24/01/2012 Stormont Today


24/01/2012

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


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Transcript


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Hello and welcome to Stormont Today. And while Oscar may have nodded in

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the direction of Northern Ireland with a short film nomination and

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yet another nod for Kenneth Branagh, which of our MLAs has been giving

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the best performance? Here's Mike Nesbitt doing

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bewilderment. Or would you prefer the angry young

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man type? What is the response? Let as Ram it

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through, not bother with due process. Get rid of the committee

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stage because we know best. And my leading man tonight,

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economist John Simpson. The economic reports remain pretty

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bleak. John Simpson can give us his analysis of the picture. I

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mentioned the Oscars and the creative industries and along with

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tourism, those are the green shoots? Tourism gets good muddles

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and Sammy Wilson does as well in terms of being in charge of finance.

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Tourism is followed by the food industry doing quite well. The

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construction industry is at the bottom and manufacturing. So the

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economy is worrying but it is not all worrying. A so the Programme

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for Government has been well digest it now, a week on the right track

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to some kind of recovery? Programme for Government on the

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economic side particularly is a big improvement. But it is still to

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aspirational. I think we will see many arguments about what they mean

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by the different state friends and what they are doing to make them

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come to life. Where are the jobs and the skilled people going to

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come from? All these things we are waiting for. But with the finance

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minister's economic background, he should be the man best placed for

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it? Sammy Wilson does have a background in economics and indeed

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teaching that he needs to be careful that he does not let his

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emotion carry him away from some logic. I think we might be thinking

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in different directions about the rates changes. A Taps and sinks are

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being replaced at the Royal's neo- natal unit after an inspection

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uncovered the source of the fatal pseudomonas outbreak. The new taps

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will have an ultra-violet light feature, which will kill bacteria.

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Here's the minister Edwin Poots making his second statement to

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members in as many days. Firstly there has been some

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concerns about the impact of this a brake on the ability to maintain

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neonatal provincial and in Northern Ireland. At present the neonatal

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network is managing well. However the number of babies requiring

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neonatal care can change from hour to hour. Well established

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arrangements are in place to make sure that when babies require it

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they can be translated to different units in Northern Ireland or

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another part of the UK or Republic of Ireland. I want to reassure

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women that delivery wards and all other services are operating as

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normal. Expectant mothers should attend appointments as scheduled. I

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wish to thank staff across the health sector for their continued

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dedication and commitment in caring for babies at this difficult time.

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I know all staff across the entire health sector work tirelessly to

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provide a safe and caring environment for patients and I

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would express my gratitude to the Mall. In addition I pay tribute to

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the work of the Public Health Agency in providing expert advice

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and to the Health and Social Care Board as they ensure that neonatal

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services remain available for babies.

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Now the source has been identified, questions are being asked about how

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the contaminated water reached the babies. There's also the further

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matter of the death of a baby in Altnagelvin before Christmas. The

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Chief Medical Officer, Michael McBride, told me what the

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Department of Health did after the death. When the identified the

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incident at Altnagelvin and became aware that it was apparently

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related to a tap within the unit, week issued the guidance again to

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all the Trusts across Northern Ireland reminding them again of the

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information that we have previously issued. But there was no sense at

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that stage that the taps should have been checked? I think it was

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fair to say we had high standards of infection control across all

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intensive care units. So there is no suggestion that we had a problem

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and indeed prior to these outbreaks, every indication was that all of

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the arrangements currently in place were working well. Clearly once we

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get the a brick under control there will be the opportunity to ask

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questions around, are the things that we could or should have done

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differently? Those are questions for another time. But it is

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important that we look back on this experience and particularly the

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tragic consequences, and ask those questions. What are the lesson that

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we can learn? What are the steps we can take to ensure that this does

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not happen again, to the best of our ability. Do you drink it could

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have been prevented? I would be speculating, we need to investigate

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in some detail the causes, the possible contributory factors. We

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do need to provide those answers in due course because the last thing

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we want is for this to occur again. Could more have been done between

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the baby dying in Altnagelvin to the three babies dying in the

