13/12/2011 Stormont Today


13/12/2011

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 the final Stormont Today of 2011. Christmas

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is in the air and winter has got a grip, with polar winds and ripping

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around Parliament Buildings, but it is business as usual in the chamber,

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and the Compton Report on health is published and the minister's

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message is clear. I say to them, read the review report. It paints a

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compelling picture of the need to reform. And the dark side of

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Christmas - members call for greater protection from pay-day

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loan companies. These rates represent extortion to say the

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least. Whether they are illegal or suffer from a lack of regulation,

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they are in scrupulous. With me tonight, Jo Black from the

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Citizens' Advice Bureau. Also tonight, what does an MLA one

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for Christmas? May be a couple of tickets for Westlife's farewell to

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a. And iPad. By at least start tonight with the

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publication of today's review into the health service, and the Compton

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review may not be the first of its kind but unlike some of its

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predecessors this one will not be left on the shelf, according to

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Edwin Poots, the Health Minister, who unveiled details of the review

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to the assembly today. The panel made 99 recommendations, and just

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before the Minister began his statement, the fact that members

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had only just received the document was raised in the chamber. Members

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only received this 150 page document at 5-ten this morning. How

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can this house have an intelligent, informed discussion about these

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important matters, given the paucity of notice? I am just

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dealing with that point. Because I have respect for this house, this

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has received its first as opposed to someone leaking it for the media.

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The purpose of the review was to examine the future provision of

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services including our acute hospital Configuration, the

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provision of primary social care, and there were very real concerns

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that on that system was not sustainable to continue to meet the

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priorities, with the consequences for patient care and safety. My

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intention was to set a new reform agenda, to give us more momentum

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towards my vision and priorities for social care services for

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Northern Ireland. If the need for change was not clear before the

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report, I say, read the review report. It paints a compelling

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picture of the need to reform. We have ten acute hospitals in

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Northern Ireland, serving a population of 1.8 million. This

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contrast with other areas of the UK with some of popular -- populations.

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Our in it must be the provision of resilient, sustainable and saved

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services. It is in that strategic context that the review envisages

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by 2016, 2017, the model of acute hospitals for Northern Ireland

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would reconfigured to a more appropriate scale. It is only

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likely to be possible to provide sustainable, resilient and acute

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services on 5-7 sides. But may well prove to be the case, I cannot say

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at this stage. Our services need to adapt to the ageing population, to

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ensure that we can provide an appropriate level of services in

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the future. It is not surprising that a significant section of the

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report is devoted to improving services for older people, and for

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those with long-term conditions. The report highlights that home

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should be the highlight -- harbour of care for older people. Can ask

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the Minister, he has mentioned the cost when you go to change anything,

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it is bought at 25 million. Does he have that money within his current

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budget to meet those extra costs, or will he be seeking money from to

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fund that? Is the first place I will be seeking funding from the

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DFB. It it is not forthcoming, we need to then find the money within

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the system. Could the Minister assure this assembly that funding

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will follow those most abominable in our society? Maybe it I had less

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noise and a bit more listening, it would help the member. We are

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looking at shifting �80 million from the hospital sector to the

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community sector, so how clear red can we be. It is all in the

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statement. I welcome the Minister's statement and my long awaited

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opportunity to ask a question on it. Let me assure the House of my

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party's unwavering commitment to the health service and our need to

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improve it. I would like to ask the Minister, what are the implications

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of this review for staff and staffing numbers, right across the

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sector, that is including those caring in the community? Let us not

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raised unnecessary concerns. We will manage those situations, and

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will not be introducing a vast array of compulsory redundancies in

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Northern Ireland as a consequence of this report.

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So is the writing on the wall for some of our acute hospitals? I am

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joined by the chair of Health Committee, Michelle Gildernew.

