18/02/2014 Stormont Today


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

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Hello and welcome to Stormont Today. Coming up on the programme.


The Health Minister hopes new legislation on tobacco retailers


will stop young people smoking. Northern Ireland has the highest


smoking prevalence in the UK and every year around 2300 people in


Northern Ireland die from smoking-related illnesses.


The Justice Minister's still under fire for changing the criteria for


the Chief Constable's job. What the Minister now accept that he


made an error of judgement in the way he handled the whole issue of


changing the criteria for the appointment of the chieftains to?


And the political commentator Alex Kane joins me in the studio.


A bill to create a register of tobacco retailers


A bill to create a register of selling cigarettes to under 16s has


A bill to create a register of are 357,000 smokers in Northern


Ireland and about 2,300 people die from smoking-related illnesses every


year. The main purpose of this bill is to


make sure that the minimum age of Sail policy for tobacco products is


more rigourously applied by retailers. This will be achieved by


introducing tougher measures for noncompliance. It is a well-known


fact that the majority of smokers take up smoking before they reach


adult hood. Most smokers will have tried their first cigarette and many


will have become addicted before they are legally allowed to purchase


tobacco products. In Northern Ireland, more than 357,000 adults


are smokers. This represents 25 per cent of the population. Northern


Ireland has the highest smoking prevalence in the UK and every year


around 2300 people in Northern Ireland die from smoking-related


illnesses. Members will be aware that on the 3rd of February, the


assembly approved a legislative motion. The amendment concerns the


retail packaging of tobacco products, more commonly referred to


as standardised packaging. The effect is to provide the Secretary


of State with the powers on a UK wide basis. These revelations may


impose requirements in relation to the appearance of and markings on


tobacco products as well as the internal packaging in any wrappers.


Another important amendment was in relation to who can still -- apply


as a tobacco retailer. This was a significant issue and was discussed


at length by the committee. We took the view that given the


responsibility involved in selling tobacco, somebody who has a serious


conviction should be prevented from registering as a tobacco retailer.


After consideration, the department proposed an amendment which is


contained in clause four. A allowed to register as a tobacco


retailer for a period of five years from the date of the conviction. To


those who are not here today, and I wonder why they are not, for those


who say this is the nanny state or this is unacceptable, it is very


clear that society has had a sea change in its view on smoking. Thank


you, Mr Speaker. Can I just point out to the member, and I support his


views on smoking, I am supportive of all the measures against tobacco,


but most of the people saying it is the nanny state have been his party


colleagues. By their absence, I think they are realising the tide is


inexorable. They have always made it very clear that they pose not on


health issues but on employment issues. They are defending their


constituents jobs. Where riders agree was that perhaps


by a fine of ?1000 per the retailer could profit, even by losing his


licence. It is important that there was an increased fine for stopping


an officer from gaining access to evidence that would perhaps allow


conviction. I am pleased, following lobbying by the committee, the


Minister has agreed to increase that to ?5,000. Listening to the debate


this morning, it is one of the best reasons why this assembly should


only ever grant accelerated passage in exceptional circumstances because


when you look at the work the committee, the engagement they had


with the department, and to be fair to the Department, they were


receptive on how to improve a piece of legislation, he talked about the


amendment he was particularly strong on, and this is a better


amendment he was particularly strong today? Which is almost a novelty in


Northern Ireland. It is a good sign. It is one of the few occasions


when they have taken a bill quite literally from start to finish


without great acrimonious. Actually, for most of the time, they had a


very serious debate about it. There was not any of the dissension in the


DUP ranks which we have seen about cigarette packaging but it was


referred to very clearly. There was nice little interplay between Jim


Wells and John McCallister. East Antrim and North Antrim are both DUP


held constituencies and fewer people smoking fewer cigarettes so fewer


production means unemployment. The cycle is going to last for the next


two years. No Assembly Member wanting to defend their seat wants


to go to that electorate and say the consequence of what we have done may


result in thousands of people being let off. You don't oversimplify it


but it is not wrong to say that fundamentally, in a sense, the


debate can be distilled down to jobs versus health. That is exactly what


it is and that is not unique to Northern Ireland. We should not


forget that. It is 25% of adults smoking in Northern Ireland but when


I was born in the 1950s, it would have been 70% so it has gone down.


