15/10/2013 Stormont Today


15/10/2013

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


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Transcript


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Welcome to Stormont Today. Coming up in the next 30 minutes, the National

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Crime Agency may not have been introduced in Northern Ireland, but

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today it got the backing of the Assembly.

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These are problems that are not unique to Northern Ireland.

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Indeed, they are international issues that demand an international

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response. The NCA offers that response.

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The Environment Minister said there'll be no fracking on his

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watch, but the Enterprise Minister has a different take. This is, and I

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recognise it as such, a novel and controversial issue and therefore,

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this matter will be taken to the executive and this will be a matter

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for the executive as a whole. I'm joined by the Irish News

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journalist Allison Morris, in the studio.

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The National Crime Agency was launched a week ago, dubbed the

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British FBI, it will takele organised and economic crime, border

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policing, child protection and cyber crime. Here, it's only got limited

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powers. Sinn Fein and the SDLP blocked moves to give it powers to

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recruit agents and carry out operations.

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There were call today for the NCA to be moved to Northern Ireland as

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quickly as possible. Time has moved on, as has the ability to criminals

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to at times seemingly be one step ahead of the law. It's of paramount

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importance therefore that every possible resource that the PSNI can

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have at that disposal to be one step ahead of the criminals that are

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involved in this type of activity. Every one of our chemical weapons

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that rerepresent, Mr Speaker, has the right to expect their

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representatives to support the work of an agency that's committed to

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bringing to justice the evil criminals. The minister will know we

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are working with his department and are meeting with the Home Secretary

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in relation to our concerns. The concerns are many. It's not just

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around some of the broader criminal justice families, such as the CAJ,

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who've said, the proposals of the National Crime Agency in effect

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insert another Police Service into Northern Ireland, accountable to the

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Home Secretary and largely outside of the reach of the local

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accountability structures committed to the following - the pat tonner,

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in particular the Policing Board. We have a bottom line on this, Mr

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Speaker, and the bottom line is, the NCA must be accountable to the

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Policing Board. Nothing less will allay the concerns

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of the SDLP. I think the whole area's been a test of the devolution

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of policing and justice. That test has failed thus far.

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We are currently in a situation where the UK agency dealing with the

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most serious criminals in not in operation here. A body to set up the

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exploitation of child, an agency which will robustly pursue the most

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serious criminals, an organisation with links internationally, this is

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something I'm proud of. People trafficked into Northern Ireland

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from across the globe for sexual exploitation and domestic servitude,

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extortion, money lending, robbery, contraband, burglary and

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paramilitaries and nearly 4,500 drugs seizures. These are problems

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that are not unique to Northern Ireland. Indeed, they are internap

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issues that demand an international response.

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The NCA offers that response. Working as the Home Office says to

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can Equitable the efforts -- sect the efforts of local policing and

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neighbourhood policing to action agencies and action overseas to

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coordinate the fight against some of the UK's most harmful criminals.

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Both parties are hampering back to the old RUC. We know what that

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lesson was, the accountability of it. We know what it meant and in a

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way they've pointed out what is at the base of this discussion today

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that on accountability has been saying the experience in the Spas

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that it will lead to corruption. But they did in the end set up the Good

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Friday Agreement to St Andrews and indeed to Hillsborough and to the

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devolution of policing and justice. It's not surprise to me that those

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who're cronies of Slab Murphy naturally take a stance to disrupt

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and thwart the NACs. It's a disappointment to me that those on

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the national side of the community who've stood on the side of law and

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order do make a choice, that it's more important to dance on the Head

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of That pin than it is to fight organised crime.

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I welcome the fact we have had this debate. I work welcome the fact

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there's been finger pointing across the chime before. There is a lot of

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agreement about ensuring we have the best possible methods of fighting

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crime with fullest possible accountability to recognise our

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specific architecture around policing matters here and that is a

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significant step forward for what might otherwise have been a very

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devisive debate. The Justice Minister speaking about

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the NCA. The motion recognising the concerns of the Chief Constable was

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passed in the Assembly. With me in the studio is Allison Morris from

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the Irish News. Welcome to the programme. Thank you very much for

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joining us. The issues being dealt with by the NCA involve, as we know,

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international crime, which doesn't respect country's borders. The fear

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on the part of unionists is that we are going to be left vulnerable if

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it doesn't operate here. Might they have a point? The kind of crime the

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NCA was put in place to tackle doesn't respect borders. We have

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cyber crime also which wouldn't have been an issue ten years ago. There

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is an international response needed to those types of crimes such as

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drug trafficking which we know involves lots of cross border crime

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from different countries and the PSNI wouldn't be in a position to

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deal with that solely on their own. They have a point in a way. I don't

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think the parties are arguing there is a need for an international

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police intervention to help bolster up the PSNI. What they are in

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arguments over is how that police force wilbe monitored when it's

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working within Northern Ireland. So it's a question of accountability?

