22/10/2012 Stormont Today


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

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Hello and welcome to Stormont Today. Coming up: it is the biggest shake-


up to benefits for decades, and today, welfare reform was back on


the agenda as the Social Development Minister announced a


unique changes to how benefits would be paid here.


These payment flexibilities will allow for different payment


arrangements where it is necessary. Not least were vulnerable customers


will find budgeting difficult. Passions became in flames during a


tense debate on the rising unemployment figures. It was one of


almost dealing with some children you can hardly be bothered to


reprimand, but nevertheless, I will go through the motions. Gareth


Gordon shares his insights into what else has been happening in the


corridors of power. The social development of Minister


was in chipper form at the House today, keen to share with his


fellow MLAs that Westminster's reform minister Lord Freud has


given him a number of commitments on have benefits can be paid in


Northern Ireland in the future. Lord Freud, after our meeting on


Tuesday past, has given me a number of commitments and those are in


writing. Mr Speaker, the housing cost element of Universal Credit,


which will therefore be paid automatically to the landlord,


rather than the claimant. There will be an arrangement for those


who choose to receive the for the Universal Credit payment and in


turn pay their landlord. In addition, the IT system function us


it will be developed to enable the computer system, where necessary,


to split their if payment between two parties in the household and


where necessary, pay two smaller payment per month, rather than the


single monthly payment. While in a majority of cases, there will be


one single monthly payment to each Universal Credit household, these


claimant -- payment flexibilities will allow for different payments


where necessary, not least were vulnerable customers will find


budgeting difficult. And with this in mind, I have task might


officials to develop and then consult the public sector the Rock


presenters and voluntary sector representatives on guidelines --


public sector representatives, on the way the Universal Credit should


respect or made on it twice monthly basis. -- should be split. This way,


we can protect the vulnerable whilst maintaining their household


monthly payment for those who do not need these bespoke measures.


Some in this house and wanted to kill this Bill under various cloaks


of convenience -- in this house wanted to kill the spill, and to


foolishly ignore the consequences. Consequences which included


depriving the many thousands of of people of the Social Fund which


they rely on when at their most formidable. Consequences which


would have deprived critical government services of �200 million


to meet the shortfall in the Budget. And also put at real risk over


1,000 existing jobs across Northern Ireland. I would say that they


actually reject much of the political content of the minister's


statement and I would go on to argue that perhaps with the recent


very long protracted debate, it is interesting that these facts have


not been pursued by the British government until after that lengthy


debate which showed universal opposition to many aspects of the


Bill itself. Certainly, our party will be very much to the 4th of


welcoming any progress that the minister will be able to announce


an particularly I am pleased that the British government have


acknowledged that track payments are a good thing. I welcome the


fact the first time that this Minister and his government has


again acknowledged that they now can concede to some of these


flexibilities, even within the context of Parliament, that the IT


system can be modified to facilitate this flexibilities.


Members were then asked to vote on a Sinn Fein motion calling for the


Newman Ireland Human Rights Commission to assess whether the


welfare reform bill is compatible with human rights -- Northern


Ireland. A proposal was rejected. Politicians are still discussing


Commons by the Attorney-General on abortion. Last week, he offered to


assist the December's justice committee should it choose to


assess the at Marie Stopes off clinic that opened in Belfast.


Speaking before he became Attorney- General, Mr Larkin had made


controversial comments in a radio interview. Gareth Gordon it with me.


For clarity's saved, what precisely it did John Larkin say four years


ago -- clarity's sake? It emerged that he had made the offer to the


justice committee last week to become involved in the Marie Stopes


issue. Then some people remembered a debate John Larkin had taken part


in on radio or stay in 2008, before he became Attorney-General, and


during the course of that he said, "If one is prepared to contemplate


the destruction of a highly disabled, unborn child in the womb,


of which will also be able to contemplate putting a bullet in the


back of the head of the child two days after it is born?". There is


political reaction both for and against John Larkin, it caused a


great deal of shock and the fall- out is continuing. Those comments


have certainly been controversial. Gerry Adams was in parliament


buildings here and he gave his reaction to what Mr Larkin had said.


Perfectly entitled to make those remarks and, as it is everybody


else under our conflicting and very diverse views on this very


important and emotive issue. I think that in all of this, that the


health committee, the Health Department, the Health Minister and


the regulations set in place of what is going to govern our way out.


That is what Gerry Adams is saying on the Jon Parkin controversy.


