21/01/2013 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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Welcome to the programme. The Social Development Minister


outlines the planet to detect fuel poverty. And elderly gent a man was


able to tell me he reduced his fellow apps of oil by one. We hear


how he is going to do more to capitalise on environmental


heritage. And sharing his insides, our


political respondent Garratt Gordon. The first item on today's agenda


spilled over from last week, a delayed vote on an Ulster Unionist


motion on inclusivity and the rejection of violence. The motion


was passed, but not without some party political ramifications. With


me to discuss what happened is our political correspondent, Gareth


Gordon. First of all, a lot of talk today about Basil McRae deciding to


vote against his own party. Why did he do that? It is complicated but


that debate last week was very fractious, over the issue of


identity and it was found by the flak to speak. The Ulster Unionist


motion called on the Assembly to reconfirm its principles of


inclusivity, mutual respect, peace and democracy. It called on all


parties to support the spirit of the Belfast Agreement. The DUP did


not like that because they did not sign up to the Belfast Agreement,


they were signatories to the St Andrew's Agreement. They wanted all


mention of the Belfast agreement removed. The vote was taken this


mine and the Ulster Unionists made clear they would be supporting the


DUP amendment which did not mention the Belfast Agreement. Basil McCrea


has lost the Ulster Unionist whip. He sat through the debate last week.


He did not speak at all. He was obviously fuming. It was too much


for him. End an article of this morning in Belfast paragraph, he


said he would not be voting with his Ulster Unionist colleagues. He


said for the first time ever he would be voting against them. He


accused them of failing to back the Belfast Agreement, an agreement to


which they were key. He said he would not be voting with his party


colleagues and he said that was for the first time ever. With Mr McCrea


facing this disciplinary charge, the fact that he did not vote with


the Ulster Unionists is likely to annoy them even more, you would


imagine? It ups the ante. At Christmas he lost the Ulster


Unionist whip. He spoke out about the flying of the Unionist flag at


Stormont. He is facing a disciplinary committee here on


Friday on -- on Friday afternoon. He will mount a stout defence. He


is not going quietly. By writing this article and taking the stance


he has taken, it has opened hostility from many in the party


towards them. He has upped the ante. We have his friend and colleague,


John McCallister, who lost a few months ago, the deputy leadership


of the party, when he accused the party leader, Mike Nesbitt, or


sleep walking towards Unionist unity. He up the ante by saying the


Unionist form, to which the Ulster Unionist Party are part, was a dead


end. Mike Nesbitt facing a dual attack. What has he been saying?


issued a statement this afternoon in which she said Basil McCrea's


concerns over the party moving away from the Belfast Agreement, he said


it should be clear that the amendment was never going to pass


and there was no threat to the commitment. Some people will think


that is an odd position to take. As for the sleepwalking charge, he


said he remains committed to advancing the cause of the Unionist


and that is best achieved by working -- if that is best achieved


by working in opposition to other parties, that's what they would do.


As to the street protests, he would co-operate and he was grateful for


the overwhelming support of the party.


Gareth, for now, thank you. Two weeks ago, the Social


Development Minister, Nelson McCausland, announced the


replacement of the Housing Executive. Today at Question Time,


he faced scrutiny of what would happen to its employees. First


though, he was taken to task over fuel poverty.


Does the Minister agree with me that the recent reduction of the


overall proportion of households considered as being in fuel poverty,


from 44 % to 42 %, which is still significantly more than the 34 % we


had in 2006, it is so insignificant it is hardly worth boasting about.


Can we have a question, please? Does the Minister agree that the


direction he has taken and the strategies he has spoken of his


failing to tackle the sub-standard of course of fuel poverty? Can I


say, I do not agree. There are a number of things which contribute


to high level fuel poverty in Northern Ireland, one of them is


the high level of dependency on oil. Hence the work my colleague is


taking forward is a fundamental in addressing the fuel poverty issue


in Northern Ireland. In September, I launched the boy in a replacement


scheme for owner-occupiers, following on from the successful


pilot lasted -- I launched the boiler replacement scheme. This


will replace a boiler. A Housing Executive has received a lot of


interest in the scheme and acute -- applications are being processed.


