24/02/2014 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 on the programme: The


Enterprise Minister promises to help those made redundant by the closure


of a Dungiven company. We will do all that we can to support them, of


course, and to assist them in relation to either finding a job or


indeed starting their own business and we will do that through Invest


NI. Martin McGuinness says he believes the United States


government still has faith in the Richard Haass proposals. There can


be no doubt whatsoever that the United States of America remains


very engaged in this work. And I'm joined by our Political Reporter,


Stephen Walker, for his view on today's proceedings.


Friday's dramatic news of 202 job losses in Dungiven was the subject


of an urgent oral question in the chamber today. KPL Contracts went


into administration and the local Sinn Fein MLA, Cathal O hOisin, said


that was a massive blow for the area. He asked the Enterprise, Trade


and Investment Minister what will be done to help those affected. A


redundancy clinic has been organised for 2.00pm on Wednesday, February


26th at the Elk inn in too many bridge. Advice will be provided on


entietedlements and business start-ups support for those who may


be considering self-employment as an option. The news broke on Friday. I


spoke to the administrator the a lunch time on Friday and again


today. It would appear there is a considerable volume of work that is


there with large employing bases and the minister has outlined them, such


as DRD Road Service, NIE and BT. Will the minister have discussions


with our executive colleague and others to ensure that if we have the


skilled workbase there that can carry out the work that needs doing,


the work still needs done, that some of these companies will be able to


offer employment opportunities to the former employees of KPL? Well,


certainly if there are companies looking for workers, they will find


them with skills in abundance in relation to KPL. We will assist any


companies that want to come forward to us and look for help in relation


to job fund applications. I have had a brief opportunity to speak to my


colleague, the DRD minister in relation to the matters. He is


looking into this, as you would expect him to do, in terms of the


agencies involved with KPL. I'm sure that's the case with the private


companies as well, who have assured us they have contingencies in place


in relation to customers. That's not the question we are talking about


today. The question is in relation to those people who have found out


they no longer have a job. We will do all we can to support them, of


course and to assist them in relation to either finding a job or


indeed starting their own business and we will do that through Invest


NI. The Enterprise Minister, Arlene Foster, pledging her support for the


KPL workers made redundant last week. The state of the


Dungiven-based company was also mentioned during questions to the


Deputy First Minister. Martin McGuinness also discussed the


Maze/Long Kesh project, the Richard Haass proposals and, firstly, his


visit with Peter Robinson to the US next month... On Monday, had 10th


March we'll meet with HBO's President of Production and six


other top executives. We met HBO in Los Angeles in 2000 the when we


persuaded them to take a leap of faith and locate the production of


the Game of Thrones series here. We'll support a charity at an


evening event in Los Angeles that will include young people from


disadvantaged backgrounds from here and LA. We will then travel to San


Jose to meet with Seagate's seen area management team. Seagate


technology, as you know is one of our most prestigious hi-tech


companies whose fas nit Derry employs over 1,300 people. The


company makes a major contribution to the economy of the north-west and


this is our first opportunity to meet sap seagate's seen area


management team at its US headquarters. We look forward to T


we will host an investment luncheon for over 120 Silicon Valley business


executives, to discuss the merits of doing business here. Later that day,


we will travel to San Francisco to officiate at the official opening of


Invest NI's new office on the west coast. Well, I absolutely agree with


the member, the loss of 200 jobs through KPL's difficulties in Given


is very very disappointing -- Dungiven. But in recent years we


have become increasingly successful in attracting foreign direct


investment. Foreign direct investment is very, very important


but also, we understand the huge importance of our own indigenous


businesses and the massive contribution they make towards


employment. And that's why we are so disappointed that the collapse of K


p. L. PL -- in the collapse of the the company in Dungiven that has


left 200 people on the dole queue. Every effort will be made to make


sure they get report. Will he be discussing the Haas process with


political representatives, which I know might depend on getting an


invited to the White House? Well, I don't think there is any possibility


whatsoever of us travelling to the United States and not being the