Gareth, how does it tally with what his Sinn Fein colleagues have been


saying? In other interviews today, Gerry Adams is making it clear that


what John Larkin said was absolutely wrong, and his party


colleague who reacted in the immediate aftermath of the 2008


remarks being re ventilated, she didn't say that he is perfectly


entitled. In fact, there are described as wholly inappropriate


and this afternoon, a statement from the vice-chair of the justice


committee said it basically cast doubt over Jon Parkin's ability to


make sure his personal opinions that interfere or had any assertion


he makes in regard to legal issues and the ongoing debate, a reference


back to what John Larkin has offered to justice committee. The


Sinn Fein spokesman says there is no difference in the Commons from


Mr Adams and any other party member and in fact, they believe that John


Larkin, what he said, was unacceptable. Had there, it's also


a Scot -- caused difficulties for the SDLP? The party leader was on


the programme with Mark Devenport on Friday evening and when he heard


what John Larkin had said on -- in 2008, he kind of defended him and


said he had made those remarks in a personal capacity and before he was


Attorney-General, but today, he has very hardened his stance -- very


much. He said the Commons were deeply upsetting and the Attorney-


General must be allowed to prove that he can act impartially on the


issue, so some political pressure coming on John Larkin. One other


issue to touch on, the minor parties and independents appear,


campaigning for better speaking rights in the Chamber. You don't


often see David McMurray, David McLarty, etc, singing from the same


hymn sheet, but they don't often find themselves on the same side of


the argument, but today, they do. They are united on one thing, that


they don't get a fair crack of the whip. They said they are not


allowed to speak of the nerve during debates. Three of them


actually held a news conference to kill -- call for it more rights for


the smaller parties and as if to illustrate the point, one told bit


about that none of them were called on that debates during unemployment


rates. -- one told me today. Do we know if that will happen, if there


will be clarity as to whether they get better rights? They would


certainly like them immediately but I'm not sure if they will get them


at all or how the issue is going to be dealt with. But they have made


their point. They certainly have. We will leave it there for now,


thank you very much. An SDLP motion expressing concern


at of rising unemployment rate was debated on the floor of December


this afternoon. The motion was the subject of an Ulster Unionist


amendment which accused BSL I of acceptance. The people who


represent this Assembly need jobs and they need them now. They cannot


wait for long-term diplomacy to get its way slowly through their


decision-making process in China. One visit has already suited the


Chinese, this party. To attract investment from countries with


established and emerging markets is welcome, but it beats better


support for our own local companies. Once tragedy that has real


potential for job creation and has been ignored, if not neglected by


the champagne the DUP programme for government -- the Sinn Fein, is the


green New Deal. It will leave fewer people in fuel poverty, cut carbon


emissions and lay the foundations of a new, competitive locale of


economy. That is the future. We don't have the fiscal levers


necessary to set out our own economic policies just quite yet.


But we do have the key powers to bring forward such creative,


innovated new programmes. After the revelation that 760 jobs were being


left that F G Wilson, the chief Executive said that if he were in


charge of the company, he would have made the same decision. He


also said he was not surprised by the move. That is not the way to


seek to build converse in our economy. That is no way to support


the workers of FG Wilson and it is totally improper it from someone in


his position. I believe this House should expressed dismay over this


particular, its and the resigned acceptance of the job losses, which


was apparent in his remarks. SDLP motion and the DUP amendment


calling for action around youth unemployed are but flawed and out


of date, but have been proposed by the SDLP and the D B, so I am not


sure what we expected -- UUP. What was described as a resigned


acceptance to the trend of jobs moving overseas is also ill judged.


We cannot ignore that for the fact is for Northern Ireland to move


forward, more so they might be able to not compete with certain areas


in terms of labour costs, we can adapt and grow a more knowledge-


based economy in Northern Ireland. Coming to the green New Deal, this


has been an opportunity missed by the Assembly. Alongside many of the


parties, we said this in our 2011 manifesto, and we are disappointed


it has not been developed in the way put forward by the proposals


suggested, and therefore there was a need for the Executive to review


these proposals and the potential that they have for creating


employment, developing critical skills and improving energy


efficiency within Northern Ireland. Whilst I do believe that there is


consensus in this Assembly that we must do much more for the economy,


I would have liked to have heard, and I think it would have been


useful if we heard, much more from speakers in terms of the demand for


Approach. Resources are spread too thin in the global market place.