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Edwin Poots talked about this vast sum of money, �83 million being

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moved from the hospital sector into the community. Ali confident that

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if all that and sick people are cared for more often in their homes,

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but the services will be there to look after them properly? I hope

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they will, and we have heard during the day that people are willing to

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look at a better model of delivering care, and it is

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certainly very clear that GPs will have an enhanced role, and they

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need to have the resources to go with that. I would also welcome

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more of the focus on community and primary care, and the emphasis on

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prevention, and I welcome the North -- but I have concerns, and when we

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have got time to digest the document and maybe dig into the

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detail behind the document, for example we have the situation

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whereby Minister has told us about the road map for the future and

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about how at the 17 integrated care Partnerships will be able to

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achieve sign-off. What does that mean? That is what we will be

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asking the minister? If they can be a veto threat that process. So

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approval needs to be sought. But I will be asking the minister

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tomorrow who is going to be on the clinical Forum, and where others

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people going to be from, and what is their role and how much power do

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they have? We could have a situation whereby there is a local

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plan worked out, and as that goes further up the line, that is vetoed.

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So I would be concerned about the detail behind the document, probing

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into what is not in the document, and I suppose I am trying hard not

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to be cynical. Formal consultation - Mac no formal consultation - is

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that a concern at all viewers? did press on the need for

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consultation, and we thought that because there was so much Prix

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consultation done, I would encourage people to download the

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document if you have broadband provision at home. But to have a

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look at the document and to send your thoughts to the minister on it,

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because I think that when people get the chance to study it properly

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there will be things that concerned them. It is important that we as

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the health committee are able to scrutinise the department and John

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Compton in this document. Is there a role city divided, that will

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appear with the loss of any services and surgery in some of the

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acute hospitals? Again, nothing is named in the report, it is careful

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in that, that you have to be between the lines to see what is

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being said. So he has left that as a political decision, rather than

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the review team making the decision which hospitals have an X beside

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them? We know that some times the decision is taken out of the hands

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of the local minister, so there could be times when there will

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college says that that service is not sustainable. So there are ways

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and means of deciding that a hospital should close without

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actually taking the political decision yourself. Thank you for

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joining us tonight. Legalised extortion was how one MLA

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described so-called pay-day loans today. Customers can face extremely

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high interest rates if they do not repay the money within the time

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agreed, and the number of companies offering the loans appears to be

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increasing. MLAs are calling for the Government in London to

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introduce tighter regulations in the industry. Many of these loans

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on offer are lent with extraordinary rates of interest,

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sometimes ten times the amount initially borrowed. These rates

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represent extortion to say the least, a legal form of loan sharks.

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One could compare pay-day loans to a scheme on offer for cash for gold.

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These companies are preying on the vulnerable and disadvantaged, who

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in hard times are desperate. think that it is incumbent on

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people like the Financial Services Authority to look at the issue of

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proposing a cap on the rates. I am not surprised that the proposer of

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the motion said that the coalition Government have expressed

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opposition. Many of their policies by what are driving people to was

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unveiling themselves of these facilities. If you type pay-day

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known into Google you get 9,300,000 references. The issue I believe is

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very easily defined - for words would cover it. Rising costs,

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static wages. That is at the better it -- a better end of it. At the

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worst end it is no wages. As the unemployment figures goal north of

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60,000. The Government has agreed to investigate the impact of a cap.

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This to my mind is to be welcomed, but there is concern this is just a

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holding response. And that it will not get much towards the research

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stage. The only sensible option here is tighter regulation rather

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How big an issue is those poor people coming to ask for help?

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Citizens Advice dealt with �37 million of debt in the previous

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year and only a small amount were pay day loans. The majority was

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credit card loans. A report last week showed that millions of

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Britons over the Christmas period may use pay day loans and hence the

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publicity. I think pay day loans are beginning to cause problems

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where people are facing a wider debt picture. Are they easier to

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get up than a credit card? The OFT is currently looking at how it

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these pay day loans are regulated. The application process is

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different for each kind and section 5 of the Consumer Credit Act

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regulates how people are able to apply and if you apply online there

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are questions as to whether this constitutes a regulated agreement.