subject of a conversation around the whole issue of the Haas process,


given that Richard Haas and Megan O'Sullivan are two highly


represented diplomats and well-known on Capitol Hill. So, I think that


there can be no doubt, whatsoever, that the United States of America


remains very engaged in this work. Could I ask the Deputy First


Minister, if, in the course of his forthcoming trip to the USA, he


receives a serious business inquiry about a potential investment in the


Maze site, what advice would he give that potential investor at the


present time? Well, I don't have any doubts that the Maze Long Kesh site


is a site of huge national and international importance. And, I


have no doubt whatsoever that there are quite a number of businesses


very interested in seeing that site developed. The Peace Centre was


designed to be just that, a centre for peace and reconciliation. The


only shrine at that centre will be a shrine to peace and reconciliation.


And our Political Reporter, Stephen Walker, joins me now. Some familiar


themes there. Let's start with the references to Richard Haas. Where


are we, with that protest? Well, it is now the post-Haas world. Richard


Haas was mentioned there but this process is now firmly in the control


of the parties since the New Year. There have been a series of


meetings, often on a weekly basis. They had discussions last week. I


under understand there are more discussions to. They are called


leaders plus one meetings. The documents floating around. The DUP


and other parties have presented papers. Basically everybody knows


everybody else's position but there is no sense that this process is


moving towards an agreement. One revelation today, the cost of the


Haas talks reported at around ?250,000. That doesn't include a fee


because obviously Richard Haas and Megan O'Sullivan didn't charge one


but that's the cost right up from last summer to New Year's Eve. The


cost is ticking, it has been made that the Americans want the issue


wrapped up by St Patrick's Day. He made them during an interview on the


View, and he talked about a deal in St Patrick's day when Peter Robinson


and Martin McGuinness are there. Nationalists are clearly hoping for


it much the unionists have never accepted this. But as I said


earlier, there no quugs, that the way the talks are going at the


moment, that there would be any kind of agreement. So whilst that is one


date in people's diry, the 17th March. I think what is clear is,


people are thinking about other things further talk the track and


particularly thinking about the local and European elections in May.


We got flavour of that detail of the US trip that the First Minister and


Deputy First Minister are planning in the middle of March. We got some


detime. On these occasions they try to do this as an opportunity to have


political meetings but they also try to use it as an opportunity to


showcase Northern Ireland in the hope that there will be investment


further down the track. Finally, we heard there, previously, the Maze


development raising its head once again in the Chamber and all the


controversy that brings with T Very familiar themes, if you think what


we had today in Deputy First Minister's questions. Obviously a


lot of discussion on the Haas talks. A lot of discussion about St


Patrick's Day and all this comes surrounding the Maze when it was


reported today that the ?18 million that was going to be used from


European funding for the Maze project, reported today at one stage


it was thought the money would be lost, but it is reported today that


money could be channelled back. Clearly the parties cannot agree on


what to do with the site. I think they would all agree they want the


money to be used for something. But does that mean - effectively do we


think the money will be lost to the Maze/Long Kesh vote. ? Well, we need


to know what the detail is. But certainly the implication today was


that money will still be made available for other projects.


Thank you very much for now. The Social Development Minister was once


again questioned on the alleged overcharging of Housing Executive


contracts, with one MLA asking him if he would reconsider his position.


Nelson McCausland was also asked about social housing. He started by


giving figures showing there is equal unionist and nationalist


housing need in North Belfast. The figures there speak for themselves.


1,994 people from the protestant community, 1,988 from the Roman


Catholic community. A difference of six.


The a first I thought, Mr Speaker, that the minister was simply


spinning, but now I believe the minister is also self-delusional in


relation to housing in North Belfast but irrespective of whatever spin or


self-delusion he indudges in, there is a basic need for housing in North


Belfast. Will the minister properly address that need and urgently?


Well, first of all, if I could deal with the member's point that I'm


self-delusion self-delusional? The figures that I quote quoted were in


fact produced by the Housing executive. They are not my figures.


