsibility on their primary employer to be aware of the main


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


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


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


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


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


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


view amongst our politicians about David Cameron wielding the veto and


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


as ever at Stormont pulling in different directions with the SDLP


and the Alliance most concerned about what the Prime Minister has


done but the others, either congratulating him, or being


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


expecting are going through parliament at the minute. But here


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


today because the Church leaders met Lord Freud, the Government


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


collection of you different benefits, such as disability


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


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


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


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


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


McCauseland seems to be less opposed to these reforms than say


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


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


problems, although Stormont is saying at the moment they believe


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


transition is worked through. you very much.


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


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


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


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


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


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


good news is skaf investment Northern Ireland in the new year


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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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