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It is, yes. Does the critical position in all of this really rest

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with the Home Secretary in London, Theresa May? Does she hold the key,

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do you think? She could in that she could I suppose in some way change

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the legislation in that it could be accountable in some way that it

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would fall under the Chief Constable's power, therefore it

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would be accountable to the police board. It operates in England and

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Wales fine without intervention from say the Welsh Assembly. There will

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be no accountability there, but the problem is, Northern Ireland is in a

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unique position. It comes to policing, there'll be agents in the

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north and in the past, the legacy of what's happened when we've had MI5

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and Special Branch, that still stings, especially in the

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nationalist community, where you are seeing a divide, a nationalist

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divide on the NCA. We saw the Justice Minister and the Home

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Secretary called upon to introduce aMEPPedments to make the NCA

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accountable to the police board here. Is that a softening do you

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think to their position? They are aware they are going to have to be

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accountable at some time. They are conscious they'll have to be

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agreeable. The NCA has said they'd meet with the Policing Board

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regularly. That doesn't mean he has to do anything or has to abide by

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the conditions they place on him. He still does have the party operating

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as a sole organisation, assisting the PSNI who obviously, we have seen

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journalists when we called in mutual assistance officers, they don't have

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the facilities to deal with the global crimes so they need the

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backup. Unionists have accused nationalists of rhetoric. Is it more

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complicated th that? Enit comes to Sinn Fein, yes. When they signed up

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to policing, it was sold to the nationalist can commune who remember

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the RUC and the problems that went with that. They sold them on that

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point that it would always be accountable, that there would be an

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ombudsman and Policing Board and that the two bodies would be held to

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account and Sinn Fein would be there on the board holding them to

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account. Now we have a second police force in the NCA who're going to

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come in and operate here. What they haven't said is that they are saying

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drugs, people trafficking, that may involve terrorist activity which,

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also as we know with regards to drugs and guns, would also involve

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the NCA and they haven't said what role they are going to have on that.

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Interesting to hear your thoughts. Talk to you later in the programme.

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Thank you very much. The First Minister said today

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there's no question of him taking any sanction against Edwin Putts

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after a judge ruled the minister broke the ministerial code. Peter

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Robinson was speaking at the lunch of an exhibition of photographs

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about human trafficking and started by telling Mark Devonport why the

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Bill making its way through the Assembly in his view is so

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important. It's very important and we can give a lead, not just in

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terms of the UK but more widely than that, that this would be a Bill that

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I think takes a lead in terms of its provisions, first of all in terms of

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dealing with traffickers, secondly in relation to the victims and

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thirdly in trying to diminish the demapped. That's what a lot of the

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issues are about, showing that human exploitation goes to the vanity and

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fashion that some people have, young people being exploited within the

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trade. Also, the sexual exploitation of people and the images are

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striking and I think it raises the profile of the issue at a time where

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we are looking for the maximum level of support in the Assembly for the

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Bill. Let's move to other topics. Is it fair to say, taking your answers

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in Question Time yesterday into account, that you have full

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confidence in Edwin Putts despite the recent court judgment? There is

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no question of that at all. It's not a question of the judgment. The

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judgment, if it was to be carried into our normal practices in

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Northern Ireland, would have seen every minister at the executive

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table having been in breach of the ministerial code. It's a very wide

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interpretation of the ministerial code, one I think the executive is

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going to have to look at. Edwin Putts is not the First Minister to

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be brought before the courts. I didn't hear when Margaret Ritchie

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was before the courts having defy matters. I didn't hear you or

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anybody else saying she should be dismissed or punished. This is an

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issue where there are arguments around it. I suspect it may well go

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to appeal, even appeal because the GB department might find that some

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of the ruling has serious implications for devolution itself.

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You don't see any reason to take any sanction? I dismiss the issues.

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People will try to bring issues of that kind to the fore. This is not

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an issue I would take into account in terms of whether the minister

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should in any way be sanctioned. It's clear the minister acted in

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good faith. The ruling is such that it indicates that the minister, if

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he had stopped and banned blood from MSN coming into Northern Ireland

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from outside, he would not have had the same kind of ruling. The key

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issue in all of this is the ministerial code of that, it's

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critical from our point of view, we believe that any major decision, any

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controversial decision should be brought to the executive. If every

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decision which is cross cutting, which is virtually any spending

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decision at all, has to be brought to the executive, and when any

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minister falls foul. This doesn't change anything either

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way? Those are issues I'll look at at the end of the year but it has no

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bearing. Are you concerned about the legal advice that says the clauses,

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which were part of your economic pact with David Cameron, might fall

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foul of the European convention on human rights, clauses on the

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planning bill? The one thing we know is that when you get into the legal

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system, you will get any number of views that you want on the issues.