I didn't create them, I didn't write them. They were given to me this


morning by the Housing Executive. Now, if the member thinks that the


Housing Executive is delusional, that's his opinion, he is entitled


to that. But he can not get around the fact that these are the figures.


It may not be the figures he wants to hear, or the figures he heard in


the past but they are the facts. From what the minister now knows,


does he accept that his enthusiastic announcement of an ?18 million


over-charge was a gross exaggeration, and did gross damage


to contractors and their credit standing? Does he now accept that? I


did not invent the figure of ?18 million in relation to the


over-estimated -- the estimated over-payments to contractors. I was


advised of the figure by the Chairman of the Board following a


report to the Board of the Housing Executive in May 2013. The report


estimated the sum of over-charging was in the region of ?9-13 million.


I have already stated that will whilst that remained a substantial


amount of tax payers' money, I was somewhat relieved that the level had


slightly reduced. However, at the end of the day, I have already


stated clearly this afternoon, we must all awhich the the outcome of


the current negotiations and I am hopeful that we are coming to the


point where those negotiations will be concluded and a settlement


between the Housing Executive and the contractors will have been


reached. Mr Speaker, the minister refuses to confirm that there wasn't


a significant over-charge. Would he agree with the House in fact that


there was significant under-charges and really at this stage, would the


minister consider parking the ministerial car and perhaps giving


the brief case to someone else? Over quite a number of years, the


handling of contracts by the Housing Executive was really unacceptable.


Management... Well, people ask the Minster was, indeed. That's a


question that people might well ask. But it is important, anyway. THE


SPEAKER: Order. He doesn't have a car to give up now.


A Nelson McCausland in robust form, and once again talking about the


Housing Executive. The Financial Provisions Bill was debated in the


Chamber today and matters focused on the Small Business Rates Relief


Scheme. Sinn Fein's Daithi McKay proposed a review of the scheme. The


small business rates release scheme commenced in April 2010 and has been


in operation for some fouriers and there has been some changes to it in


that time, for example, the extension to properties with an NAV


of up to ?15,000. It has been very much welcomed by small and


medium-sized enterprises in particular, and many shops within


our town centres and of course around 25,000 properties currently


benefit from it at this moment in time. We are all in agreement that


there needs to be a review and for that reason, I cannot see why anyone


would object to this particular amendment. I think it is useful...


Yes? I've listened to the acceptance by the Member and the proposer of


the Motion that there has already been agreed to be a review. That was


agreed by myself and current Minster. Why is such an amendment


necessary then? Is it because the Member does not believe that such a


review is going to make place? That he doubts the sincerity of the


Minster, or is this simply to have an amendment of some sort down?


Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I thank the Member for that


intervention. The Member should know by this stage that I take every word


that comes out of his mouth as truth and would not dare, under any


circumstances, to contradict him. But, it's always reassuring to have


what is said underlined and underlined in legislation. An


evaluation of the Small Business Rates Release Scheme will be


undertaken by my department later this year. This intention has been


made clear for sometime and has been made clear by my predecessor and by


myself and has been made clear in this House and has been made very


clear elsewhere as well. So, the very clear, stated position of two


successive minsters of Financial and Personnel representing the


department, has been that an evaluation will be carried out,


because one needs to be carried out at that stage in the life of the


Small Business Rates Release Scheme. If we cast our minds back. It has


been accepted it is an incredibly successful scheme. It has been


extended where half of all businesses in Northern Ireland are


getting at least 20% off rates bill. We all agree it has been successful.


