24/02/2014 Stormont Today


24/02/2014

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

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Enterprise Minister promises to help those made redundant by the closure

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

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

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

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NI. Martin McGuinness says he believes the United States

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

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be no doubt whatsoever that the United States of America remains

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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entietedlements and business start-ups support for those who may

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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KPL workers made redundant last week. The state of the

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Dungiven-based company was also mentioned during questions to the

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Deputy First Minister. Martin McGuinness also discussed the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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evening event in Los Angeles that will include young people from

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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have become increasingly successful in attracting foreign direct

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investment. Foreign direct investment is very, very important

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

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businesses and the massive contribution they make towards

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

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

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

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

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political representatives, which I know might depend on getting an

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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receives a serious business inquiry about a potential investment in the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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under understand there are more discussions to. They are called

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

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and other parties have presented papers. Basically everybody knows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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and Martin McGuinness are there. Nationalists are clearly hoping for

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

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

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

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

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people are thinking about other things further talk the track and

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particularly thinking about the local and European elections in May.

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

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

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

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

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showcase Northern Ireland in the hope that there will be investment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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that money will still be made available for other projects.

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

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again questioned on the alleged overcharging of Housing Executive

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

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

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giving figures showing there is equal unionist and nationalist

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

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

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Catholic community. A difference of six.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I have already stated that will whilst that remained a substantial

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

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

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

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

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point where those negotiations will be concluded and a settlement

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between the Housing Executive and the contractors will have been

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

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

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

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minister consider parking the ministerial car and perhaps giving

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

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handling of contracts by the Housing Executive was really unacceptable.

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

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

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

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

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Housing Executive. The Financial Provisions Bill was debated in the

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Chamber today and matters focused on the Small Business Rates Relief

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

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

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

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

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

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medium-sized enterprises in particular, and many shops within

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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what is said underlined and underlined in legislation. An

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evaluation of the Small Business Rates Release Scheme will be

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

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

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

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

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successive minsters of Financial and Personnel representing the

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

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

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

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

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extended where half of all businesses in Northern Ireland are

:16:43.:16:46.

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

:16:47.:16:53.

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

:16:54.:16:56.

because a bill to give Government departments access to their funding

:16:57.:16:59.

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

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

:17:03.:17:06.

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

:17:07.:17:11.

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

:17:12.:17:15.

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

:17:16.:17:19.

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

:17:20.:17:23.

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

:17:24.:17:27.

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

:17:28.:17:34.

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

:17:35.:17:39.

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

:17:40.:17:45.

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

:17:46.:17:49.

financial year and minsters and committees must continue their work

:17:50.:17:54.

to ensuring departmental budgets are maximised using sound financial

:17:55.:18:00.

principles and thereby ensuring we have to return unspent funding to

:18:01.:18:05.

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

:18:06.:18:08.

next financial year the first few weeks are covered by this

:18:09.:18:11.

legislation. There planning will be further complicated if we continue

:18:12.:18:14.

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

:18:15.:18:18.

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

:18:19.:18:24.

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

:18:25.:18:28.

wreck flied previously by the Finance Committee, the sledge

:18:29.:18:32.

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

:18:33.:18:35.

boresome and knead to be streamlined. Indeed the Committee

:18:36.:18:39.

and Minster are concurrently considering a proposed memorandum of

:18:40.:18:44.

understanding between the Assembly and Executive on the budget process,

:18:45.:18:48.

which if operated effectively would support the future streamlining of

:18:49.:18:52.

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

:18:53.:18:57.

expediting Assembly aproving of the Executive's annual stuments and

:18:58.:19:00.

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

:19:01.:19:10.

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

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

:19:15.:19:26.

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

:19:27.:19:30.

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

:19:31.:19:38.

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

:19:39.:19:45.

ineffective and does not show transpan youcy or direct read

:19:46.:19:49.

across. Moreover, ministers must make every effort to ensure

:19:50.:19:52.

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

:19:53.:19:56.

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

:19:57.:20:01.

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

:20:02.:20:05.

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

:20:06.:20:08.

work through one of the tightest budge nets recent years.

:20:09.:20:13.

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

:20:14.:20:19.

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

:20:20.:20:25.

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

:20:26.:20:29.

response of this Assembly and the Executive to welfare reform.

:20:30.:20:38.

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

:20:39.:20:44.

a consequence of climate change? The Alliance Party certainly believes

:20:45.:20:47.