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Ultimately the courts will decide if somebody takes that step and brings

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it into the courts. The Enterprise Minister was on her

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feet at Question Time today, as with the Environment Minister yesterday.

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She was asked about the issue of hydraulic fracturing, fracking to

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you and me, along with 2 benefits of our booming TV and film industry.

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She answered a question about the competitive cycling races coming to

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Northern Ireland first. I make no secret of the fact that I hope the

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Tour de France does come to Northern Ireland in the near future when they

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see how well we are able to host it. As the member will know, and I've

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answered his previous topical question in relation to the area I

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love and know very well. I have no input into the choice of route. I

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think that's something that some people got a little excited about,

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but they shouldn't have, because the route was picked by the

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professionals, by the people who're planning the route. They had very

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stringent reasons for why they picked different routes,

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particularly in relation to time trials and what have you, and

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therefore we had no impact at all in relation to where the route should

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go. I wanted to put that on the record to you today because

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otherwise it would have been coming to county Fermanagh, lets's be

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honest. Would the minister give us a brief outline of the process

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required to a granted licence for hydraulic fracturing, or the process

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just outlined. If the landowners' consent is required for the use of

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the land... In Northern Ireland, holders of petroleum licences need

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to obtain the permission of the landowners beneath whose land they

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wish to drill. The landowners permission is asked for. If it's

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granted, then that can take place. At present, as I understand it, from

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the company in counter Fermanagh, they expect to apply to drill a deep

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borehole to retrieve rock core for analysis. They haven't applied to

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the department to drill for that hole as yet. What they want to do is

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take out some of the shale to have a look at it. As yet, that

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application's not taken place. The US is managed to bring down the

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price of energy in a dramatic way because of shale gas.

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They are able now to bring manufacturing back from China and

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other places across the world. I think we need to take note of that.

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There's no doubt about it. I listened to the Environment Minister

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during his Question Time saying that the application wouldn't happen on

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his watch. I think that was his phrase that he used. I think he

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needs to reflect on the fact that this is, and I recognise it as such,

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a novel and controversial issue. Therefore, this matter will be taken

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to the executive and this will be a matter for the executive sad a whole

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to decide on, not just from my part, but from his part and every other

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minister in the Northern Ireland Executive will have to take this mat

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tore the executive for a decision. That's something that I've known for

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some considerable time. But it's something that's been really

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underlined for me by the judgment last Friday of Mr Justice Tracey

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when he said the issues need to be taken to the executive. Therefore,

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the decision in relation to hydraulic fracturing, no matter what

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each individual minister may think about it, the decision needs to be

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taken by the Northern Ireland Executive. The game of thrones has

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brought a lot of fume to Northern Ireland. Are there any tourist

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opportunities that have come from the decision of game of thrones to

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shoot here? Absolutely. I hadn't realised how

:17:27.:17:32.

internationally thought of the Game of Thrones was, nil was in Brazil

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talking about tourism opportunities, then I mentioned the fact that in

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June, the Tourist Board, along with Northern Ireland screen were

:17:43.:17:44.

bringing the Game of Thrones to Belfast, all of a sudden everybody

:17:45.:17:48.

lit up because they were very much aware of the Game of Thrones on HBO.

:17:49.:17:53.

That exhibition took place in June and we are also now developing a

:17:54.:18:00.

tourism trail for the Game of Thrones, so people can see where

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they are all filmed. As well ass Game of Thrones, there are many

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other sets across Northern Ireland which can benefit from tourism

:18:09.:18:12.

visits as well, I'm thinking particularly, as you would expect me

:18:13.:18:19.

to, of Blandings, filmed in counter Fermanagh. Already, it's been

:18:20.:18:22.

referred to as Northern Ireland's high Claire which of course is the

:18:23.:18:26.

set of Downton. So we are very pleased there are all of these

:18:27.:18:29.

tourism opportunities, as well as the business opportunities from the

:18:30.:18:35.

creative industries. Arlene Foster.

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The Finance Minister also faced questions. It was serious stuff as

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he was asked about the future of the Ulster Bank, whether the help to buy

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a mortgage scheme would be extended to Northern Ireland and how big an

:18:47.:18:55.

influence the banks is having north of the border...

:18:56.:18:59.

