19/02/2013 Stormont Today


19/02/2013

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 the programme. Coming up: The retention of DNA and

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fingerprints. I think that totally and absolutely undermines the

:00:39.:00:46.

principle of innocence -- innocence. We were here from representatives

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of the allied party and Sinn Fein. We made a plea that we watch our

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language, and any starts to call some people clowns. I don't think

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it is helpful at all to refer to people as clowns. Why sorry is the

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hardest word. This whole time for members, they come through my

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office door and apologies -- apologise. I would take confessions

:01:14.:01:24.
:01:24.:01:26.

The Criminal Justice Bill reached another stage of its passage

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through the House this afternoon, dealing with human trafficking and

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sex offenders. It also seeks to clarify the law over the DNA and

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fingerprinting. This issue prompted the most debate in the chamber.

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There is a provision within the bill as tabled for the definite

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retention of DNA and fingerprints where a person is charged as a

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result of an arrest. A person who is not subject to a prosecution,

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:02:10.:02:10.

and note... That totally undermines the principle of innocence. We had

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a discussion early on about the role of this assembly. The role of

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this assembly is to protect citizens. The role of the assembly

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is to protect citizens against those criminals who are torching

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their local community. The problem he has to face is that there are

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many, many examples of the technology we now have, or -- of

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people who have committed the most violent crimes who have been

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detected, charged and a pruners -- imprisoned on the basis of DNA

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profiling. The police made it very clear that the retention of his

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mature was absolutely essential in order to pursue those criminals.

:03:02.:03:12.
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DNA was taken in 2001. I could have gone to the police and destroyed it,

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but I have nothing to fear. Is he going to deny the PSNI the right to

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have access to remote Montana RG2 depend criminals? This could solve

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a horrible crime. First of all, you should not presume that everything

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-- everyone who is arrested is a criminal. When they are asked about

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the statistics, when they asked about the many cases because of the

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retention, they weren't very for -- forthcoming. What the majority of

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the public wants is to ensure that we are not soft on crime, and not

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soft on criminals. What I am concerned about is that some on the

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opposing benches here want to give every possible opportunity for

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criminals to evade the law, and that is the reason for some of

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these amendments. I listen to Mr McCartney earlier, who said that

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DNA was postal -- personal property. Of course it is, but if it can be

:04:23.:04:26.

used to the benefit of the public and the law, then it should be your

:04:26.:04:34.

used. We believe the courts are best suited and best place to deal

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with any issues that arise. The biometric commissioner, all well

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and good, the people who have the experience and authority, and I

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believe and my party believes that they should be the adjudicator if

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necessary. I agree with what you just said, it is important to

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support the law, and we, as the party, are anxious to support the

:05:07.:05:17.
:05:17.:05:18.

law. But the law is not just simply a matter of procedure, the law also

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includes concerns about citizens'' right. The amendments proposed

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about the biometric Commissioner. They had no difficulty with the

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position. It makes the point that they cannot go into the Kora meant

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every single time that there is dispute of this nature and --

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:05:53.:05:55.

Of course, as a public authority, that would in -- indeed fall to

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them. That should make any reservations about non-compliance.

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In Northern Ireland, the database holds 5% of the population, and

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under the new framework, that will reliefs -- changed to 4%. In

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Scotland, it will be 6%, and in England and Wales, it is 8%. In the

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USA, 3.5 %, in France, 1.4 %. While there is no doubt that the database

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in the UK generally is something of three times the European average,

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they are proving 20 times more efficient. We have seen in recent

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years, the the database in Northern Ireland, and it is not the database

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that can be to people it is the -- it is the police. It has led to it

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the arrest of 700 people by the PSNI. The listening to that, we'd

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have Stewart Dickson and Raymond McCartney. You say you are a

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liberal. What you support the retention of DNA? I think it is

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important that the DNH is retained. It is an area of concern. This is

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retention from people who are not ultimately committed -- -- who have

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not committed any crime. He highlighted in the statistics he

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gave to the house today that the pretension of that DNA least two

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important decisions being made. It will deliver convictions down the

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line. Isn't the danger that your party is opposing this and you'll

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be seen as being tough -- soft on crime? No, I don't think so.

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Throughout the proceedings, we let out our approach, and the basic

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principle is that the European Court of Human Rights is total, and

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the presumption of innocence. We will do everything we can to

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attempt -- protect this. That is what we have taken the position

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that we have. If you have nothing to hide, why worry about this?

