21/10/2013 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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With Hello and welcome to Stormont Today. Coming up on the programme


tonight: A visit to the Children's Hospital brings an injection of cash


from the Finance Minister. I am shocked by what I saw. Professionals


going beyond the call the duty to save children.


A fracas over Fermanagh as a debate about job creation in the West heats


up. The minister can tutt and roll her eyes as she always does.


We'll have analysis of the day's business from our political


correspondent, Martina Purdy. While the loss of the A5 road scheme


was a bitter disappointment to many people west of the Bann, the money


that would have been spent on it was thrown back into the finance pot and


today the Finance Minister delivered the good news of what projects will


now benefit. The capital reallocation exercise was completed


by my officials over the summer. The executive allocated ?75.2 million to


DRD. This will allow DRD to continue construction of the Belfast to Larne


road scheme and complete work on the Magherafelt bypass project. An


additional eight kilometres of roadway will be built improving


access and road safety on that route. Funding will deliver planned


road structural maint tans nans and other road iment improvements. It


will ensure that DRD can complete bus procurement orders and begin


replacement of the Strangford to Portaferry and Rathlin ferries. DRD


will commence early design and preparatory work for the A6 road


scheme. The A6 work does not commit the executive to this project. The


executive took a view until there is clarity on the A5 project, we are


not afford to commit to the A6 project since delivering is


unaffordable. The executive agreed to allocate ?33 million to the


Department of Health. Two weeks ago, I accepted an invitation from the


Health Minister to visit the Children's Hospital. I was shocked


by what I saw. Dedicated health professionals going beyond the call


of duty to treat extremely ill children, but doing so in


surroundings that I am ashamed to say are far from fit from purpose.


Therefore, I pleased that this allocation enables the department to


begin construction on a new Children's Hospital. A new


state-of-the-art regional hospital to care for sick children from all


over Northern Ireland. There was ?19.9 million allocated to DARD. It


provides funding for further flood elevation works in East Belfast.


There was ?16.1 million pounds in respect of the regional stadium


construction project. 11.8 million was allocated to the Department of


Learning. Redevelopment at Queen's University, asbestos removal at


Stranmillis College. Members may recall I brought a motion to the


assembly acknowledging the economic value of Northern Ireland's


outstanding historic buildings. So I am pleased that this allocation will


see assets like those enhanced. Simon Hamilton hoping to preserve


our historical buildings. Our political correspondent, Martina


Purdy, is with me now. The minister gave us a detailed break down of the


redistributed funds. How significant is this money first of all for the


Children's Hospital at the Royal? Well, it is hugely significant,


Mark. This project has been talked about for decades as my colleague,


the health correspondent, reported tonight. Back in 1973 when Gloria


Hunniford was a young reporter, it was talked about then. By the early


1990s Baroness Denton brought forward proposals for a new


hospital, but the money was never forthcoming and again, when


devolution was restored in 1999, the Sinn Fein Health Minister tried to


get the new hospital and in 2007 another Health Minister, the Ulster


Unionist, also asked for the money and was unsuccessful. So we are


getting the money. It is in part due to the fact that the A5 road pro


ject is being tied up in environmental issues. We now have a


completion date of around 2021. There has been a bit of politicking


around the distribution of the millions today? Well, there is


always tension where there is money concern. Roy Beggs, he issued a


statement expressing regret that the money for the hospital didn't come


forward earlier. He said, it was interesting that the money is being


made available because there is not just a DUP Finance Minister and a


DUP Health Minister. That's one of the benefits of having a party in


charge of both. There is no tension there, about who gets the credit,


the DUP? It is an executive project, about you a DUP minister is


announcing it and a DUP minister gets credit through the health


portfolio. There is questions raised today by the Sinn Fein chair of the


Health Committee. Welcoming the project, but saying in a recent


beefing briefing, the impression given to the committee there was


other commitments. He couldn't get money out of the


cash machine at lunch time? Yes, after announcing the mlts, he found


-- millions, he found that the bank machine was out of order! He used


his card. Did you buy him lunch? I had to lend


one member a tenner for lunch! We saw quite a few robust exchanges


between two Fermanagh representatives, Arlene Foster and


Sinn Fein's Phil Flanagan. Yes, Phil Flanagan brought forward a motion


critical of Invest Northern Ireland's job record. The Enterprise


Minister who hails from Fermanagh was not impressed with the points


that Phil Flanagan was making. It did get rather tetchy and personal.