Ynyr Llwyd and has gone down. It is going to continue to go down because


you can't bombard people with the reality of smoking and expect them


to compete -- continue to smoke. You had Edwin Poots playing the health


card very clearly in the chamber today but you have got Sammy Paulo


in Westminster and here and Ian Paisley Junior in Westminster saying


this is about jobs and what is best for constituents. They don't want to


encourage people to smoke but if they do, they want to make sure they


come from their constituency. Every sitting member will have to make


that argument in defence of their own constituency. I am surprised


that Edwin Poots has not made a stronger case


that Edwin Poots has not made a Health Service. It is also a cost in


terms of long-term health. I am surprised he is not offering that. A


quick point on John McCallister that accelerated passage should only be


used in exceptional circumstances. He thinks it is better legislation.


It is always better legislation. It usually comes with terrorism or


economic stuff when you push them through very quickly but some of the


nuances are lost and it is only three or four years later you


realise you should have taken your time.


Alex Kane, thank you for now. The Justice Minister, David Ford, told


the Assembly he did nothing wrong in his handling of the appointment


criteria for the post of PSNI Chief Constable. Mr Ford was asked if he


had made an error of judgement during Question Time today. The


Justice Minister was also asked about changes to legal aid and the


financial implications of the Richard Haass proposals.


Leaving aside the proposals that came out of the Richard Haass


process, does the Minister accept the status quo is not tenable and if


so what pressures and what ideas does he have to deal with the


pressures? I am thinking of coroners courts, Article two compliance under


the European Convention of human rights. What additional resources


does he envisaged for putting this right? I appreciate the question. I


am not sure I agree with the premise that the Richard Haass process


failed given that some of us has been spending several hours a week


this year trying to make the process tie together. What is absolutely


clear is that if we do not have the historical investigations unit they


will need to be significant work done by the Department of Justice


which is already underway in preparatory form to deal with issues


around the fact that some have been found to be not Article two


compliant. There are funny mental issues that will have to be


addressed to deal with some of those points. It is clear that anything we


do in that area will require some very considerable investment,


whether it is done under the Richard Haass process or something separate.