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think the human rights commission address that. They may be example

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that DNA is private property. We may assume that there is nothing in

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our homes. Yet certain times, we do not have an open-door policy. We

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must not take the position that if you have nothing to hide, come

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forward with your DNA. If you say to someone after being arrested, or

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someone has faced court proceedings that they are innocent, they are

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holding on to your DNA, then you have what is called suspicion, or

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at nearly guilty. That is not necessarily going to be for ever.

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In circumstances it won't be, and I think that is a dressing some

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aspects of the human rights binding. But we feel that there are other

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aspects where it will be held indefinitely. We need to address

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that. Are you satisfied, Stewart Dixton, but this parts -- this past

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eight human rights test? -- Stewart Dickson? The case was critical of

:09:41.:09:51.
:09:51.:09:54.

the country's that did not go through retention. What the human -

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but what the European Court said is that the Scottish government but it

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added a ruck by having a retention framework. They can apply for

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extensions. By which time, the sample is destroyed. This is not

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indefinite retention. That is why it is a human Court of European --

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European Court of Human Rights protected. Does not violent really

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need another commission? The person will be someone who will be public

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servant within a public organisation. It is vitally

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important that it is a commissioner rather than the courts, because it

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if you wish to appeal against the decision to hold a DNA sample, if

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you go to court, that is a public proceedings, and you may well be

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faced with a situation where it is reported. That you had your DNA

:10:58.:11:08.

sample destroyed. At some future case, that may skew public opinion

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against you as someone going to court. If he had but a right of

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appeal to a public myth dinner, done in private, and no public

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decision, you can go back to court. Widowed Hill there is a need for a

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commissioner, but as something that is a judicial process, we believe

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that the are bad -- best arbiters is that this to be contested. It

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could be a necessary piece of bureaucracy. We could be left open

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to the accusation that the commissioner is part of the

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:12:00.:12:09.

Department, and there -- that make The Enterprise Minister has

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dismissed concerns that recent scenes of disorder could cause

:12:11.:12:14.

problems for the forthcoming World Police and Fire Games. Arlene

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Foster was asked whether trouble in North Belfast on Saturday could put

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off athletes coming here. First, though, she faced a question about

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a project backed by Tourism Ireland. Could the Minister confirm to the

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House that she does indeed support to the global Greening, which could

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see landmarks such as the pyramids in Egypt being turned green, and

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can she confirmed that the first and Deputy First Minister will be

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able to support the Rio de Janeiro initiative when they visit Brazil?

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I thanks a member for his question. It is tourism Ireland's initiative,

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and it has been going on for some considerable time. It has happened

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on the leaning Tower of Pisa, the Sydney Opera House, and they are

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looking for new and innovative ways to do this, so they will continue

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to look to that. What I'm interested in is how they're going

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to give stand out to Northern Ireland in respect of what they do

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across the world, particularly in relation to Belfast and the

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difficulties that have been on going, how they're going to address

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those issues. I would like referred to the activities of last weekend

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where there were disgraceful scenes and a football match had to be

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cancelled by the activities of some clams on the street. Could the

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Minister ask what answer the question about the potential for

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the Police and Fire Games just around the corner? Surely those

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scenes that we have seen last weekend, is there any indication

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that the sports people that have coming here will still come? I say

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to the member that we made a plea that we watch our language, and

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then he gets up and start to call some people clowns. I don't think

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it is helpful to refer to be able as clowns. We had a successful

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lunch which row attended along with the mayor of Belfast. When we were

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talking about the accommodation figures and we passed the 2 million

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mark in relation to accommodation for the Royal Police and Fire Games,

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which are very much welcome, we had some people over her work

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competitors in the last World Police and Fire Games, and frankly

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they were having a good time right across Northern Ireland, they

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visited Fermanagh, they visited the north coast and were of course in

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Belfast as well. And they were singing the praises of this place

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as a destination. That is the sort of positive message we want to send

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out. We fully support the back in Belfast campaign, but given the

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fact that the Derry City Council have had a business case in for the

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last number of mums looking for some help and support with -- the

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last number of months looking for help and support with this, we need

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to try to make sure we have the biggest available budget for

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marketing that we can get for what is the biggest event in 2013.

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thanks a member for his question. He will know that it is not just

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about my department in all of this, and indeed we have been working

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very closely with both the City Council and the culture company in

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relation to the marketing and communications plans going forward.

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Under the new executive advertising guidelines, I have to obtain

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permission for any marketing and communications campaigns in

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Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and there is a proposal

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for a bespoke marketing campaign for the UK City of Culture, and

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that is currently being considered. I am hopeful a decision will be

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taken in the very near future. How much will the long-awaited

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Education Skills Authority cost the Education Department, and will it

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be the biggest quango in Europe? Just some of the issues facing the

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Education Minister John O'Dowd during question time earlier.