These two politicians don't see eye to eye on a range of issues and


found themselves on opposite sides of the arguments on issues such as


fracking as one of my colleagues pointed out, he doesn't see them car


pooling to Fermanagh any time soon! Let's see that lively debate. The


motion as brought by Sinn Fein's Phil Flanagan. Since April 2009


there hasn't been a single invest NI led visit by a potential foreign


investor to either counties Fermanagh or Tyrone. That's not good


enough. There is not enough being done to create jobs and attract


investment into struggling rural areas and the minister can tutt and


sigh and roll her eyes as she always does when somebody brings a motion


in criticising her department. But that's is a fact, we have statistics


to back it up. Every country in Europe has its own


version of the west of the Bann problem and every country know there


is not much point in regional imbalanced are best addressed in a


growing economy, improved road transport, power and communications


infrastructure are essential elements of a package that a


prospective investor would want to see. This motion highlights an


important issue, the fact that we have next to no clarity on the


number of jobs created as opposed to those promoted. We cannot judge our


success against the programme for Government. Some of our members are


so small-minded that they want to start talking about a job created


here in this county. A job created in that constituency. When you look


at foreign direct investment around the world, they will think nothing


of planting down a Northern Ireland and creating jobs for the whole of


Northern Ireland. How do you expect to go and plead with these companies


to come into your constituency whenever they read the papers and


whenever they read the Hansard of this place they see you run the


place down. 60% of the investment, support offered from 2011 to 2012


went to eight constituencies across the north. Those eight


constituencies are located in around the greater Belfast area. That is


factual. It is also important to highlight that the target set for


Invest Northern Ireland are again for job promotion. So the programme


for Government sets out job promotion targets. It doesn't set


out job creation targets. If the member wants to take that up with


his colleagues in the executive, that's a matter for him. We don't


force people to go to particular areas in Northern Ireland. They tell


us where they want to go and we then facilitate it, but we do that


because people make bids. They sell themselves. They are positive and


that's one of the reasons why I have got very much involved in the smart


region concept in Fermanagh and Omagh because if I'm challenging


other areas and saying what are you doing? What are you doing to bring


foreign direct investment to your region then I think I have to step


up to the plate as well and that's what I have done. We are planning


for Invest NI's conference. It is coming to Fermanagh. I note from the


Fermanagh Herald he says they will not come out of their hotel. I will


make sure they will come out of their hotel. That's the negative


attitude I expect from Mr Flanagan. Last Friday, I engaged from with


young people with Joe Burn and with a representative from the Ulster


Unionist Party. This was arranged by the Peace and Reconciliation Group.


A range of questions were put to the audience and one of the questions


was in ten years, do you think you will be living in Fermanagh or


Tyrone? The answer was 78% of the young people thought they wouldn't


be living in Fermanagh and Tyrone because of the lack of job


opportunities. Is this the same conference that the member told


young people that the only thing I brought to Fermanagh was fracking?


When did the fracking start in Fermanagh? The minister is nearly


correct except from the tense. From all of the contributions from the


DUP members, there was not one single member that put forward any


kind of a defence as to why there was no foreign investors brought to


places like Fermanagh, Tyrone or Derry and that really says it all.


In her final contribution, the minister said I was wrong in saying


that the Invest NI delegates would stay in the hotel and she would see


to it, they will be taken out of the hotel. That's right, they will


probably be taken to the Giant?s Causeway and Titanic Museum as


always happen. The Justice Minister told the


Assembly today that he remains committed to a separate prison for


women, but that it's unlikely to happen in the near future. David


Ford was making a statement on the second anniversary of an independent


review into the Prison Service. Mr Ford told the Assembly that the


reform of the prison system is making good progress. The report


calls for change across the prison system in Northern Ireland. Its 40


recommend dayses were challenging, but I believe then and I believe now


that it set the road map to delivering an effective, efficient


and sustainable service. I said at the time of publication that


implementing the recommendations would be a long-term process and


that we would have to put in places foundations if reform was to be


embedded throughout our prisons. The service established a reform


programme to put in place the foundations tor delivery and to


drive the necessary changes. The reform programme is at the half-way


point. Good progress is being made. Nine recommendations have been


approved by the prison review oversight group. This group provides


oversight and scrutiny of the programme and includes a robust and


challenging independent element. I anticipate that a further nine


recommendations will be brought forward to be signed off by the


group at its December meeting. If those are signed off, almost half of


the recommendations will have been implemented. That demonstrates


steady progress. There is a Prison Service initiative at mag gab bury.


