18/10/2011 Stormont Today


18/10/2011

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 it took Stormont. Inflation may be soaring,

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unemployment on the rise amid fears for a lost generation of young

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people, but here on the Hill, some members still can't help themselves.

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Given that �18.3 million has gone into 14 gale, and forgive my

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pronunciation, I have never had a great grasp of foreign languages.

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And it was back to hang a member as the Deputy Speaker issued a warning.

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It would be unfortunate if I found some members guilty of anti-social

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behaviour during a debate on anti- social behaviour. And with me

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From slurry spreading to booming food production, there was plenty

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of farming taught here today. Jim, you represent food producers. How

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do you think the assembly is shaping up in terms of protecting

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your interests? I suppose what we have is food production as a main

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source of income for our farmers. The ministers believe that it is

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the basis on which we can have economic growth, so they are doing

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their best to help producers. We are going to have cap reform and

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various different things. They meet tomorrow to fight our corner in

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Brussels because we need not protection, but help with food

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production. We need exports. Through agriculture, we employ it

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over 55,000 people, so we hoped the executive can get a good

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understanding of our situation. some ways, I do not recession-proof

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because of the help you get from a European funding? No, we are not.

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If you look at the cost of production, we are not recession

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Grove because we have fuel and the same input and costs as other

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industries. At the moment we are getting slightly better prices, but

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we can only produce a certain amount of product as what the

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consumer can afford to purchase. Again, our input costs have gone up,

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so we are not recession proof. you are doing well, so you are

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unlike a lot of other people in every sector in Northern Ireland.

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You have to consider from what base we come from. We have been at a

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very low ebb these last few years. Income for farmers has decreased,

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so it depends where we are coming from. We have quite a bit to come

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up to level the playing field. with us. Now, his Irish a foreign

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language? Should dogs get tattoos? Can Northern Ireland farmers feed

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the world, and how should we welcome China's gymnasts? All

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topics that came up in the pick and mix that is Question Time. He is

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the Agriculture Minister on exporting docks. Legislation

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requires that the movement of Dogs is in line with the council

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directive, and specifically in relation to identification in line

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with EC regulations. Article 4 requires dogs to be identified by

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means of a microchip, or by a clearly readable tattoo. From 3rd

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July any newborn dogs which are to be exported to another member state

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will have to be microchip. For dogs being exported to Third World

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companies, a health certificate will have to be completed. That may

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include conditions such as identification by a microchip or

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tattoo, or some other distinguishing mark. I am grateful

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to the Minister for her reply. Is she aware of the concerns of many

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local dog breeders of future changes to micro chipping

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requirements in other countries which may jeopardise future export

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markets? In my capacity as an MLA I have met with dog breeders who

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expressed those concerns. When it comes to legislation around dog

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breeding legislation, I intend to bring that forward in the near

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future. What am going to have to do is go out to consultation again to

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seek the views of dog breeders. If it is a competitive market, we

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don't want to disadvantaged local dog breeders in any way. There will

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be a full consultation on the way forward. One proposal is that all

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puppies should also have a microchip. The population of the

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Earth is expected to hit 7 billion any day now, and that could also

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hit one of our highly successful industries. Food production.

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Between 2007 and 2010, employment in the food and drink processing

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sector has increased by 6%, whereas turnover increased by 30%. In

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agriculture, gross output increased by 30%. There is a strong level of

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self-belief about the future in the sector. The global human population

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is growing rapidly and is expected to increase by 1 billion by 2030.

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In addition, water shortages, climate change, are all expected to

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impinge on the agricultural production capacity for other

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regions of the world. For these reasons, there is belief that this

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food sector will continue to blow - - Grove. -- Grove. What we need to

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reach is a sure plan for export growth for this important sector.