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And they would be questions as to whether a credit check has been

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established which is reliable and robust enough. So I think pay day

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loans are coming on line in terms of whether it they are a viable

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kind of credit. The Justice Minister may be glad to see the

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back of question time this year as he seems to bear the brunt of most

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ill-temper from other members. Today he tackled questions on a

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possible Police Museum. Up first was the Education Minister and have

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you ever wondered what marks a school lead for closure and what

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marks the definition of a rural school? Rural schools are the heart

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of their communities and it will leave a huge gap in that area it is

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closed. Can the minister advise as to what Lee weight is given to

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rural school that finds itself in an unsustainable position? In terms

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of choice of language, if we have from rural school in an

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unsustainable position but it begs the question as to why we should

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maintain that school. We have to ensure that we do not allow the

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majority of our rural schools to reach that condition. The

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sustainable schools policy does allow for pariah the and the needs

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of rural communities to be taken into consideration -- allows for

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plurality. A school is considered rural air It is outside Belfast

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City Council area or outside the urban area of Derry City Council,

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said the vast majority of schools are classified as rural. But then

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primary schools are based on 140, rural primary schools are based on

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105, taking into account the accessibility of the community is

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also important. Rural communities will be able to bring forward any

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relevant information to the needs and requirements of that community

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and why a specific school should remain. But all decisions will have

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to be based on the needs of the pupils in the school. We cannot

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plan our future education system on the needs of school buildings.

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up, academic selection, and to his pain for some schools to run their

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tests. Does the Department have concerns about the legality of

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:16:52.:16:55.

schools charging pupils to sit tests? While the school is funded

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by it a private donor, and it appears that is the case in a

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number of circumstances, that a private donor is being used to fund

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the tests. Walid the school of parents are covering the cost

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themselves. The fact is that parents are being charged to excess

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a publicly-funded education. Even more worrying, parents are being

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charged to beat rejected and their children are being charged to be

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rejected from publicly funded education. That is a matter of

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concern for us all because we have held on to the right to education

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free at the point of delivery amicably have a case where a number

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of schools are charging or a private donor is covering the cost

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to allow a child into a school or to say that a child will not come

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into that school. It is a matter I intend to further investigate.

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up, David Ford was asked about progress on the planned policed

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Museum. I continue to fully support the creation of a police museum but

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there remain some issues to be resolved before the business case

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can be approved and submitted. There are outstanding questions in

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:18:31.:18:33.

terms of running costs and planning issues. To say I am disappointed

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would be an understatement. I have to impress upon the minister that

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he needs to take personal control of this. There is a clear feeling

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that officials are procrastinating, delaying, some would suggest

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deliberately so... Question, please! I would ask the Minister to

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make this one of his priority schemes and have a moving forward.

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I did make it clear that I personally net in July and my

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officials have been following the matter up. The reality is that

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business cases do have to be met. The issues relating to matters like

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planning also have been met. That is my ambition but it is not

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something the department can deliver on its own. Finally, will

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the Minister be taking action against republican protesters who

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camped outside 28 Fred prison last month? The department became aware

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that there were plans for the protest. Following discussions, it

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was decided to facilitate a peaceful protest in the grounds of

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Maghaberry present in alliance with the Convention on Human Rights.

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Officials attempted to make contact with the organisers of the protest

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in order to establish boundaries which would facilitate the protest.

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No response was received. The government arrange for notices to

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be protest did -- to be posted making clear that the protest was

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be conducted peacefully, without Fred to any persons, and must not

:20:29.:20:33.

present a threat to the court order of the prison. During the protest

:20:33.:20:38.

there was a minor it damage to property but there were no injuries

:20:38.:20:47.

to police or prison officers. We are currently examining CCTV

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footage of the protest. Any evidence of criminal behaviour by

:20:51.:20:55.

individuals will be a matter to be followed up by the police service

:20:55.:21:00.

and the Prosecution Service. All prisoners were given �five phone

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credit in order to keep in contact with their families while visits

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were suspended. That phone credit was paid from the prisoners amenity

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Fund. During the debate on the pay day loans today, their boss some

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advice from various MLAs. One suggested it was better to go to a

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credit union, another suggested overdrafts. What would your advice

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be? Our advice would be that there are cheaper ways to borrow than pay

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day loans. There are complaints about the charges people are

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incurring from their banks. That makes them extremely unpopular. I

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was surprised to hear that appearing on the floor today.

:21:49.:21:54.

Currently, credit unions are not regulated, that is coming in in

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20th April 12. Our message would be due not overstretch yourself. It is

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a long time to the next pay-day from the middle of December to do

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middle of January. Where should people go, should they go and talk

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to their bank manager if they have a bank account? An independent

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financial adviser would be what we would recommend. We can refer them

:22:22.:22:27.

to do financial ombudsman's service if they had been taken advantage of.