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Royal? I suspect the answer to that question would be yes. Will the

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committee now be asking for further details or will you wait for the

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outcome of the inquiry? I think it would be prudent to wait for the

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outcome of the inquiry but we will be keeping a close eye on this. One

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of my committee colleague asked if taps would be replaced in other

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neonatal unit snout as a result of finding the second source and I

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think the answer to that question should be yes, it should be carried

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out as quickly as possible. Is a hospital fit for purpose? Does this

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raised questions about the new children's hospital that was

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planned some time ago? Question time can often be a bad

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tempered hour, but not today, with the regional development minister

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in fine form. Also up this afternoon was the social

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development minister, Nelson McCausland, who managed to upset

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one member. But let's start with Danny Kennedy taking a question

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from a party colleague. The minister will be aware in his

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own network Transport report that average journey times through

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Ballynahinch where as low as just under eight miles an hour. Would

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the minister agreed that this has a serious adverse effect on

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businesses, tourism, commuters across the South Down area?

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grateful to the member for his supplementary question and his

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interest in this particular scheme. I have had many occasions to travel

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through Ballynahinch and also enjoy the facilities offered by

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Ballynahinch in terms of shopping and other facilities. And I want to

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stress that it would be my hope and intention that we could proceed

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with a Ballynahinch bypass as quickly as possible. I'm interested

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as roads minister in upgrading the network of roads throughout

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Northern Ireland. Ian am listening closely and have taken the

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opportunity to meet with local representatives from that area,

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advocating that scheme. Also with business people. I am aware of the

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arguments and it is a matter of moving this scheme forward as

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quickly as we can. I thank the Minister for his response. I

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noticed the minister was indeed in my constituency last Wednesday

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morning. And he had a number of representatives around him. I was

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in the office dealing with constituents but he never thought

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of coming and saying, come out and talked to us. Things were just as

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highly charged as the next topic came up - electric cars. I am

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impressed by the minister's illuminating answer. But could I

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ask him to throw some more light on how people could actually be

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encouraged to take that first tentative step to requiring

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electric powered vehicles? I thank the member and as usual he is not

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plugged in, he is sometimes wired up! There are specific charge.

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Locations which have been identified throughout Northern

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Ireland. Each of these will have two dedicated car park spaces which

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will be located in priority car park locations. And of course home

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and workplace charging will be charged under existing home and

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workplace pictures the bills. We are putting in place the mechanism

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to allow people to take up this scheme and perhaps a bale of it.

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Electric vehicles are now just coming onto the market and the plug

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in car Grant allows buyers to receive a grant of 25% towards the

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cost. Up to a maximum of �5,000. social development it was

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homelessness and increased levels of repossession that had the

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interest of members. Here is the minister responding to Paul Maskey.

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We are not yet clear are the implications of welfare reform so

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it is impossible to predict precisely where we will be. But I

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think the proposals we're bringing forward will adopt a comprehensive

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approach to deliver what we need in the next period.

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I thank the Minister for his reply. In relation to giving his answer to

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the members already, he made reference to a wider ranging

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definition of homelessness. Especially those people who

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unfortunately find themselves on the street. What is the Minister

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and the Department looking at in the chick here in relation to that

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issue and straw and the distinction between that type of definition and

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people who have their property repossessed? The first question

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their around how many are actually homeless and the meaning of

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homelessness, under the Housing Law in 1988 a prisoners' home as if

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they have no accommodation. Furthermore a person can be treated

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as homeless even if they have accommodation that may not be fit

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for their needs or have a double. Last year more than 10,000 people

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on the waiting list were assessed in this manner but I stress this

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does not mean they're actually homeless. People assessed as

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homeless may be living in temporary accommodation, staying with friends

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or even in many cases, living in their own home. The Housing

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Executive estimate approximately 10 people sleep rough on streets of

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Belfast on any given night but members must realise that this is

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by their own choice if they can describe it like that. Often their

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folk who are living with circumstances and situations. No

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one needs to be sleeping on the streets and there is enough

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accommodation across Northern Ireland for anyone who needs it.