I also wanted to see support put in place for those with addiction


issues. Prison staff are being selected to work on the addiction


programme which will be piloted in the New Year. This will be a


complete programme regime which will support prisoners to break the cycle


of addiction. It is the first of its type in the British Isles and


demonstrates the approach that prison staff are willing to take to


deliver change. Today, I want to focus on the needs of females. I


wish to put on record that I remain committed to having a separate


prison for women. However that will not happen in the near future. To


address this, a four stage approach will take place with I will deliver


positive change for female prisoners. Reforming the prison


system in Northern Ireland is the biggest change programme in the


public sector since the formation of the PSNI in 2005. The


recommendations from the report were not straightforward. As I said


previously, the vision of the report was to deliver end to end


transformational change. That means changing the structures, ethos and


culture of the people who work for prisons and how they work with those


who are in custody. All of which has to be delivered within today's


financial restrictions. The Prison Service is an organisation in


transition and many people are working to make changes a reality.


I'm encouraged by the work that's being done and the pro he gres that


has been made. David Ford, the Justice Minister on


the state of prison reform in Northern Ireland. Joining me now is


Professor Phil Scraton, who wrote two human rights reports on women in


prison in Northern Ireland. David Ford says he is committed to a


separate prison for women but are we really any closer to that happening?


I am concerned about that, Mark. I mean, we made those recommendations


way back in 2005le. We were against the move to Hydebank Wood. The move


did happen and it has been a disastrous move for women. Their


rights are breached on a daily basis. We know the story of women


being transported with men. They can't move around the campus of


Hydebank Wood. They don't enjoy the freedoms of a medium security jail.


All of those issues remain unresolved issues around strip


searching and the Prison Service will say they are not strip


searched, they have a top half. All those issues we raise eight years


ago are still profoundly there and they were there in in Ann Owers


report. On four of the key criteria of judging the prison, it was poor


on four and only satisfactory on one. That is unacceptable and if


that's what is going to continue until 2015, even with the minor


adjustments that will be made in that time, it means that we are


presiding over not only the inequality of women in our jails,


but a serious abuse of their rights which would not happen in any other


European state. What are the implications for


individual women prisoners if this change doesn't happen as quickly as


you would like it to happen? Well, the implications are clear. Except


for a small number of long-term prisoners who actually have to


endure their imprisonment alongside others who are coming and going and


that's unacceptable. But apart from that, we are going to see women and


they go in for short periods of time, going in and out of that


prison over the next three to four years who are going to endure the


processes we have identified that are unacceptable. It is not only


those of us who are independent researchers. Ann Owers team pick up


and it is not acceptable. David Ford was at pains to point out


the reform of the prison system here is a huge task, but steady progress


is being made. Do you accept that? The devil is in the detail, Mark.


What David Ford did not do today is demonstrate which of the nine have


been resolved. Which of the forthcoming nine will be resold and


we are only half-way after two years. We are only half-way to


meeting the demands of Ann Owers report. That's slow progress. I have


been inside the prisons many times and I understand the problems of a


root and branch change, but it is not quick enough and while that's


happening prisoners and their families endure that process that


breaches their rights. Thank you very much indeed.


Earlier, we saw lively exchanges in the chamber and the temperature rose


during questions to the Culture Minister.


Can I ask the minister if she would confirm that the City of Culture


legacy plan will be will be brought forward this year and can she assure


that Derry football club will be included? With the ?3 million that


the Derry City council has will put a dent into the Foyle Valley plan.


It is really important that we use opportunities through sport and


physical activities through, the arts and the community development,


through health, social development and the rest to make sure that we


leave a good footprint and I believe the Foy Valley project is one of


those. Has the minister been able to ascertain how many boxing clubs we


have and how many need modernisation programmes? Well, there is well over


60 boxing clubs across the north you know, it would be fair to say that


many of them, if not all, well certainly, I would say the majority


of them would need some support around capital and support. I think


you could count on one hand the number of clubs that don't need any


support at all out of the 60. It is not the wax lyrical here, but we


continually praise the work and the product of boxers in this assembly


and this chamber. We continue to acknowledge the commitment and work


and the role models to play for children and young people within our


communities. We have to get behind the sport and make sure not only do


they have the facilities, but they will attract other youngsters to the


sport because any parent walking in, despite the success, they walk in


and see the facilities, I couldn't blame some of them for being tempted


to walk-out again despite all they do. They need to get behind the


support and put the investment where it is needed and boxing is one of


the sports that needs it. As the minister is a minister of the Crown


on a 24 /7 basis and subject to the constraints and obligations of the


Ministerial Code at all times, why then this summer did she see fit to


align herself with partisan protests against expressions of British


culture in Northern Ireland? And be present on several occasions...