?3.5 billion. They have been, as the member will be aware, selling assets

:19:00.:19:05.

off as they become viable to sell them off. One thing they stressed to

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me, and we were all concerned about NAMA - we wanted to ensure that the

:19:19.:19:21.

fears we had, there could NAMA - we wanted to ensure that the

:19:22.:19:35.

point out that not only has there been a fire sale, but in order to

:19:36.:19:42.

lend people money, not only have we put ?140,000 into the economy, which

:19:43.:19:50.

has gone forward, we have some significant commercial property in

:19:51.:19:54.

the centre of Belfast as well. The future of Ulster is something we are

:19:55.:19:58.

closely monitoring, not least because of its significant size in

:19:59.:20:02.

Northern Ireland. It is our biggest lending bank in Northern Ireland,

:20:03.:20:05.

despite its problems and the issues it currently has and is still

:20:06.:20:10.

dealing with. It has a 30% plus share of the market in Northern

:20:11.:20:13.

Ireland because it's the only bank that we have that is national Lil

:20:14.:20:19.

owned at UK level. It's frequently the only one that reveals various

:20:20.:20:24.

lending national Nish 'tils. Ulster Bank for all the difficulties it

:20:25.:20:28.

faces and continues to face, it's obviously something we are concerned

:20:29.:20:31.

about, its future. We want to see it operating in Northern Ireland as a

:20:32.:20:35.

property functioning bank. It's incredibly critical to our economy

:20:36.:20:38.

that the bank does function properly and is able to get loans out to

:20:39.:20:42.

businesses so they can start to grow and employ people in Northern

:20:43.:20:44.

Ireland. The help to buy mortgage guarantee

:20:45.:20:50.

scheme is now rolled out in the UK and has been taken up by a few of

:20:51.:20:56.

the big high street banks. The likes of RBS, although not the Ulster

:20:57.:21:00.

Barnett, though I understand they are considering it - - Ulster Bank.

:21:01.:21:06.

Halifax as well who lend in Northern Ireland, and recently Barclays have

:21:07.:21:13.

joined the scheme. Nationwide are the only big mortgage

:21:14.:21:18.

lender not now part of the help to buy mortgage guarantee scheme.

:21:19.:21:24.

It is an attractive scheme in that the Government will guarantee up to

:21:25.:21:29.

15% of a property, meaning that only 5% of a mortgage deposit is required

:21:30.:21:33.

from those who might want to get on to the property ladder. I think this

:21:34.:21:39.

scheme, on top of the highly successive and well-funded

:21:40.:21:42.

co-attorneyship scheme, does have potential that a system of recovery

:21:43.:21:45.

of the housing market. If there is a scheme which has the potential to

:21:46.:21:52.

help, people get on to the housing market, it would be a shame if that

:21:53.:21:55.

scheme, which is operating, functioning already, in mainland

:21:56.:21:59.

Great Britain, is not operating in Northern Ireland because local banks

:22:00.:22:04.

aren't joining it. Can I ask the minister what will he do to prevent

:22:05.:22:08.

further interventions and major capital protests to create jobs in

:22:09.:22:13.

our local economy? There was a major party political

:22:14.:22:18.

intervention in the form of the members colleague, the member for

:22:19.:22:21.

Belfast, Mr Kelly, which did more damage to the peace centre in that

:22:22.:22:25.

project going forward than anything else nub else did. Before the member

:22:26.:22:29.

wishes to criticise others, perhaps he should look at the actions of

:22:30.:22:34.

some of his open colleagues in that respect.

:22:35.:22:36.

Earlier this month, the performance of two of Northern Ireland's prisons

:22:37.:22:40.

with was called into question. A criminal justice inspection made a

:22:41.:22:43.

report of 150 recommendations for improvements at the women's prison

:22:44.:22:48.

and young offenders centre in Belfast. There were criticisms of

:22:49.:22:51.

the approach to tackling drugs and the excess of strip searching of

:22:52.:22:55.

women prisoners. The findings were brought before the chamber today in

:22:56.:22:58.

a Sinn Fein motion calling on the Justice Minister to ensure the

:22:59.:23:02.

prison reform programme moves forward. The 2010 review of the

:23:03.:23:06.

Prison Service made reference to the fact that women and young adults are

:23:07.:23:09.

poorly served by the prison system which has created primarily to serve

:23:10.:23:17.

the needs of adult men. This particular prison is a poor prison

:23:18.:23:28.

for women. Women prisoners form a small proportion of prisoners. Many

:23:29.:23:35.

have mental health problems. Many have dependent children and are

:23:36.:23:38.

often the sole careers and many problems emanate as a result of that

:23:39.:23:42.

for the children and for the women. Women are much less likely to

:23:43.:23:46.

reoffend when compared with men, only 20% are re-convicted.