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pilot pay-as-you-go scheme for people using home heating oil has

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started recently but Mike Nesbitt had a query. I thank the Minister.

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Returning to the Pay As You Go pilot scheme, could the Minister of

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for clarity on the ownership of the heating oil in domestic tanks using

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this technology and in the event of theft, who would bear the risk, the

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During the pilot scheme the tank will be fitted with an antique

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Tampa device. -- Antique tampering device. Mike Nesbitt said he was

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appalled at the number of times ministers ignored questions. He

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said it was an abuse of democracy. Obviously welfare reform is going

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to be a huge issue for all of us in the coming weeks and months.

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have seen what happened in the House of Lords with regard to the

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debate on maximum benefits. Northern Ireland was left out of

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the discussion, but we all know what that means. Parity will have

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to be kept with what is happening across the water otherwise the

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Budget will be in difficulty. We will be hearing much more

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discussion about the impact of the cut in off their benefits. It is

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the situation where Hobson's Choice will have to do. Is Stormont the

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visitor attraction it could be? Are nationalists put off coming to

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parliament buildings because of Lord Carson's statue? Well, it

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seems there is evidence that it's not as cross-community as it could

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be. Here's Martina to explain. According to the latest minutes of

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the Assembly committee, they have commissioned an audit to see

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whether Stormont is welcoming enough. It has been suggested in

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the minutes that people are not coming to Stormont because their

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culture is not been reflected. Previous reports have indicated

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that Unionists are more likely to visit Stormont. This audit has been

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going on and efforts had been made to make sure of symbols and

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language are more reflective of nationalists.

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Money is tight. You have heard about some changes that could be

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made. Yes. There are issues around the childcare scheme here. It is

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thought it is to generous and people who use it should move to

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the voucher scheme. With me now is Sinn Fein's Barry

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McElduff. How do you know there are more Protestants than couplets that

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visit Parliament Buildings? A survey was carried out in 2009

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and it demonstrated that in the West, 10 % of the people surveyed

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said they had been to Stormont. In the greater Belfast area the figure

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is 39 %. Unionists tend to identify greater with the building the brand

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do nationalists of historical reasons. But things are changing.

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This evening, Belfast Community Gospel Choir are in the long haul.

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Progress is being made. As a commission member, I am duty-bound

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to push this agenda a little bit more and tried to have more out

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reach to places like Tyrone and Fermanagh, so people feel

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comfortable about coming to Stormont. Is there not an issue of

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distance? Yes, but Stormont is not Irish language friendly. If he were

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to go to the Welsh Assembly, the Scottish parliament, you will see

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institutional reflection of languages. You do not see that here

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at Stormont parliament buildings, and you are talking about where

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there is a burgeoning Ivey school movement. People coming here would

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like tours in at the Irish medium. I am not saying I am facing a brick

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wall, but this is typically the stuff of debate at the Commission.

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Is it just about language, or would you prefer to see other symbols

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around the building, something along the lines of the flak?

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would like to see neutrality or equality. Perhaps along with the

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Lord Carson statue they could be because of other prominent Irish

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men or women. These are the things which I think the commission should

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have a serious discussion around. Thank you for joining us.

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The Rates Bill is passing though the House using accelerated passage.

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This means a Bill can pass through all stages in as little as ten days

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instead of the usual months as it skips the committee stage. Jim

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Allister questioned the Finance's Ministers motives for using this

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process, but Sammy Wilson was adamant it was the right way.

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The key measures contained within the Bell Rock arm important on a

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number of levels, not at least due to the fact that the funding will

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allow a number of businesses receiving help to be roughly

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doubled and the level of support increased by around 50 %. Given

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that help is needed now, the funding raised through the levy, it

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would be pure show if we did not implement the measures until 2013

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what we hope the recovery will be on the way. For that reason, it is

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important the motion go through by accelerated passage rather than

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take the normal route. The use of accelerated passage is not

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something that I take lightly and having been on the other side of

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the process as the chairman of a committee and as a backbench member,

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I fully understand why people and members would wish to have the