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projected annual budget for the Education Schools Authority will

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largely be the some of the Budget so the existing eight arm's-length

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bodies that will transfer. The Council for schools, the staff

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commission and the council. The budget in 2012 to 2013 of these

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:16:47.:16:52.

eight bodies was a 1 billion -- �58 million capital. This function and

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some of operational duties currently carried out by the

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Department will also transfer, along with any associated resources.

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Work is currently on going to establish a level of funding, but

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at this stage, are high level of the Budget will be in something in

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the terms of 1.8 billion a resource and 1.2 billion capital. I thank

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the Minister for that response. This is meant to be about saving

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money and being more efficient, but it will effectively become the

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largest quango in Europe. Can the Minister detail when he will be

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bringing forward the detailed case for the Education Schools

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Authority? I don't accept his description, but I'm not absolutely

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clear as to what the opposition is based upon, and expected is more

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political than educational, and if that is so, there is a danger of

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potentially damaging the educational potential of our

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society, because I have yet to hear a rational argument as to why they

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are opposed. It will not be anywhere near the largest quango in

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Europe. In fact I would question their democratic -- their

:18:19.:18:29.
:18:29.:18:33.

definition of a quango, when this is democratically accountable.

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Campbell. The minister previously outlined a number of administrative

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savings that are currently ongoing and had been ongoing in recent

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years. Does he envisage further savings and when the Education

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Schools Authority is established? Continued savings will be a matter

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for the board and in terms of what the educational budget looks like

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at that time, but it is expected that the establishment will

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initially saved around �25 million per year in terms of advice and

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support for schools, and secondly, the rationalisation of educational

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administration will have �50 million of savings. That will be

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made per year from the administration and management costs

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of these various bodies. The savings issue is important, but the

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main driver was to ensure that we had an educational body which could

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deliver a modern fit for purpose education service to the

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communities it serves. The education boards are outdated. That

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in no way undermines the good work carried out by its members. The

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function of the Education Schools Authority is to modernise the

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approach. Mr Speaker, I have listened carefully to the

:19:58.:20:01.

minister's replies so far, and I am sure the minister is aware that

:20:01.:20:11.
:20:11.:20:17.

Chalobah was another publication on literacy and numeracy. Cannot the

:20:17.:20:20.

minister assure us that this organisation will put an end to the

:20:20.:20:24.

many millions -- thousands of children leaving school each year

:20:24.:20:31.

with no ability to read or write? The report actually said that there

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were children whose literacy and numeracy skills were not what they

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should be. It did not say they could not read or write. I notice

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today in the paper there is judgment upon us without even

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hearing the report of the Accounts Committee. I would like them to

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give the audit report a fair hearing. It does not tell us

:20:54.:20:59.

anything we don't already know. No member of this House should be

:20:59.:21:09.
:21:09.:21:12.

surprised at the Fanny its findings. - match -- the finance findings. We

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have been saying all along that this needs to be fixed. The audit

:21:17.:21:22.

report highlights that we have policies in place that will fix it,

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but it will take time and further resources to fix it. The hearing in

:21:29.:21:36.

relation to the report shows that. The Education Minister John O'Dowd.

:21:36.:21:39.

Last week we heard how electronic scanners like those used in

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airports will not replace full-body searching in prisons in Northern

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Ireland. Prison staff appeared before the Justice Committee to

:21:43.:21:46.

explain the findings of a three- month pilot scheme. Sue McAllister,

:21:46.:21:49.

the director general of the prison service, said she was disappointed

:21:49.:21:53.

by the outcome of the pilot, as we can hear now in our weekly look at

:21:53.:22:03.
:22:03.:22:03.

Regarding our evaluation of the millimetre wave Scanners, you will

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now be aware from your papers and reports in the media that the

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results of the pilot showed that in the prison environment, there were

:22:12.:22:16.

limitations to the technology, and that our current for surging

:22:16.:22:20.

processes provide a higher level of assurance by finding more of the

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test items than the scanning technology. A closed session will

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undoubtedly enable us to go into the evaluation in much more detail,

:22:29.:22:32.

but I think it is important to say at this stage that we are

:22:32.:22:38.

disappointed at the outcome of the pilot. It is our view that in order

:22:38.:22:41.

to preserve the security of the Establishment and the safety of

:22:41.:22:45.

prisoners, staff and the wider community, the requirement for full

:22:45.:22:53.

searching on entry to and exit from the prisons and in some other

:22:53.:22:55.

circumstances must remain until a satisfactory alternative can be

:22:55.:23:05.
:23:05.:23:06.