It is important in terms of energy efficiency and fuel poverty because


in one case, I visited her home, the elderly chap told me he had


reduced his fills of oil per year by one entire Phil. House and


structures are about providing better services for tenants,


better-quality housing and also a structure which allows good value


for money for the tax payer. In essence, it is about creating a


system which is sustainable for the future. This is not that reducing


staff, cutting back or saving money. In fact, the member who sits on the


social development committee would be aware the review was never about


cutting jobs of saving money. It is about getting the structure right


for Northern Ireland moving forward. It is important to realise there


are still a need for functions the housing executive performs within


the new structure and, and staff will be required to consider those


functions and services to tenants. N I P S they will be consulted as a


key stakeholders representing the views of staff at a local land


higher level. We must be cognisance of the fact that we are at the


early stages of a project which has still a lot of work to be done.


This is high on the agenda of the programme board, of which the chief


executive of the housing and fictive he is a member. Let me be


clear, it would be pre-emptive and totally wrong to start speculating


at this stage. The fact is, I have stated repeatedly this has not and


never has been about cutting jobs. Could the Minister give more detail


on the potential benefits of the new landlord function being out


with the public sector? The member will be aware that this


affords an opportunity to address a major problem. We need to have more


houses built. Secondly, we need to have better quality. There are some


older properties which need a tremendous amount of work done to


them. We are talking about billions of pounds of work in the short-term,


to get back stock up to a standard which we should be able to expect


and tenants should be able to have -- expect. That money is not


available at the moment but if we moved the stock eventually it over


to effectively a housing association sector, it enables them


to borrow money so there for the work can be funded. I would want to


come back to one point, this concern that staff have and I can


understand that. I have written to every staff member in the housing


sector already and there will be communication there with the trade


unions and I know the Housing Executive, the chief executive has


been writing to the staff as well. What does not help, and it is back


to the issue of welfare reform, is misinformation. If somebody had


picked up one of our local newspapers on Saturday, they would


have read that the Housing Executive's was to be broken up and


its range of roles transferred to housing associations. That is not


the case. We are creating, if we go down this road, we will be creating


a regional housing body, staffed by housing professionals, to carry out


the regional services and regional polls. A total misunderstanding but


that misinformation going out there does not help and does create fears.


If some he was working in the housing sector in the red, I could


understand why they should be concerned.


The Social Development Minister, Nelson McCausland.


The Ulster Unionist party may be going through a tough time, but its


minister says he is going nowhere. A touchy subject perhaps, because


during Question Time today, Danny Kennedy joke twice that there are


no ministerial vacancies. But first, Mr Kennedy began by giving a


breakdown on how funding for the A5 will be allocated.


I recognise fully the importance of the objective and growing the


economy and I realise the advantage it will bring to jobs in the short


term and the longer term. The Department for roads services will


robustly defend the legal challenge. In terms of finance, total 330


million has been allocated to construct a section, however, my


department will have to await the outcome of the legal challenge


before the funding can be determined. At least to confirm


that corporation between my department and D F P officials has


enabled some repro filing of expenditure which will allow for


the deferral of the A5 allocation and so it is required at my


prompting. The Finance Minister has secured flexibility from Her


Majesty's Treasury to carry-forward monies for reinvestment and reform


initiative, 50 million borrowing power into 2014 / 15. This helpful


in managing the on going delays to the project.


Deputy Speaker, I welcome the Minister's response. Can I ask the


minister in light of that, in terms of should the legal challenge be


protracted, could the minister outlined by house what steps have


been taken to ensure money ring- fenced goes to that specific


project? Can I thank the Member for his supplementary question, early


promotion in January, for you! But not at the expense of the Ulster


Unionist Party. The short answer is we are maintaining a strong defence


of our actions in respect of the A5 project and we very much hope that


will successfully conclude and allow us to move forward. It do you


think giving the protracted delays in the legal challenge it would be


appropriate your department to bring forward further projects


which are already have approval, for example, the A six and the dung


Devon bypass? Of course, the member will be aware that the works have


already commenced on a 80 and they are shortly about to commence on


the A two, which he will know of. I think that I continue to bring


forward and encourage and instruct my officials to bring forward


schemes such as the schemes that he has mentioned, in preparation for


the next round of available finance. I am looking beyond spending the


money on the A5 that has already been allocated and as Roads


Minister, I want to see the instruction -- infrastructure


improved overall. I am keen to bring for projects such as the ones


mentioned. Will the Minister clarify if he is


aware of the impact on health and well-being, any delay on the bypass


will have on the local and wider I thank the member. There are no


vacancies for ministers, by NOAA! - - by be away! There are substantial


benefits from the Dungiven bypass scheme and not least the


improvement of air quality. There would be a reduction of something


like 60% of heavy vehicle traffic currently going through Dungiven.