On the basis of the information currently available, there


On the basis of the information invited stakeholders to submit their


views on the proposals and work on sorties might be aware of any


additional data on the subject to submit any additional evidence


regarding the impact. I acknowledge these reforms may require


practitioners to consider more efficient models and adapt for the


future. However, the nature of legal aid reform is such that there is


such a long lead-in time allowing firms to adjust their practices. How


can the Minister seriously suggest, and I agree with him that there


needs to be reductions in legal aid, but how can he seriously suggest


that there will be no impact upon the profession? This certainly are a


small number of solicitors firms which gained significant income from


criminal defence work but they are the people who have the most


opportunity to adjust their business models to make sure they take into


account the changes. The simple reality is, even if you exclude the


very high cost cases, we are still looking at the average cost of a


Crown Court case in Northern Ireland being double the cost of a Crown


Court case in England and Wales. That is unsustainable. Will the


Minister accept that he made an error of judgement in the way he


handled the whole issue in the change of criteria for the


appointment of Chief const? No. I carried out my functions entirely in


accordance with the legislation to leave the Policing Board to carry


out its functions. I have nothing that I did wrong, I did it precisely


as I should have done it. Thank you. We'll minister not accept


it was a mistake that he didn't consult or talk to policing bird


dashboard and isn't a matter for them to make this decision? I really


would love to know how I didn't consult with the policing board when


this matter has been discussed since May of last year. A clearly


irritated David Ford. The Enterprise Minister has rejected a call from


the Alliance Party that murals should be removed from the route of


the Giro Italia. Arlene Foster said that provided they are not of a


paramilitary nature, the murals should remain to celebrate our


cultural heritage. The Minister also answered questions on


firstly, the number of flights in and out of our airports. I do hope


that we will be able to make some announcement in the near future in


relation to new routes. Obviously, it is critical and I am on record


many times as saying if we want to see more tourists coming to Northern


Ireland, we need to have more direct access. Canada remains very much,


for me, a key area where I would like to see direct access coming in


and we continue to make progress in that market. But, of course, we want


to see more connectivity through Belfast, through the international


or the city in terms of European destinations, as well, so we will


continue to work within airports. We believe that, if we are successful


in being able to bring the Rugby World Cup to both jurisdictions in


2023, it will make a huge difference in terms of how people view the


island and also, in terms of our tourism potential. Frankly, as a


rugby fan, I'm very excited by the prospect as well. In terms of flags


and emblems, obviously, this has been an issue which has caused some


people in Northern Ireland a concern in terms of the IRS you. We would


hope that when they are playing in Northern Ireland, Northern


Ireland's position in the UK will be respected and, of course, when we


are playing in the Republic of Ireland, their position will be


respected because, bid for the Rugby World Cup is absolutely nothing to


do with flags and emblems, it is do with sport. What would the Minister


think about the current proposal that perhaps we should refrain from


displaying election posters, flags and emblems, murals along the route


for the duration of the Giro d'Italia in order to sell Northern


Ireland even more effectively? I have no to the ongoing discussion


around this issue. Let me be clear on it. As regards election posters,


the dap to leader has already indicated that we will be more than


happy for them to be taken down right across Northern Ireland


because we don't need election posters to get the vote out,


frankly. So that much is very clear, but I have noted the comments of the


Alliance Party in relation to flags and murals. Let me


issues in and around murals and flags in working-class areas right


across Northern Ireland? Does he think it would be better to


encourage communities to deal with the issues, and I do commend the


work that has been going on in various communities, and indeed,


speaking to my colleague for East Belfast, he informs me a very


effective programme has been happening in east Belfast, for


example, where they have managed to take away some of the paramilitary


murals and put up murals to CS Lewis and others in East Belfast, and I


welcome that because I hope he's not suggesting we get rid of me was


completely. Murals are actually come if he listens to what he said, he


said get would have murals, they are part of a cultural expression, right


across Belfast. And Northern Ireland, and I think it would be sad


if the visitors Northern Ireland couldn't engage in appreciating the


rich cultural heritage that we have here in Northern Ireland.


Paramilitary murals, of course they should never have gone up. But I


have to say, pronouncements from here won't solve that. Working with


communities will, and I commend those in this House who do work with


that. Working with communities will, and I commend those in this House


who do work with the committees and tried to solve those problems.


Arlene Foster. And cycling was also on the agenda for the Regional


Development Minister today. Danny Kennedy was asked about election


posters on the Giro d'Italia route and if bikes could be allowed on


buses. But first, the Minister was asked about damage to the road


network caused by the recent bad weather. A number of roads in


Northern Ireland has suffered damage as a result of recent tidal events


and storms. I have today placed in the assembly library a comprehensive


list of those locations where roads have been subject to sea wall


damage, or undermining as a result of storm damage since the turn of


the year. During last week's severe weather, short section of road


between... Collapsed. We are assessing the situation to repair


them as soon as possible. We have carried out remedial works as a


number of locations. And preparatory work is underway in the advancement


of works at other locations, however, it could be sometime before


the impact is known. And necessary repairs are fermented and the full


cost is realised the estimate cost is currently 1.2 million. However,


this figure could increase significantly once detailed


inspections of sea defences are completed. Given your


responsibilities for lamp posts and road signs, what is your view on


restricting election posters from the various routes of the Giro


d'Italia? My party colleague Robin Swan, was the first person to


advocate that the political parties in the run-up to the European


elections should available opportunity to promote the area


positively and therefore, not show the election posters until after the


event. I agree with those sentiments, and I have other parties


in that spirit will agree with that suggestion. Would he agree with me


at important that we extend the removal of election posters to flags


that are turned to rags and other paramilitary paraphernalia? Which


are along the route of the Giro d'Italia? We don't like to see the


flag of the UK run to a rag, on any lamp post. And again, against that,


I appeal that if there are such incidences, and they can be dealt


with, appropriately, then it's a case. But there is a significant


difference between cultural and other murals, that many visitors and


tourists will like and expect to see. And illegal memorials and


monuments to paramilitary organisations. Recently, we haven't


had a proper cycle visibility on buses. I've spoken to the local


company and they have have rear vehicle and internal solutions for


bicycle transport on buses, and these can be attached to existing


stops, so I see no reason why this issue cannot be progress. Can I ask


him would he be willing issue cannot be progress. Can I ask


it will work? One of the successes that we are constrained by in terms


of room, available room for bicycles, to be placed on trains, I


know the train company has a political policy at the moment on


that. I'm happy to explore opportunities either to the private


sector or indeed via the train company as to how it can be improved


upon. The Roads Minister, Danny Kennedy. Business wasn't just


confined to the chamber today. A group from county Fermanagh met with


the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee at Stormont to discuss