Listen to people saying we need an economic strategy, a job creation


strategy it. It is already there in the programme but Government and


the economic strategy will stop it people have ideas they want to add


on, we will look at them because the Sub-Committee that looks at the


economy meet regularly. They had said from the beginning they are


happy to look at it Coulstock the men and that talks about the main


motion talks about implementing the jobs plan from the business


alliance. The business alliance were in close its co-operation with


the Executive informing the economic strategy. I don't know


where that piece comes from in the amendment and the motion. I'd do


welcome the recognition motion and the central role in this has been


growing the economy will stop I'd be reviewed the allegation that a


we display, and I used the word we, because I do work very much as part


of the team a week Alastair Hamilton, that we display put


resigned acceptance to the trend of jobs moving overseas. What nonsense


Mr Deputy Speaker. The minister does seem to beat her cheek.


Disappointed that this, disappointed at that. The tone of


her voice was almost one of dealing with some children he could not be


bothered to reprimand but will go through the motions. Basil McCrea


with a pointed message for the Enterprise Minister, Arlene Foster.


And the amended motion was passed with 89 members voting - 48 voted


yes and 41 voted no. The pressing subject of helping


those without work was also the focus of questions to the


Employment and Learning Minister, Stephen Farry. He detailed help


being given to so-called NEETS - those not in employment, education


or training. But first he addressed what's being done for those


affected by the recent job losses at FG Wilson. A officials working


with the company's appointed, represented locally to organise a


job, training and recruitment there, a beach of the three sites. These


boats commence this week. On Friday evening, though what 14 companies


listed to participate in the jobs there has with a further 28 Post


identified in the food processing sector,. I am delighted at this


response. Could I ask with the eye- level of skilled agency workers


employed at the various sites, can the Minister ensure the house of a


quality? I am happy to give the assurance about those affected by


the redundancies. We have a self interest in doing this be on our


overriding requirements as well, in that these workers are skilled,


they had a lot to offer for the future of the economy. It is


important we capture these workers in a predicted weight rather than


have them falling into unemployment. Can the minister outlined in the


House how the families are actually targeted and round the whole NEETs.


Because I do have a concern we will fall into this trap of only


Tracking areas of high deprivation? The programme we are talking about


in terms of this question is a pilot. And co-pilots week to choose


areas to stop. We are looking to deliver that through the current


leaders scheme, which is a very keenly based intervention in terms


of dealing with people who on employed. The Careers Service will


have an important role. We would like to have one to one mentoring


with people who fall into the NEETs category will stop it is important


we were in close co-operation with the Department of Education to


identify young people at risk from an early stage. We can track them


through the education system. is one of the issues I have raised


in Committee about how it is dealt with. One of the concerns I have


had his the 36,000 plus young people left school without any


GCSEs. As there been anything specifically tailored to meet that


you people's needs? As a ball, given his local interest we're


starting the roll-out of the scheme in west Belfast, so no doubt he


will take some comfort from that. We are conditions there are a lot


of you people lead school without sufficient qualifications or indeed


no qualifications. The opportunities in the labour market


for people in that situation Ossa to decline dramatically over the


next 10 years. Less than 10% of job opportunities will be considering


people of that label of education. There is a challenge in turning


that situation around. We do have the training or success programme


which offers a guaranteed training place to any 16 to 18 year-olds,


and that is outside the confines of formal apprenticeships. We would


want people to consider how they can progress through the system and


we also of the essential skills training which offers people a


little two qualification in literacy and numeracy.


The Employment and Learning Minister, Stephen Farry. Now,


Arlene Foster, was at the Despatch Box again this afternoon when the


subject of tourism became a focus during today's questions to the


Enterprise Minister. Might give the minister and the


Northern Ireland Tourist Board for the marketing campaign, in


particular the flexibility shown with the gods to modified use of


the branding and the strap line or that campaign. Can I ask the


Minister how damaging of the scenes of street violence we saw during


the summer in Northern Ireland to the tourism product? What are the


key actions that need to be taken to secure tourism growth on the


long-term bases in Northern Ireland? I thank him for his


positive comments. The whole idea behind the branding was that it


would be something that would be taken up, not just by the tourist


board but the industry in general. I am pleased to say they very much


there forward and owns the brand, and when I was recently in than


gammon speaking to some retailers, they were indicating they felt it


helped in the town centre as well. I think it is very positive. As


well as the tourism nature of Northern Ireland 2012, we saw it as


a way of building civic pride in Northern Ireland. It is


disappointing when street violence is related right across the world


and in Northern Ireland, it tends to be related across the world. Is


there in violence that market there is violence and Birmingham on


Manchester, it does not even get that on page of the local papers.