THE SPEAKER: Order, please. As I have said that the member is


consistently silly. He provides nothing, but divisive politics to


this House. He has done nothing in terms of community relations,


building good or better relations. I think he has a brass neck to


question my adherence to the Ministerial Code which belongs to


this place. The member, despite his expertise, alleged of knowing


standing orders inside out, needs to ask the right question which is


right and pertinent to the question he asked in the first place. If he


has any difficulty with doing that, I am happy to sit down with him and


show him how it is done! The Culture Minister offering


tuition to Jim Allister. Row the PSNI are recruiting was


under discussion. The opening up of the recruitment


process of the PSNI and it allows for a further tran formation and


civilisation of the police force which is not fully representative of


the society we live in. As the member will know from his


role on the policing board, there are numbers around the budget. The


Police Service are in a process to start a new campaign. The important


issue for this campaign given that the 50/50 targets are removed is to


get the affirmative action programme to ensure they get the widest


possible range of applicants and to continue the work they have been


doing to ensure they become a representative service. Can he be


equally clear in temples of what the people of Northern Ireland are


missing in terms of the NCA operating operating here and the


impact that it would have on the people of Northern Ireland if we


don't have the full implementation of the National Crime Agency here?


What we will not have if we don't have full operational powers, the


NCA will not be able to deliver the same assistance to the PSNI until


the 7th October we had from the Serious and Organised Crime Agency.


It will hamper a variety of crimes, drug smuggling, fuel laundering. It


the not mean that those activities cannot be carried out against such


criminals, but it will mean the PSNI has to devote resources


There is now an opportunity for him as a minister of justice to bring


forward legislation which would tackle serious crime and indeed,


make it effective, but make it atable? -- accountable?


Well, I am not sure what legislation I could bring to on any meaningful


time scale which would enable us to fix the gap because even if we were


to seek to bring forward a new Bill in this place and even if there were


complete mrit theical agreement, there would be a significant gap to


allow the consultation, the drafting, the processes in this


House and I do not believe we can wait for those processes to be gone


through. I believe we have now got to the situation that the


accountability mechanisms are in place to allow the NCA to operate


within Northern Ireland subject to our normal policing architecture


here. Subject to the prime assy of the NI, reporting to the policing


board, all of those are issues which we have got.


Can I ask the minister that access to justice won't be compromised by


any reform of Legal Aid? I can assure him as I have assured the


House and the committee before, that it is my ambition to not take issues


out of scope for Legal Aid unless an alternative better method can be


provided, but there is no doubt that the financial challenges we face are


placing pressure to the point that current ex-pented ture on Legal Aid


-- expenditure on Legal Aid is meaning I have to make cuts in other


departments and that's an issue that needs to be addressed. The issue we


maintain as far as possible the access to the legal advice that


people need. The Justice Minister explaining how


money is tight in his department. Martina Purdy is with me again. So


Arlene Foster had a sharp exchange with Sinn Fein's Phil Flanagan over


job creation, but the mood is perhaps much lighter between the


First and Deputy First Ministers this evening.


Well, Mark whatever tensions they may have over the Maze, they don't


tend to fight in public and they are visiting Boston and Chicago. They


are visiting companies and I was hearing today in the he corridors,


there maybe good news shortly. Watch this space! That will be


interesting. Behind the scenes, you have been looking into Stormont's


approach to flying the Union flag? Well, Stormont has been looking at


it for around a year when the controversy arose over the flying of


the Union flag over Belfast City Hall and the decision to limit the


flying of the Union flag to designated days. The cross party


commission which is responsible for Parliament buildings has a paper


which it has to consider. Here is a number of options. They were


supposed to meet this week. The meeting will happen in November.


OK. We will hear more about that. That's it for now. Join me tomorrow


night at 11.20pm here on BBC Two. For now, bye-bye.


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.