The Finance Minister, Simon Hamilton, who had a busy day today,


because a bill to give Government departments access to their funding


passed its final stage. The Budget Bill has been fast-tracked through


the Assembly and now simply requires Royal Assent. This Budget Bill


covers the 2013/14 financial year and provides legal authority to


spend in the first few months of 2014/15. Looking nerms it of the


management of public expend Stour, we began the year with an


over-commitment we sought to manage through the monitoring rounds and


the year monitoring process. Through three monitoring rounds we were able


to you can is sowsfully imagine down this over-commitment as well as Real


Kate surplus funding. However, this process by no means draws a line


under the 2013/14 financial year and it would be remisof me as Finance


Minster if I gave that impression. There are five weeks left the


financial year and minsters and committees must continue their work


to ensuring departmental budgets are maximised using sound financial


principles and thereby ensuring we have to return unspent funding to


Treasury. Department are in the latter stages of planning for the


next financial year the first few weeks are covered by this


legislation. There planning will be further complicated if we continue


to delay progress on welfare reform. Should that delay run into 2014/15


we are facing significant reductions in our block grant from Treasury,


which will have an impact on all departmental budgets. As has been


wreck flied previously by the Finance Committee, the sledge


slative stages of the existing budge eted and financial process are come


boresome and knead to be streamlined. Indeed the Committee


and Minster are concurrently considering a proposed memorandum of


understanding between the Assembly and Executive on the budget process,


which if operated effectively would support the future streamlining of


the legislative stages of the budget and financial process, thereby,


expediting Assembly aproving of the Executive's annual stuments and


budget Bills. There has been, to date, a failure to reach agreement


around the Haas talks and the various issues involved there. And


that failure to reach agreement, it does have an impact - it has an


impact on our ability to attract foreign direct investment. But also,


the failure to agree within this House on important key legislation,


I think also impacts on public spending. The current system is


ineffective and does not show transpan youcy or direct read


across. Moreover, ministers must make every effort to ensure


departmental budgets are adhered to and that underspend is kept to an


absolute minimum. We have to avoid the risk of having to return any


unspent funding to the Treasury. The Minster has said such an occurrence


would be extremely difficult to explain to the tax payers, as we


work through one of the tightest budge nets recent years.


The Budget Bill is about more than welfare reform. But I've got to say,


the job of the Financial Minster is made much more difficult by the kind


of attitude that we have seen towards welfare reform, and the


response of this Assembly and the Executive to welfare reform.


The d.d U pu. 's Sammy Wilson there. -- DUP. Has recent wet weather been


a consequence of climate change? The Alliance Party certainly believes


so, and earlier this evening called on the Executive to reduce its


environmental footprint. The motion was proposed by the Alliance MLA


Anna Lo, who joins me now. In fact, you were successful. Ye, I'm very


please pleased that certainly we'll receive all-party for it. Yes, there


may be one or two who argued whether climate change is man-made or


whether it is, you know a phenomenon that is happening by itself, but all


of them agree climate change it is here. There is no question about it.


There is a large amount of scientific evidence to say it is


here. So, it is really whether we face it, we do something about it,


we mit git it, we adepartment ourselves to do the best we can.


What does that actually mean in real terms? I think that's what some


people are frightened about. They don't really know what the


consequences of dealing with that might be? Can you sum it up? What do


you think needs to happen? We need to, first of all, reduce our carbon


footprint. We need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It's at


all levels. Individually, we can all can do something. We all can say -


not buy plastic bags. Which need carbon foot prints to produce them.


We can start maybe not driving lots and lots of distances. Short


distances. Maybe we can walk, psych 'em, take public transport. --


cycle, take public transport, rather than taking our car with one driver


there driving to work and home. There are lots of things we can do


individually but there are lots of things government can do and it is


important that government has a co-ordinated approach to it.


Because, really, reduction of carbon footprints, reduction of greenhouse


gas emission is in our programme for government. We have pledged that we


will reduce 35% of greenhouse gas emissions by 1990 level by 2025.


And, of course a lot of people would say it is all very well and laudable


and maybe we should do more but actually continue wouldn't mean


anything globally if other emembers of the jurying countries, like, for


example, China which is becoming a huge industrial park, doesn't do


something as W the rate at which it is building, coal fire plants and


enormous factories, balances out anything we do. How do you respond


to that? It is a serious point. Absolutely. I think you are wrong in


saying that. China used to be the biggest polluter they are not any


more. They have invested hugely on renewable energy and are producing


lots of re renewable energy products. They are one of the


biggest, I think, producers now of wind turbines, and the solar plans.