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Culture next, often a fractious session when the Unionists attend

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to beat the Sinn Fein minister. The minister is often happen -- happy

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to bite back. My department offers funding to small communities, and

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in the last five years the Arts Council has provided over 800,000

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to bounce across the North. Musical instruments and awards for all and

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the small grants programme, again over 800,000. In addition, my

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department has produced a toolkit for marching bands which can be

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found on our website, which pivots -- provides information and

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guidance on encouraging new approaches to maximise

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opportunities for development. thank the Minister for her answer.

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Can I just ask the Minister, given that �18.3 billion has gone into 14

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Gayle - forgive my pronunciation, but a out of their annual budget.

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That clearly has had an impact on her ability to fund other projects.

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What advice can she get to my constituents who are in marching

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bands, who are unable to obtain funding because the criteria of the

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Ulster Scots Agency and the Arts Council has been constrained so

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much by budgetary reductions? of all, I take exception to the

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member describing the Irish language as a foreign language. I

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do appreciate his attempt to pronounce it, at least he tried.

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The SDLP's minister wants to know if Northern Ireland would benefit

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from the presence of the Chinese but gymnasts ahead of the 2012

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Olympics. There are key benefits arising from the Chinese Olympics

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gymnastics team training here, and not only does it improve -- include

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the promotion of sport, but also hit being a world-class venue that

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has been chosen by the Chinese. This was raised before, but the

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Chinese are coming here with a film crew and with presenters. Each day

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during their training this will be broadcast all over China, promoting

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potential benefits around tourism. It is important with those

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countries of Brazil, Russia and China, economies by the markets are

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developing. I think there is a significant boost to having that

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attention here, and we are keen to exploit that opportunity for local

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investment. Finally, it was back to the DUP's topic of the day. I want

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to ask the Minister, has she any plans to have lessons given to the

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deputy first minister before he returns to his duties, given the

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fact that DG 4 was going to have its Presidential programme but had

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to be given in English, given the fact that Michael Higgins was the

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anyone who could competently speak the language? Order, order. All

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members know that the topic matter must relate to the original

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question. Businesses here that have problems

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getting money from banks will soon be able to turn to Invest NI for a

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loan. The new loan fund is a sign that the agency is responding to

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economic Tangiers, or so we are told. - macro economic challenges.

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What we have discovered in the business is that small and medium-

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sized businesses have been starved of credit by the banks. The banks

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say they are lending, businesses said they are not lending. I think

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this is a good way by Invest Northern Ireland to circumvent the

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banks. If the banks are not lending, then Invest Northern Ireland should

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lend. I think this is an imaginative scheme. They have to be

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a number of caveats. One, at the time period for repayment should

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not be too excessive. Also, in addition to that, the rate of

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interest should be in -- reasonable. I know that the rate of interest

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being discussed might be higher than the bank rate. Yes, they did

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say that. That might put people off. Thirdly, the bureaucracy in terms

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of vetting people for a loan should not be excessive either. Is this

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replacing grants, or will it run alongside them? I think it will run

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alongside grants. This is an extra weapon that Invest NI has brought

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to try and stimulate the economy here. As everybody knows, the

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economy here it relies very much on small and medium-sized businesses.

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This will be a shot in the arm for those businesses, and I hope it

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will help businesses to invest and to expand their workforce. We need

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that, and this is a good initiative Are you satisfied Invest NI is

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operating properly? There is that about what they have given out in

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loans and whether they are giving out money generously enough to our

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struggling business people? position is this; the reason in the

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main why money was sent back to the finance department was because

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Invest Northern Ireland could not spend that money because of the

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companies they had earmarked to grant the money to had slowed down

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in terms of their business operations. In other words, it was

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indicative of the sluggishness of our own local economy. That

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highlights the problems that we have here - an economy which is not

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coming out of recession quickly. this an example of the executive

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doing something? �50 million available within three months?

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is a great idea. It is a good initiative. I think that Invest

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Northern Ireland have responded well to the critical circumstances

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that small and medium-sized businesses find themselves in. I

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hope this will work. I hope it will work well. They need the help.