For all of those reasons, I am aware of the representations made


by the members and Limavady Borough Council and others, and it is a


scheme that would be well worth doing and of course, if the member


wants to approach the Finance Minister to assist me with that to


deliver that at the earliest possible stage I would not be


standing in your way. The Regional Development Minister.


Take a look at these images. Carrickfergus Castle... Dunluce


Castle... Carrick-a-rede rope bridge... And the City of Derry's


historic walls. All examples of Northern Ireland's historic


environment. Could places like these be used better to help our


economy grow? This new report thinks so, but the DUP has


questioned whether the Environment Agency is the right organisation to


capitalise on the potential. Joining me now, David McIlveen and


You're one of the members who brought this issue to the floor of


the chamber. What were due seeking clarification on, or what was your


motivation for raising this? First of all we have to highlight this


was a positive story. The reality is, there is over half a billion


pounds spent on historical environment in Northern Ireland


every year. For ever �1 that the public sector spends be debt-free


back. -- for every �1. -- we get ��3 back. The issue we wanted to


raise, are other areas we can do better? And are there? I do believe


so. We are at a third of our capabilities per-capita compared to


the Republic of Ireland, won the eighth compared to Scotland. The


question has to be asked, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency,


who are protection rather than promotion, are they the right


people to do the job? Do you agree with David McIlveen and his


colleagues, that that part of your environment Aaron Pryor, if you


want a comet that, could do better? -- the environment empire, if you


want to call it that. He if we are going to grow the tourism industry,


a free are going to do that with the jobs and investment that can


bring and the protection of heritage, we need to do that.


have argued for more investment in our belts archaeological heritage


and we will be all the better for it. I am not precious. I am not


precious about beat Environment Agency taking the work forward. If


there is a better model and if you go to Scotland you will see that in


Scotland there is independent bodies to do this work on behalf of


the Scottish government for the Scottish people. So you would like


to see a re-Configuration? If that is the best way to bring about


heritage led development and continuing to protect their


heritage environment we have, you will have no argument with me. Do


we as a government, does the Assembly fully recognise that in


terms of heritage led development there are enormous economic


opportunities? As David. That compare -- as David points out,


compared with others in the UK we are behind. Are your hands tied?


if you look at the Executive's decision in October, more money


went to tourism initiatives and listed building support. That


indicates good form about going forward. But, a strategically it is


required in terms of policy and resources in favour of Heritage


Labour firmament as a major economic driver going forward. --


heritage development. Heritage led development, around are natural,


build, EDO larger gulf and Christian environment, is a huge


opportunity. -- environmental and Christian environment. If Alex


Attwood puts something on the table, would he get the backing of the


DUP? We have to come back to the report, which makes a number of air


recommendations. Many of those are said to have to implement. For


example, recommendations about clear signage. The air is a bigger


issue than that, it is not just signage. If we look at Scotland, I


think the minister makes a good point. Scotland have had excellent


system in place. They have a website. It is ultimately


accountable to the Scottish Executive and that is something we


have to look at. We have to make sure we are getting things in the


right order. David McIlveen says we need to look at it, you say it is a


model you quite like. It sounds like you are singing of the same


song sheet. What is the problem? is a difference of response. On a


daily basis since I have been minister I've been trying to drive


the department in favour of heritage. That is why I have put


money into archaeology and working with their Heritage Lottery Fund in


protecting the village next to Dunluce Castle. We can do work


around better marketing, website, signage and interpretation. We are


doing all of that. The issue behind it all is a strategic decision to


invest significantly more resources, time and effort around the Hausa --


Heritage product. That needs to be agreed round the table. Let's do a


million things better but let's recognise that the one thing is


investing in heritage led development. Let's see if David


McIlveen can leverage money out of the Finance Minister's Perce!


Good work done, but more to do. That was the enterprise minister's


message during a statement on improving telecoms ever stricter.