So, I mean we are not doing enough. We also need to be thinking about -


the debate today is also mainly about flood. Flooding is going to be


the biggest effect of climate change are for Northern Ireland. OK, we


need to leave it there. Thank you very much for coming in to join us.


The Human Trafficking Bill was discussed once again at the Justice


Committee last week. Giving evidence were two high ranking police


officers. We join proceedings as the committee chair, Paul Givan, asks


Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris for his view about Clause 6


of the bill, which would make it illegal to pay for sex here. We have


no opposition, I can say overall in respect of the Bill we welcome the


Bill and welcome the focus on victims and welcome the focus on


what other legislative tools may be brought to bear around human


trafficking and also then prostitution, our focus would be on


organised crime groups N respect of Clause 6, no, we have no opposition.


I think there is a qualification in our mind about its impact going


forward, because, what are the unintended consequences? Outside of


the organised crime group, the element of prostitution, we do have


links in with the remainder of the industry. We do wish to provide them


a service because they are vulnerable. We wish to make sure


that they are protected and in passing this legislation, we would


want to be careful to maintain that sense that those individuals do feel


that the police service will protect them from assault, serious harm from


crime. Where you see the particular benefit is as an additional tool to


tackle the serious organised crime gangs, I'm taking this as you saying


this will be of benefit to the police, giving another tool? Of


course there are investigations in respect of just public nuisance


element of prostitution but that is billioned as well, in that we do not


want -- that is balanced as well in that we do not want any victims of


serious crime but particularly those who are vulnerable, not feeling they


can come forward to the police and make complaints. Prostitutes are


particularly vulnerable in society and vulnerable to serious crime and


assault. Can I take it then that prostitution or an estimate, or some


section of prostitution is very mobile in so far as people being


shipped around the country? There is an expression called the chicken


run, which is an expression used in the trafficking industry where girls


would be moved from locations throughout not only Northern Ireland


but throughout the island of Ireland and there has been documentaries


about that to show people have been moved around. Part of that is simply


to meet the choice of people who want to use the services, rather


than revisit a brothel a week later and find the same girls there. It is


to keep that fresh, as it were. Detective Chief Superintendent Roy


McComb ending our look back at last week's Justice Committee


proceedings. And Stephen Walker is with me again. A few final thoughts.


Away from the Chamber, Gerry Kelly the Sinn Fein MLA is making


headlines again. That's right this. Relates to an incident last summer


up at Carrick Hill during the loyalist tour of the north when


Gerry Kelly was on the bonnet of a police Land Rover. Sinn Fein said


today, Gerry Kelly in common with any other citizen is entitled to


access the courts when he believes he has been wronged. This is about


taking action against the police. There hoos been unionist criticism


about Gerry Kelly's decision today. DUP's Nigel Dodds says this is one


of the most petty and small-minded acts taken on behalf of Sinn Fein


and Tom Elliot was very, very critical of Gerry Kelly and


basically said he should hang his head in shame. A lot of criticism


from unionists directed towards Gerry Kelly. And finally, the


fishing industry is asking Stormont for help? Yes, we have had similar


stories to this last year when we had the heavy snow. The farming


community looked for help and local fishmen have called on Stormont to


provide financial ad after the bad weather. They said the conditions


meant they couldn't go out in their boats. Any Mel O'Neil, the


Agriculture Minister is meeteding them tomorrow and the South Down MLA


is calling for a meeting of Executive and has called for more


aid. That's all for now. I'm back again


tomorrow on BBC Two at 11. 20pm. For now, goodbye.


Should Britain have entered the Great War?


Britain's decision for war was a disaster


not just for this country, but also for the entire world.


What if we'd stayed out? What if Germany had won?


war would have ended with a German victory in 1916, if not earlier.


from what we might call the Blackadder take on history


is to believe that it was all so futile,


that it didn't matter which side won.


We're left with just one question - was it worth it?


on whether we were right to go to war.


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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