But because it is Northern Ireland Ostend to go across the rest of the


world. It is damaging to the tourism product, but we will keep


moving on. We had begins next year which everybody is looking forward


to being as UK City of Culture in Londonderry. Can ask the minister


it she agrees the current rates airport duty is discouraging people


from coming here. As the Member knows we had a very successful


campaign team at the devolution of air passenger duty in respect of


international flights devolved and that legislation is going through


the House not. I'd think we did very well to achieve that, because


then it gives me the opportunity to look for, along with the


international airport and the city Airport, and indeed London Derry


Airport, to look for new flights to come in. I do except in relation to


domestic lights that air passenger duty remains a huge issue. I would


support a call to the Westminster Government that they really need to


look at our passenger duty in respect of the whole of the UK. We


hope they will take that on board from the industry and indeed from


politicians. As the minister had any discussions with her


counterpart in the south with a view to developing a tourism


product on a cross-border glazers, given strict ban is one of the


gateways to Donegal? I thank her for her question. I do recognise


the ban is one of the gateways to Donegal. I visited a tourism


project in straw ban, I was nearly run down by one of the cars going


to Donegal. She knows the tourism project I am recovering to us. I


know members are disappointed by the fact I still stand... But


anyway, the reality is I have had discussions just last week with the


tourism minister for the Republic of Ireland. We have not spoken


about tourism product on a cross- border basis, we were talking about


the number of tourists we need to attract from our biggest market


which of course, is Great Britain. Arlene Foster. The man tasked with


leading a review of the Department of Education's Common Funding


Scheme appeared before the Education Committee last week. Sir


Robert Salisbury, told Committee members that his review team had


heard a range of often divergent opinions from different


stakeholders, as we can hear now in our weekly look at Committee


business. Lasts six weeks we have been


meeting with anybody who can stand upright and talk about schools and


funding. We at met with something like over 50 organisations ranging


from schools, anybody who has anything at all to say about the


way education runs. We had been like giant sponges. In our face-to-


face discussions, we have been asking people what are the


strengths of occurrence has done? How is it working, is it matching


the policies the department as? Of their weaknesses? What are the


things you go back to your own homes and complain about? Where is


this is them stretched and not working well? As you can imagine,


most people had said they want more money in their particular sector.


But are less forthcoming when we say, where should the money come


from? The expectations of what schools ought to be doing, going up


all the time. The actual costs of running schools, when it before


stabbing, equipment or capital buildings, going up all the time.


Taxpayers' willingness to pay very much more education is staying


roughly the same, particularly with ageing populations. And the


availability of Government spending going down. So the gap between what


schools are likely to get and what they think the need is widening.


it not important principles retains its and controls over their


budgets? Goods and for management could not be bureaucratic in the


end and more expensive? Yes, it is a view that has come very strongly


to us from the principles. You might be surprised to know that the


counter view has come from other organisations we have met. It has


felt a bit like being in Wimbledon's sometimes. Some are


deserves a volley and it comes back and we have been watching its


sights. One of a you thought when you read some of these reports,


many of the principles in the North at spent a lot of time in managing


a budget will stop at the Budget, when you pace that, you have 10 to


15% let. What is your comments particularly in the south where


teachers are paid centrally? Would that take the pressure of the


principles? In the south, the principle would argue they had less


control over their staffing levels, but on the over and they have less


of a Budget hat-trick. There is a push for autonomy in some of the


larger schools. -- budget headache. Autonomy does not mean you have


more money, you just get more control over some of it.


A look at last week's Education Committee meeting. Gareth Gordon is


with me again. Gareth, before we go a word about an exhibition of


photographs which opens in Parliament Buildings tomorrow.


marks the 80th anniversary of the opening of Parliament buildings. As


you say, photographs and architect roarings from back in the day.


Interesting for anybody interesting in politics. I was interested in


the artist's impression about Stormont as it the original


building should have been built. It is a big unit building as it is but


there should have been two wings as well. The reason it was not like


that is because of austerity. the decision was taken not to have


those extra wings. The amount of concrete, the number of men the


worked on it, the huge quantities of Portland stone, they add up?


Barrow men's list said that 700 trees died to make Stormont a


possibility that stock there are photographs of the basements which


is 8 ft 6 deep. That is the basement we are in at the moment


and that is what some of the politicians like to keep us. It is


interesting to see the basement before the rest of the building


went up on top of it? Whatever anyone think of it, it is a


building which has made its mark on Ministry of Northern Ireland.


Anyone interested in that history should come along. There was a


group being shown around this evening its Raja Pervez Ashraf.


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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