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Thanks for joining us this evening. Well, you could say it was the

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hawks verses the doves in the chamber over, during a debate on

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antisocial behaviour T DUP want the police to be given more power to

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deal with the problem. Others say that greater partnerships is the

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answer. This is the way rather than giving more powered to the --

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powers to the police. We would be opposed to the original motion. I

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would apose it on three planks. First of all, the police aren't

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asking for more powers. Secondly, what powers the police have are not

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always utilised properly. Thirdly, experience shows that the best

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results come when the police, the community and statutory agencies

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work together. Therefore we need to take action now to bring it under

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control and then we let these programmes suggested by the members.

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There'll be long term, they will be very expensive and there'll still

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be people, let's be honest, the vast majority of young people in

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Northern Ireland are decent citizens there are young people in

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Northern Ireland who are frankly evil in what they're doing to our

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communities. They simply, they are feral, they have lost control.

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Their parents no longer have any authority over them whatsoever.

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They are causing great difficulty. There has to be the strong arm of

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the law to bring those people under control. I cannot accept the point

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of view that they may end up in prison for a few weeks. I think

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they might need that "short, sharp shock" treatment, to realise they

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cannot continue to torture their community. Tackling antisocial

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behaviour is a key thing of my department. We have intervention

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enforcement which has contributed to 20% reduction in this behave

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wror since 2007-2008. It is of interest the target was 15% and we

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have achieved 20%. If you bothered to do your homework you would have

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seen what people say. There is report after report, which says

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people want more physical policing, policing on the ground. Would he

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make his remarks through the chair. As I was saying, deputy Speaker, as

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I was admiring the fine art work around here! I will not give way. I

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will not give way because you would not give way earlier when we tried

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to have the debate. The issue here is that you have been....

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SPEAKER: The order will resume his seat. It would be unfortunate if I

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were to find some members guilty of antisocial behaviour. You should

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not make a remark from a secondary position. When it came to the vote,

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members were on their best behaviour, agreeing a community not

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a police response was the answer and the Ulster Unionist motion was

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agreed. A breaking story, if you like today,

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about the potatoes rejected in Morocco in 2010. There seems to be

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some development, but it may not be good for the farm es who sent those

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potatoes. The development, as far as I am aware was discussed today

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and as far as I'm aware the potatoes were inspected here and

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they met the perimeters to be eligible for export. When they

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reached their destination there were inquiries and then apparently

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they were inspected again. So, I'm not sure exactly what the problem

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is now in Morocco. But the difficulty is that there are a

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number of producers here who have produced what they reckon is

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quality produce to the requirements of the purchaser, which were

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certified as such and now... Again it was put to the agriculture

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committee, it was put to the represents today that perhaps some

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sort of compensation could be sought for the producers. From a

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producer's perspective we tonight want to see them losing. There is

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dialogue going on. Where money is available for this, it's the same

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almost with every avenue - it's all down to finance. �1 million, that

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is what the Londonderry City of Culture is looking for from a Leeds

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sponsor. They came here to meet MLAs and business people in the

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hope of securing money to help them fund the year of events in 2013.

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is one of a whole series of engagement events. We were in

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Dublin last week. We want to be here in Stormont to tell people in

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Belfast, tell community leaders, arts, businesses about the energy

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and the buzz and what is happening in Derry being the City of Culture.

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Are you looking for sponsorship? are. As you can imagine, it is a

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huge challenge to deliver on all of the ambitions. We'll need our

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commercial partners. We had BT as our partner. We want others to get

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involved with this amazing project. You are looking for a lead sponsor

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and it is big money? Yes, it is big money to put on a showcase of

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events like the ambition we have for 2013., yes it is big money, and

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also this is the first ever time the city has been given the UK City

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of Culture title. In terms of benefit back to business it is

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unprecedented. What do you think it will mean for the people of Derry?