:23:47.:23:50.

There are a number of things that have been happening which cause me

:23:51.:23:55.

concern and my party. That is the breakdown in the relaitionzship

:23:56.:24:00.

between the management and the staff associations the minister refers to

:24:01.:24:04.

as being important at taking forward a changed programme. I spoke with

:24:05.:24:08.

the chairman of the Prison Officers' Association this morning. I'll not

:24:09.:24:13.

repeat some of the rang wadge, by need toless, it was evident to me

:24:14.:24:16.

that that relationship between the staff associations and the prison

:24:17.:24:43.

management is non-existent -- language.

:24:44.:24:45.

There was a feeling by some of the staff that they are getting the

:24:46.:24:48.

wrong end of the stick in this and they are getting a lot of the

:24:49.:24:51.

criticism that's unjustified to them. The Chief Inspector in his

:24:52.:25:01.

report used this paragraph; "overall, this is a disappointing

:25:02.:25:04.

inspection, in particular because women continue to be held in a

:25:05.:25:10.

predominantly male prison which was having a significant and intractable

:25:11.:25:16.

impact upon outcomes and experience. Women were reasonably well cared for

:25:17.:25:20.

but they were inevitably marginalise and restricted in access to

:25:21.:25:24.

facilities and service. There was also evidence of intimidation from

:25:25.:25:28.

male prisoners from time to time. " Only, and I emphasise this point,

:25:29.:25:35.

only the long promise closure and replacement of the prison would

:25:36.:25:40.

resolve the problems we see. We mustn't forget this is a reform

:25:41.:25:42.

agenda put in place by the minister that has delivered sentence plans

:25:43.:25:47.

for all offenders. Now the plans are in place for everyone, it's quite

:25:48.:25:51.

right that we look at the further improvements that can be made. What

:25:52.:25:55.

we mustn't lose sight of is the fact that we have come from a situation

:25:56.:25:58.

where there were no plans for offenders at all. Mr Speaker, it's

:25:59.:26:05.

clear that we also need to continue to develop unknow straitive

:26:06.:26:08.

approaches to deal with women prisoners whose needs are very

:26:09.:26:11.

different from their male counterparts. Those involved in the

:26:12.:26:16.

delivery of activities were frustrated at the lack of resources

:26:17.:26:22.

and activities in the youth offenders centre. There was no

:26:23.:26:27.

planned approach for activities. Everything was dis-I didn't

:26:28.:26:31.

isjointed which resulted in young people's disinterest in taking up

:26:32.:26:34.

activities. This has been confirmed in the report.

:26:35.:26:43.

in thereport. report.

:26:44.:26:47.

S problem is the cancellation of things at the last minute. The

:26:48.:26:52.

Government told us themselves that if the prison is down five or six

:26:53.:26:58.

staff, the prison has problems. That will be a major impact on the

:26:59.:27:03.

educational activities. The overall rating of Ash House was heavily

:27:04.:27:10.

influenced by the YOC. The physical conditions were good

:27:11.:27:15.

and clean. I certainly agree and have done for

:27:16.:27:20.

a long time, that the co-lowcation of female offenders is far from the

:27:21.:27:31.

ideal -- colocation. Many people inside and outside Government are

:27:32.:27:35.

working to make changes realities. I'm greatly encouraged by the work

:27:36.:27:39.

being done to reform our prisons. As with any major reform programme, the

:27:40.:27:45.

challenge is to see the work through to April 2015 and to ensure the

:27:46.:27:50.

progress that's being made to date continues.

:27:51.:27:52.

The Justice Minister who had a busy day today. Allison Morris is with me

:27:53.:27:57.

again. We saw the First Minister in the programme earlier continuing to

:27:58.:28:01.

support the Health Minister, Edwin Putts. We shouldn't be surprised at

:28:02.:28:06.

that? No, he obviously still has the support of his leader. He was

:28:07.:28:15.

advised by his own advisers on the situation of giving blood in the

:28:16.:28:26.

High Court. Peter Robinson has said that. We have a minister totally

:28:27.:28:31.

unaccountable to someone. Decisions that are going against public

:28:32.:28:36.

opinion and equality practices and regardless of that, he seems to be

:28:37.:28:40.

able to get away with it. Thank you very much.

:28:41.:28:44.

That is it from all of us. Join me for The View on Thursday night.

:28:45.:28:47.

Thanks for watching. Bye.

:28:48.:28:53.

A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Mark Carruthers is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont, and is joined by key people from decision makers to opinion formers to make the experience enlightening and entertaining.


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