On mobile phone coverage, Arlene Foster expressed concern about


second-generation and looked We need to have a telecoms


infrastructure that meets the needs of business to allow them to be


competitive and promote their services and products. Over the


last three years my department and the Northern Ireland Executive have


invested �45 million in improving our telecoms infrastructure and


some �21 million has been specifically earmarked to support


improvement of networks in rural and remote locations where there is


no likelihood of private sector investment. We have provided


investments to stimulate super-fast broadband services, given Northern


Ireland its first international telecoms link to North America,


ensured continued access to a broadband service at reasonable


cost for business and residential consumers who are unable to get


broadband by a wire, and established a free advisory service


for all businesses to help them understand how they can exploit


these new services. We are not resting on our laurels are becoming


complacent. I know our infrastructure is not perfect and


there is more to be done. The Ofcom report indicates there are still


some broadband blackspots and Northern Ireland has the lowest


take-up of basic broadband services in the UK at 63.9%. This is


something I want to address and my department has plans to further


improve broadband coverage. A total of �19 of farming -- a total of


Mmac 19 million of funding has been earmarked and we will have a


consultation to identify areas we need to intervene in. We received


over 700 responses and they are presently being analysed. On the


question of mobile-phone services I'm disappointed that Northern


Ireland has at their lowest outdoor coverage of TG mobile services. It


is 80%, just above Wales. On 3G, we have the second worst outdoor


coverage at 55.9%, just above Wales at 52.4%. This is a priority for me.


The mobile market has not remain static and is continuing to evolve.


Providers are can tot -- consolidating services and


preparing for the introduction of 4G. The switch off on analogue TV


last year created space for more or more by traffic and an auction has


commenced for this space across the UK. -- mobile traffic. I have


lobbied for Northern Ireland and secured a target of 95% coverage


here when licences are awarded. It strikes me that there is an


opportunity when the G8 Summit comes to Fermanagh and the


Spotlight falls on the province that we can positively showcase


what we have achieved in Northern Ireland. No doubt, demand for


communications services will increase in certain areas and were


temporary solutions may be deployed for the event, it gives the energy


-- industry an opportunity to leave a permanent legacy for the local


community's benefit. It is something I would be pleased to see


happening and I would encourage the industry to seize that opportunity


positively. I would be very disappointed at the figures that


the minister has given us about mobile services here in the north.


That is very disappointing. Also, the potential arising from the


roll-out of 4G services, could be minister specified, I know but she


-- but she noted she had lobbied for coverage, is that indoor or


outdoor and did the firms themselves during their


conversation with the Minister give us any time frame for the roll-out


of that project? I thank the chair man for his question. It is


disappointing to see big coverage. The second-generation coverage


problem arises from the fact that we did not have an there for the


national targets set by Ofcom meant they did not have to do as much in


Northern Ireland as we would have liked to see. Given that we now


have this 4G target it is my understanding that it is an art.


Target for 95% coverage. -- out. Target. That will vary in relation


to outdoor -- indoors. I am asking be industry to exceed the target.


According to the gear and the legacy it will leave for Fermanagh,


can I ask for further information about the permanent improvements


that will be made to mobile phone and broadband coverage in rural


Fermanagh, particularly in rural areas instead of the inevitable


temporary benefits to serve world powers? Some of us are delighted to


see them coming but he makes a fair point in relation to temporarily


insulation -- installations that may be used at that time. I have


said to be industry, whether it is everything everywhere are Vodafone


-- or Vodafone, I have said to each, take this opportunity to put in


legacy infrastructure. The cross- departmental group which has been


set up to ensure this event is a success and to deal with these


issues knows very well might use in relation to these issues. We have


commenced discussion with relevant stakeholders about venues and


telecoms providers and indeed, with the national government about


Our political correspondent is with me. What would shoot -- should we


be looking out for tomorrow? Karen Aim: Answers questions, she


will be asked about the perceived lack of recognition of Protestant


loyalist culture. -- Karen Woo Coonan. She will also be asked for


an update of the world police and fire games. I also understand a


senior PSNI officer has been trying to reassure those coming to


Northern Ireland for big games? they are not be Olympics but there


is a lot riding on this. There are 25,000 people coming. The Assistant


Chief Constable, Judith Gillespie, has used her blog to calm any fears,


saying she wants to reassure people that the majority of recent


protests have been peaceful and disorder has been in small areas.


She sees a lot of nervousness and is trying to calm fears. It will be


interesting to see what Caral Ni Chuilin says about how things are


going. A lot of people very sad to hear about the death of Inez


McCormack, the trade unionist and campaigner? The word legend is


over-used, but where Inez McCormack is used it applies. -- is concerned.


In the 1980s she was always present. We hardly did a story that did not


feature her somewhere. She was a veteran trade unionist and a human


rights campaigner as well. Her fame spread be on Northern Ireland. She


was once played by Meryl Streep on Broadway and last year named by


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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