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I think it will be a transformation. I think the impact on the people of

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Derry, in terms of their belief, confidence, ambition, ideas - just

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that sense of right here in our own town that this can happen. I think,

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the same as Liverpool and Glasgow, cities which have held the European

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title in the past, I think that catalyst in transformation is what

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we're looking for. What about everybody else in Northern Ireland?

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What do you think it will mean for everybody else? I think Northern

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Ireland is a small place. We work closely together. We are talking

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with arts organisations here in Belfast and right across Northern

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Ireland. We're working with other local authorities across Northern

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Ireland. So, I think the benefits will be felt across the whole

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region. And the sense of community then? Yeah, I think people will

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find it irresistible as well. There is a sense of energy behind this

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project. Even in Dublin last week they described it as there was an

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energy happening in the north-west of the island which they hope will

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have a viral effect across. That is what we intend to do. Sinn Fein

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were accused of chasing rainbows in their attempt to recoup money paid

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to the Queen. Around �1 million a year is paid by wind farms and fish

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farms in the coastal waters of Northern Ireland. That money goes

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into the Crown Estate. Sinn Fein think control of the money should

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be given to the executive. If it is not so profitable why would the

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Crown Estate want to give that up and hand it back to Northern

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Ireland? If we mess around in the way the member is proposing there

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is every chance that the opportunity that we have, the

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capital -- to capitalise on off- shore renewables and the potential

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around his constituency will be lost. Now, it is time to stop

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looking at chasing moon beams. We are chasing after nonsense here.

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When we are losing sight of the bigger picture. I can understand

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the financial attraction of identifying new revenues for

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Northern Ireland. Indeed, we need to do more of that. Our recent

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experience has shown that some opportunities necessitate a

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clawback from the black grant. The recent was the air passenger duty.

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We saw the problem that came at a cost to the Assembly. It was to

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note that the Scottish Government have their eye on the same issue.

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They used to have -- wish to have full devolution of the Crown Estate

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in Scotland. 50% has been suggested. But the riches of the off-shore oil

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and gas industry remain immense in that part of the United Kingdom.

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Realistically there is no chance that the UK Government will offer

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arrangements to evolve in some cases over centuries. It appeared

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to work very well. This system appears to be efficient. I frankly

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doubt it to arrange the commitments any more efficiently than they are

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dealt with by the Crown Estates. Sinn Fein's Oliver McMullan

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proposed the motion. Are you disappointed it didn't succeed?

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am disappointed with the attitude of the DUP. I thought they would

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have taken a more gentlemanly point of view. What we're talking about

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is money back into the Assembly. It turned into a political agenda

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and saving the Crown and saving the union. It has nothing to do with

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that, whatsoever. The Crown estate we work with because of its name.

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You can call it whatever you want. If the DUP cannot get their head

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around what we're trying to do, to bring extra money back into the

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assembly they should go back into the streets and tell the people out

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there who are in poverty, the people who the community trusts

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have stopped taking to hospital for appointments, pensioners who cannot

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make the decision to eat or heat. That is what they have to do. It

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was very disappoint from their point of view. Personally, they

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made absolutely fools of themselves today. Was it good use of Assembly

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time? Given if your motion had succeeded we would not have been

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able to change the rules on Crown estate? I would not agree with that.

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It opened up an avenue of discussion. That is what we were

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trying to do. We have the marine -- Marine Bill and that would come in

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for discussion. Because reserve matters cannot be touched the

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justice power to hand it back here, they reserve matters. All that can

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be discussed. That is what we were trying to do. They said 50% of the

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income they get back is now going to be given back in the form of

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grants. So, in some ways the money is already going back in, isn't it?

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We are talking 50% of �1 million. We are talking �450,000. I would

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have thought the other � 450,000 the crown east tailt is keeping

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would not -- Crown estate is keeping would not made a dent.

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Could they not argue and take that off the block grant? If we had it

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in one hand it would be taken off the oh thiser? -- of the other?