wind energy. Renewable energy is a growing industry in Northern Ireland


and the Fermanagh Trust wants to see more engagement with the local


community on the subject. And joining me now is the trust's


director, Lauri McCusker. What was the purpose of today's meeting? The


purpose was to talk to the politicians and the stakeholders


about what communities can have in terms of renewable energy. And not


campaigning against it nor campaigning for it? What is your


position on it. In terms of wind energy, renewable energy, it is the


community's involvement. If they want to be involved, then we are


supportive but of communities have an issue, then it needs to be taken


on board by the politicians and planners. Very often Trinity 's do


have an issue with it for that they feel quite nervous about it and they


feel they are not heard by the big companies. Big companies, they say,


coming over their heads, to profit from the local environment. That is


how some group to see it. Absolutely. One of the key issues is


how the communities engage with this process of energy? In Northern


Ireland, we have a successful track record of credit union movements,


development of enterprise centres, and committed playgroups, and other


things, but in terms of energy, communities have a limited role but


it's been put upon them. Today's event was to explore how community


's can engage in energy discussions and builds on something which


happened to Mexico in London with the Department of climate change, a


document saying committed to route it should have ownership of this


process. How can they benefit from some of these developments? Well,


process. How can they benefit from generated by communities. In


Northern Ireland, we don't have target, so their committees are


playing an active role rather than a passive role. We need to turn the


discussions on its head, where to develop a lead discussion to get a


communities into the heart of it. Would you like to see, for example,


big companies who set up wind farms and other renewable energies, where


some of their profits are ploughed back into the local community? For


there to be a tangible benefit? There are committed benefit from


summer wind farms for the many would argue it's not enough but some


companies are stepping up to the plate now. If you look at what's


coming out of London, the Government there is insisting, following their


strategy, committees might be offered a shared in the ownership of


these developments that community is. -- communities. What about the


damage to the beauty of the local natural environment which can have a


big impact in terms of jobs? Communities need to being gauged and


have their say in this process -- engaged. 80%. Communities, to many


of them, they are hosting this development but don't have a say in


it. Interesting to hear your thoughts. Lauri McCusker, thank you.


Breakfast, we often hear, is the most important meal of the day and,


it seems, that's something all our MLAs can agree on. Today they passed


a motion calling for more to be done to make sure all schoolchildren are


fed properly before school. But first, the chair of the Health


Committee began by passing on her condolences to the families of two


young people who died as a result of eating disorders. The awful


tragedies particularly in relation to particular eating disorders that


have resulted in the untimely deaths of a number of young people, and I


do want to take this opportunity to send our


a result of this particular illness. Many children prepared the school


day both, coming to school adequately prepared. A proper


nutritional breakfast is an essential part of this preparation.


The primary purpose of the school is to educate. Not to provide catering


childminding service. The primary responsibility for ensuring children


arrive at school with a good breakfast in their stomachs and


ready to learn lies with the parents. It's about food. It's about


the quality of food. And it's about getting pupils to enjoy eating good


food. And it's about a preference of growing, cooking and eating good


food. And, essentially, underpinning all of that, it's about health. We


note that Paul diet is detrimental to children's learning. And


concentration and behaviour and it can affect participation in school


-- poor diet. We know children from low-income households and those


living in poverty are at greater risk of poor nutrition and are more


likely to have unhealthy food and have insufficient amounts food. John


O'Dowd. And Alex Kane is with me again. A rare enough event then,


cross-party agreement on something in the chamber. The importance of


children coming to school properly fed. It's one of those odd things, I


agree with them but John O'Dowd or any other MLAs was to feed my


children at 7am, they are more than welcome. You can't force them to


eat. The bigger issue is not food. A lot of teachers will tell you it's


children who are coming in tired. Because they been watching


television, playing games on their phones and computers, tired because


they are struggling into bed after a short nights sleep for the buck the


real problem for the children will eat when they choose to eat. It ties


in with his other issue at the moment, the common funding formula,


in with his other issue at the there a fair argument for saying


that but, again, comes down to the actual difficulty of making children


need. Yes, you can provide free school meals, have a breakfast club


for them, but the reality is, with most children, five or six years


old, 13 or 14, setting them down and saying, you must eat, that's the


real problem and it's not going to be addressed by free school meals


all saying, they should eat breakfast together. It's not


possible to solve that with kids. The Alliance Party has announced its


Belfast candidates for the council elections. Someone is throwing his


hat into the prodigal wringer. Duncan Morrow, very high-profile. He


established a high profile for himself. -- political wringer. --


ring. He is allowing himself to have something bigger down the line in


the assembly. That's an interesting point. We will see if you are right.


Thanks, Alex. That's it for now. There's no edition of The View this


week because of the half-term break. But I'll be back here next Monday


night at the usual time of 11.20pm. Until then, from everyone in the


team, bye bye. Should Britain have entered


the Great War? Britain's decision


for war was a disaster not just for this country,


but also for the entire world.


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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