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opportunity to properly deal with legislation to the scrutiny, which

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normally takes place line by line and the committee. And I also

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recognise that it is a means of ensuring that legislation is fit

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for purpose and when we finish, we have the best piece of legislation

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possible. How were there, it is important we balance again that --

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against that these packages are focussing on taking the strain from

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businesses during the economic downturn and insuring a further

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decline in the high streets is halted. For that reason, I believe

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it is important that we get the measure through the assembly

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quickly so that it can be in place for the start of the rate year in

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2012. If there had been the urgency, if there had been the anxiety, it

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could have manifested itself a lot sooner than now. It is not that we

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have had time because since this committee and assembly came into

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existence, we have been wasting time. This is the first legislation

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apart from the hang of the budget that has come before this House and

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what is the response of the Special Operations Executive? Let us push

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it through. Let us not bother with due process. There are other

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private members' motions that we could bear to spend our time on. I

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do pick it sends out a very wrong and disappointing, but to me not

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surprising message, from this House. We can't wait to avoid it due

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process, we can't avoid to rush it and accelerate its, whether it is

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exceptional or not. Well, despite Mr Allister's

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protests the Bill did move to it's second stage. The Finance Minister

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explained to the House that the legislation will allow him to

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introduce a 15% levy on the largest shops, which will help fund a small

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business rate relief scheme. There was general agreement for the plan,

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but members reminded the Minister they would hold him to his promise

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of a full non domestic rate revaluation in 2015. It is

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important to look at these changes in proportion. The levy, first of

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all, is a temporary change and it will only last for three years. On

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average, the levy will cost about �66,000 per year, Per store. That

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represents again on average 0.19 % of the individual store's turnover.

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That put it into context. Businesses who form part of a

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larger chain should not benefit from the skins. Mortarboard

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business premises will be excluded. It is necessary to have a fair and

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transparent process for the long- term. The revaluation in 2015

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should rebalance the rating system. There should be no delay in

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implementing this. The necessary preparatory work should be carried

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out well in advance. There may be better ways of bringing believed to

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small retailers in the longer term, but these would take some time to

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bring forward under the existing rating system. A rating review is

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planned and perhaps that will afford the opportunity to hone a

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more accurate instrument in the future. I appreciate the

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difficulties of the small businesses. I hear what the large

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retailers are saying, but I must say there is not the same level of

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large retailers going to the war as are small businesses. -- to the

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wall. The big stores like Tesco are not happy about this. Is it a good

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idea? I have said on record I thought it was a poor idea and it

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is not one I would like to support. I think it has damaged. First of

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all, it will not make a difference to the troubles of small businesses.

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If you look around the streets, particularly Belfast, there are so

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many empty shops. We need the economy took stop brewing again. I

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did not like this because it has offended the large stores. They are

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saying they are been giving -- being given an extra charge. If it

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was a fair system, it would not need this adaptation. We need the

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new revaluation and the minister is pain the pros -- paying the price

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for delaying it. We do need to revitalise the economy, but the

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short answer is the programme for government is tackling this slowly.

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There is not a sense of urgency and when the Finance Minister is

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shifting five or six or �8 million, getting at first publicity, it

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seems to me it is the wrong price to pay for the problems we are

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tackling. They say every picture tells a

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story and that was certainly true in Stormont today. People

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recovering from addiction to drugs and alcohol displayed artwork they

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had produced as part of a programme at the Dunlewy Substance Abuse

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Centre based in north Belfast. They help former addicts, including 14-

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year-old Demi Kelly. I was on drugs and I got into

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Dunlewy. They asked me to do a photo shoot and I agreed. What sort

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of hell did you get? That I could do better and I had made mistakes.

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Tell me about a picture. What were you thinking of when you put it

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together? I was thinking I could have fun without being in bother

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and that I just thought I would do a picture of being happy. I took a

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picture of me being happy and edited it. They said it would be up

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at Stormont so I came today and I was relieved it was up.

0:28:370:28:41

A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Tara Mills is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont, and is joined by key people from decision makers to opinion formers to make the experience enlightening and entertaining.


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