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Complaints can be taken by a individuals if they feel they have

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been treated unfairly. We would say keep an eye on your finances. If

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you do have a number of debts, a pay day loans can put you in a

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position that you would not expect. It is the time of year to look back

:22:48.:22:53.

and reflect and who better to give us a sense of assembly business

:22:53.:22:57.

than a political correspondent? There are those who will tell you

:22:57.:23:02.

that nothing happens appear on the hill, but that is not quite true.

:23:02.:23:08.

He is my history of what has been happening. Since September there

:23:08.:23:14.

have been 27 plenary sittings of the assembly, a total of 72 motions

:23:14.:23:21.

have been debated, 64 of which were carried. 65,400 questions were

:23:21.:23:26.

tabled for written and oral answer. I am afraid not a single bill was

:23:26.:23:31.

passed. On the plus side, at the programme for government was agreed

:23:32.:23:38.

and is out for consultation. Not a single MLA managed to get himself

:23:38.:23:41.

suspended during this term there there was some bad behaviour in the

:23:41.:23:48.

public gallery last week. That is the first time such a thing has

:23:48.:23:52.

happened in the history of the assembly. He won name for your

:23:52.:23:58.

poetic genius in the political unit and you have penned a special one

:23:58.:24:04.

for Russ. Modestly, I have to agree with you! What better way to

:24:04.:24:09.

reflect what has been happening in the assembly than with some poetic

:24:09.:24:16.

justice, with a festive twist? It was that night before Christmas and

:24:16.:24:25.

all through the House not eight MLA stirred. Through the doors that

:24:25.:24:31.

Peter Martin and their festive crystal ball. First the not in

:24:31.:24:37.

Gwent -- inconsequential matter of the presidential election. Martin

:24:37.:24:45.

escaped to the land of Nana. Martin raised to farce. Come, come, said

:24:45.:24:50.

Peter, it is still them and us. Peter said, a little bit too loud,

:24:51.:24:59.

you are no Gerald date. Coming dangerously close to making a scene,

:24:59.:25:05.

Peter asked, would the minister meet the Queen? Never, and roared

:25:05.:25:13.

Martin. You know, said Peter, you sound just like the dock. Both men

:25:13.:25:18.

tested an absent friend. It is the season to be memory, Peter tasted

:25:19.:25:27.

gym, and Martin tasted Jerry. should rename him our poetic

:25:27.:25:34.

correspondent! Since it is the season of goodwill we decided to

:25:34.:25:41.

ask some of our MLAs to play Secret Santa, their task being to choose a

:25:41.:25:46.

present for a fellow MLA. He is what they said, company by the

:25:46.:25:55.

choir from Newtownards Model Primary School. One thing I would

:25:55.:26:03.

like for Christmas is a couple of tickets for Westlife's farewell

:26:03.:26:10.

tour. They are in Croke Park and other places in 2012. And they are

:26:10.:26:20.
:26:20.:26:23.

a good group. I would laugh a brand new iPad2, thank you very much! I

:26:23.:26:27.

watch my colleague using this in the assembly, and I think it is an

:26:27.:26:33.

amazing device. So anybody out there thinking of buying me a

:26:33.:26:43.
:26:43.:26:44.

present, and nice iPad2 would be very much appreciated! If you could

:26:44.:26:48.

be Secret Santa this year, he would you choose to buy a present form

:26:48.:26:55.

what would it be. I was thinking about this. At the end of the day,

:26:55.:26:59.

there are few people day you could buy presents for but definitely

:26:59.:27:09.
:27:09.:27:12.

fake smile for Michael. It would do him no harm around Christmas.

:27:12.:27:20.

Obviously, I would have to buy a gym a high quality bottle of red

:27:20.:27:24.

wine, mainly in the hope that he would give it back to me, as he

:27:24.:27:30.

does not drink! It would be difficult but out of duty to my

:27:30.:27:37.

constituents who would have to produce 107 p 45 so because I do

:27:37.:27:47.
:27:47.:27:49.

have to say that this place is a shambles. And, of course, other

:27:49.:27:56.

tablet devices are available. People do tend to spend a lot of

:27:56.:28:02.

money, particularly in the last few weeks. Any advice, without spoiling

:28:02.:28:12.
:28:12.:28:12.

Christmas? Thought for a kiss. Time spent together. Consider how long

:28:12.:28:18.

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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