found. What has been the reaction from Republicans? Why you are alert

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to what the reaction could be, to the fact that what they are

:23:11.:23:16.

demanding isn't going to happen? have been clear all along that this

:23:16.:23:19.

is a technological solution for the Prison Service and not about any

:23:19.:23:28.

specific group of prisoners. A pop at the -- the pilot has only just

:23:28.:23:31.

finished, and we have not shared the findings of anyone else before

:23:31.:23:38.

coming to brief you, because that would not have been appropriate. We

:23:38.:23:45.

have not shared the findings with any prisoners. Do you expect to

:23:45.:23:55.
:23:55.:23:56.

reaction? We have been talking to the staff and assessors who going

:23:56.:23:59.

regularly to speak to prisoners, and we know there will be an

:23:59.:24:07.

interest. My view is that there is not a higher expectation amongst

:24:07.:24:13.

those prisoners that this will be necessarily suitable for our

:24:13.:24:20.

purposes. Set it remains to be seen what a reaction will be. We have a

:24:20.:24:23.

much less intrusive way of carrying out a full search than in other

:24:23.:24:31.

jurisdictions. In England and Wales, the prisoner can be required to

:24:31.:24:38.

lift his genitals, to squat and pull apart his buttocks, for

:24:38.:24:42.

example, if there is reason to believe items are concealed. There

:24:42.:24:47.

are things that are done that are clearly more intrusive and less

:24:47.:24:54.

pleasant for staff that we don't do. Why do we not do it? We have never

:24:54.:25:04.

done it to my knowledge, certainly not in recent times, and our view

:25:04.:25:14.

is that the benefits of doing it outweigh the risks and the

:25:14.:25:19.

implications for decency and dignity. Is there any legal

:25:19.:25:26.

barriers to doing it.? If you decided that you felt it was

:25:26.:25:32.

necessary, for example to deal with the drugs problem? I don't know the

:25:32.:25:37.

answer to that, but I do know that when I was head of the security

:25:37.:25:43.

group in England and Wales, we had to ascertain that it was legal for

:25:44.:25:49.

us to do what we did, so it is certainly legal in England and

:25:49.:25:52.

Wales to do the things that I have explained. What they don't know,

:25:52.:25:56.

because we have not asked that question, is whether we would

:25:56.:26:03.

legally be able to do it. But I certainly have no wish to explore

:26:03.:26:08.

that at this time, and don't think it operationally necessary. I think

:26:08.:26:11.

it is much more appropriate that we look at technological solutions

:26:11.:26:16.

than explore ways of increasing the intrusive nature and are full

:26:16.:26:26.
:26:26.:26:26.

search. Well, Raymond McCartney and Stewart Dickson are still with me.

:26:26.:26:31.

Raymond McCartney, does this mean that the future is body searching?

:26:31.:26:41.

No. There was a focus at the committee on having a technological

:26:41.:26:48.

solution. We live in the 21st century. Everyone had different

:26:48.:26:52.

angles, but we all accept that the body search is intrusive. We have

:26:52.:26:58.

to ensure that the pilot scheme is not seen as a one-off. We need to

:26:58.:27:07.

look at how we can modify the scanner for the needs of the pilot.

:27:07.:27:10.

Is it embarrassing that the scheme hasn't come up with the result that

:27:10.:27:17.

many people wanted to see? I think people wanted to see the technology

:27:17.:27:21.

be more effective than it was. I think it is possible that some

:27:21.:27:25.

changes can be made. There is a further piece of equipment that is

:27:25.:27:31.

available, as well, but that requires UK wide permission,

:27:31.:27:35.

because it is an X-ray machine. And prisoners are right to have health

:27:35.:27:41.

and safety concerns about the use of this equipment. Peraza has have

:27:41.:27:47.

a right -- prisoners have a right to refuse to use this equipment if

:27:47.:27:57.
:27:57.:27:58.

they choose to. Now, just before we go, the Speaker, Willie Hay, was

:27:58.:28:01.

not happy with some MLAs who were missing during yesterday's Question

:28:01.:28:04.

Time. But in the spirit of Lent, it seemed he was in a forgiving mood.

:28:04.:28:09.

I raised the issue yesterday of members not being in their place

:28:09.:28:12.

during question time, especially members who have been named on the

:28:12.:28:17.

paper for a question. I have had one member through my door who has

:28:17.:28:23.

apologised. Thus far, I had nobody else. We know the members who were

:28:23.:28:27.

not in their place yesterday, so there is still time for members to

:28:27.:28:31.

come to this house and apologise, through my office door and

:28:31.:28:37.

apologise. I will take confessions wherever they may be.

:28:37.:28:41.

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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