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According to the Crown estate they are looking at taking out new

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leases and giving them to these people who want to invest in the

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marine. Now, it only follows if you take out new leases you'll up the

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rent. That could be �10 million in ten to 15 years' time. If we're

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going to give away that money, so lightly, without putting up a fight

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for it because Sam mi Wilson told us in the Assembly we have to look

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for alternative revenue streams. We have identified one on our back

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door. For the DUP to turn it around into a sham fight and retaining the

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union, keeping the Crown, and then on the other hand the official

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unionists backed the amendment and then turned around and voted

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against it. It turned out to be a phase from the union's point of

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view today. We'll have to leave it there. Thank you for coming in. Now

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the countdown is on to find the new leader of the SDLP. The final

0:25:230:25:28

campaign launch happened today. Patsy McGlone, Alasdair McDonnell

0:25:280:25:33

and Conal McDevitt set out their stalls. Alex Attwood had the big

0:25:330:25:39

guns out today. He had one of the Guildford four praising his

0:25:390:25:45

tenacity, saying he was a boxer who punched above his weight. There was

0:25:450:25:50

a letter read out. And of course the former MP for South down was

0:25:500:25:56

there. He gave an impassioned speech. Indeed he almost threatened

0:25:560:26:01

to upstage Alex Attwood himself. We have a clip of that from earlier

0:26:010:26:05

today. The Government at the moment in Stormont is not a reflection of

0:26:060:26:09

what was intended by the Goodwood Treasure.

0:26:090:26:15

The Goodwood Treasure -- the Good Friday agreement. It is about

0:26:150:26:17

partnership, reconciliation and co- operation. That is not what we have

0:26:170:26:26

there, that is what I want Alec to put there as leader of the SDLP.

0:26:260:26:29

course he did address the press conference. He appealed for support

0:26:290:26:32

saying he had shown leadership skills at various levels of the

0:26:320:26:36

party, including the minister's post. He has three other people in

0:26:360:26:40

that race with him. It will be decided the first week into

0:26:400:26:45

November. Alex Attwood says he doesn't mind being the underdog.

0:26:450:26:50

The cost of north-south council meetings? The executive were given

0:26:500:26:55

a hard time when there is a perceived waste of money. The first

0:26:550:27:03

and deputy minister said they can save money on north-south

0:27:030:27:07

ministerial meetings. They could cut the cost to �5,000. It is a

0:27:070:27:12

moutful, but there is some information on the cohesion and

0:27:120:27:16

integration strategy? That is known as CSI. In simple terms it is about

0:27:160:27:21

a shared future. The proposals were published last July. Criticism at

0:27:210:27:26

the time that, although the executive are trying to tackle

0:27:260:27:31

issues around sectarianment and peace walls, the critics said the

0:27:310:27:34

first and Deputy First Minister's office has not gone far enough in

0:27:340:27:38

terms of substance and targets. For example, when will peace walls come

0:27:380:27:41

down? There was a public consultation last year. And the

0:27:410:27:45

results are now being discussed publicly. The people who carried

0:27:450:27:49

out that consultation will brief the office of first and Deputy

0:27:490:27:52

First Minister's committee. There'll be a fair amount of

0:27:520:27:57

interest in that tomorrow. other biggish shoe facing farmers

0:27:570:28:04

is the CAP reform. What do you think of what we know so far?

0:28:040:28:10

honest the new document had been leaked. At the same time, what came

0:28:100:28:15

out, if you like the aims and aspirations we have, the next year

0:28:150:28:19

or more than a year to decide what we can get for Northern Ireland. We

0:28:190:28:23

need tweaks and changes to suit the farmers. Thank you very much for

0:28:230:28:26

being our guest this evening. That's it from Stormont tonight. We

0:28:260:28:30

are back next Monday, of course, at the usual time. Before then you can

0:28:300:28:38

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.