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

:20:48.:20:49.

environmental footprint. The motion was proposed by the Alliance MLA

:20:50.:20:53.

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

:20:54.:20:57.

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

:20:58.:21:02.

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

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

:21:08.:21:13.

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

:21:14.:21:16.

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

:21:17.:21:22.

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

:21:23.:21:26.

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

:21:27.:21:30.

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

:21:31.:21:33.

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

:21:34.:21:35.

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

:21:36.:21:39.

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

:21:40.:21:47.

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

:21:48.:21:52.

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

:21:53.:22:00.

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

:22:01.:22:04.

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

:22:05.:22:09.

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

:22:10.:22:13.

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

:22:14.:22:18.

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

:22:19.:22:22.

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

:22:23.:22:26.

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

:22:27.:22:32.

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

:22:33.:22:38.

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

:22:39.:22:48.

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

:22:49.:22:53.

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

:22:54.:22:57.

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

:22:58.:23:01.

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

:23:02.:23:06.

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

:23:07.:23:13.

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

:23:14.:23:20.

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

:23:21.:23:24.

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

:23:25.:23:30.

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

:23:31.:23:34.

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

:23:35.:23:38.

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

:23:39.:23:48.

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

:23:49.:23:55.

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

:23:56.:24:00.

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

:24:01.:24:07.

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

:24:08.:24:10.

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

:24:11.:24:19.

The Human Trafficking Bill was discussed once again at the Justice

:24:20.:24:22.

Committee last week. Giving evidence were two high ranking police

:24:23.:24:25.

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

:24:26.:24:28.

Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris for his view about Clause 6

:24:29.:24:32.

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

:24:33.:24:35.

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

:24:36.:24:38.

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

:24:39.:24:43.

what other legislative tools may be brought to bear around human

:24:44.:24:47.

trafficking and also then prostitution, our focus would be on

:24:48.:24:52.

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

:24:53.:24:56.

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

:24:57.:25:02.

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

:25:03.:25:09.

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

:25:10.:25:16.

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

:25:17.:25:20.

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

:25:21.:25:25.

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

:25:26.:25:30.

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

:25:31.:25:34.

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

:25:35.:25:41.

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

:25:42.:25:47.

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

:25:48.:25:51.

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

:25:52.:25:54.

course there are investigations in respect of just public nuisance

:25:55.:26:01.

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

:26:02.:26:07.

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

:26:08.:26:13.

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

:26:14.:26:16.

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

:26:17.:26:19.

particularly vulnerable in society and vulnerable to serious crime and

:26:20.:26:23.

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

:26:24.:26:30.

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

:26:31.:26:35.

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

:26:36.:26:39.

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

:26:40.:26:44.

would be moved from locations throughout not only Northern Ireland

:26:45.:26:47.

but throughout the island of Ireland and there has been documentaries

:26:48.:26:51.

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

:26:52.:26:55.

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

:26:56.:26:59.

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

:27:00.:27:08.

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

:27:09.:27:11.

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

:27:12.:27:13.

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

:27:14.:27:17.

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

:27:18.:27:21.

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

:27:22.:27:28.

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

:27:29.:27:32.

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

:27:33.:27:35.

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

:27:36.:27:39.

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

:27:40.:27:43.

taking action against the police. There hoos been unionist criticism

:27:44.:27:48.

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

:27:49.:27:52.

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

:27:53.:27:57.

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

:27:58.:28:00.

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

:28:01.:28:04.

from unionists directed towards Gerry Kelly. And finally, the

:28:05.:28:10.

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

:28:11.:28:15.

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

:28:16.:28:21.

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

:28:22.:28:25.

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

:28:26.:28:28.

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

:28:29.:28:32.

Agriculture Minister is meeteding them tomorrow and the South Down MLA

:28:33.:28:38.

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

:28:39.:28:41.

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

:28:42.:28:50.

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

:28:51.:28:51.

Should Britain have entered the Great War?

:28:52.:28:53.

Britain's decision for war was a disaster

:28:54.:28:55.

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

:28:56.:28:59.

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

:29:00.:29:03.

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

:29:04.:29:09.

from what we might call the Blackadder take on history

:29:10.:29:14.

is to believe that it was all so futile,

:29:15.:29:16.

that it didn't matter which side won.

:29:17.:29:18.

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

:29:19.:29:24.

on whether we were right to go to war.

:29:25.:29:27.

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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