24/06/2013 Stormont Today


24/06/2013

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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Today. On tonight's programme: An image our leaders won't want

:00:30.:00:35.

broadcast around the world. Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly comes under fire

:00:35.:00:43.

from unionists after this video was recorded at the weekend. Economic

:00:43.:00:45.

growth versus preserving our environment as the future of

:00:45.:00:50.

planning is debated in the Assembly. Economic investment is already a

:00:50.:00:54.

material consideration, has been for as long as I know. It is already

:00:54.:00:58.

part of the narrative around planning decisions. And I'm joined

:00:58.:01:02.

by our political correspondent, Gareth Gordon, to discuss another

:01:03.:01:12.
:01:13.:01:17.

Belfast on Friday night, but the incident Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly

:01:17.:01:22.

found himself involved in made a brief appearance at Stormont today.

:01:22.:01:25.

Unionists have accused Mr Kelly of trying to prevent a police officer

:01:25.:01:31.

from carrying out his duty. Sinn Fein said he was trying to diffuse a

:01:31.:01:36.

tense situation and an Orange Order parade. Either way, it's not an

:01:36.:01:40.

ideal start to the marching season and unionists raise this -- raised

:01:40.:01:44.

this issue at the start of proceedings. The parading season has

:01:44.:01:51.

got off at the weekend to a relatively peaceful start, but the

:01:51.:01:58.

House will be aware of an incident in north best fall -- Belfast, where

:01:58.:02:04.

a Sinn Fein MLA has been videoed, it would appear, to be impeding a

:02:05.:02:09.

police officer in the carrying out of his duty. The police ombudsman

:02:09.:02:13.

has a direction and system to investigate police officers, but can

:02:13.:02:18.

you advise what we as a House can do to ensure that we investigate fully

:02:18.:02:24.

what appears to be the attempted physical impeding of a police office

:02:24.:02:30.

officer by a member of Sinn Fein in this House. Order, let me deal with

:02:30.:02:36.

this point of order first of all. Members will know in dealing with a

:02:36.:02:39.

procedural matter I would also advise members to go to the business

:02:39.:02:44.

office. I am not going to go into the issue on the matter of the day

:02:44.:02:50.

submitted to the business office, which is -- I have made a decision

:02:50.:02:54.

on. Please talk to the business office. That's where we should leave

:02:54.:02:59.

this issue. If it's an issue around procedures very happy to take it.

:02:59.:03:03.

Thank you Mr Speaker. Can you confirm to this House that under the

:03:03.:03:09.

code of conduct of members, it is stated as our public duty that MLAs

:03:09.:03:14.

should uphold the law, therefore given the loutish behaviour of Mr

:03:14.:03:20.

Kelly last Friday what investigation will be conducted... Order. The

:03:20.:03:23.

member knows this issue rests with the committee. That's where members

:03:23.:03:28.

should be directed to as well. Order. Let us move on. Well, I'm

:03:28.:03:32.

joined by Gareth Gordon. What's been the fall out from this incident?

:03:32.:03:36.

you heard, the Speaker managed to close down that debate inside the

:03:36.:03:40.

Assembly chamber, but it's not been so easy outside. It's been raging

:03:40.:03:44.

all day, all weekend indeed. It's another example, no matter what the

:03:44.:03:49.

rights and wrongs of what happened on Saturday night, or Friday night,

:03:49.:03:56.

that what happens on the streets does impact the political process.

:03:56.:04:02.

Practically already Jim Allister has made a formal complaint against

:04:02.:04:05.

Gerry Kelly. A DUP MLA has questioned the fitness for office of

:04:05.:04:10.

Gerry Kelly. An the culture minister, who was injured in that

:04:11.:04:13.

incident, the most significant development today the First

:04:13.:04:18.

Minister, who was at an event this afternoon, was asked about what

:04:18.:04:23.

happened. He said he believed Gerry Kelly's actions were reckless and

:04:23.:04:29.

ill advised. Sinn Fein couldn't let that go. They have accused the First

:04:29.:04:33.

Minister of making politically motivated comments. We see quickly a

:04:33.:04:38.

period with positive headlines which have been flagged up, suddenly

:04:38.:04:43.

replaced by negative ones. This incident curd just hours after the

:04:43.:04:45.

first and deputy first ministers appealed for calm ahead of the

:04:45.:04:50.

marching season. It's almost as if they anticipated trouble. They put

:04:50.:04:57.

out a joint statement on Thursday night for Friday morning. I was at

:04:57.:05:01.

the council meeting in Derry on Friday, where the two men, it has to

:05:01.:05:06.

be said, they appeared as relaxed in each other's company as I've ever

:05:06.:05:10.

seen them. They were making gentle jokes at each other's expense. They

:05:10.:05:14.

were singing from the same hymn sheet, making appeals for calm and

:05:15.:05:18.

respect ahead of the tour of the north on Friday night. Yet, quickly,

:05:18.:05:26.

all the good work, as they would put it, they have accused us in the past

:05:26.:05:28.

of being too negative, they say so many positive things have happened

:05:28.:05:33.

and the success of the G8, it shows you how quickly that can unravel.

:05:33.:05:38.

Now we have Peter Robinson saying Gerry Kelly was ill-advised and

:05:38.:05:42.

reckless. We have Sinn Fein's response. It will be interesting to

:05:42.:05:45.

see what happens when the two men appear together in public and see if

:05:45.:05:49.

that happens. The mood music will be very interesting indeed. Indeed.

:05:49.:05:53.

Thank you very much. Now, back to business on the hill. The planning

:05:53.:05:58.

bill designed to modernise our planning system. The aim is to speed

:05:58.:06:02.

up planning decisions, deliver faster and fairer appeals and

:06:02.:06:06.

toughen up when it comes to enforcing planning laws. The bill

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sparked a marathon debate he the consideration stage. Several

:06:10.:06:14.

amendments have been tabled. Here's a sample of the early exchanges this

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morning. Planning is fundamental to everything we do in society. How we

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plan our towns, cities and rural areas is key to our health and well

:06:24.:06:30.

being. That's why it's important to get it right. My concern about

:06:30.:06:33.

elements of this bill and indeed, some of the amendments that we're

:06:34.:06:38.

going to debate today, is that we're in a rush to seek to get planning

:06:38.:06:44.

quickly at the expense of getting it right. There is no-one who would

:06:44.:06:48.

argue with making planning more efficient. There's no doubt that our

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track record in this regard has been poor. I think there are any number

:06:54.:06:58.

of examples and I appreciate that some of those examples may be more

:06:58.:07:01.

about speed and may be about lack of speed and a lack of efficiency

:07:01.:07:05.

within the planning system, but I think there are Newham rabble

:07:05.:07:12.

examples of where nebz around this chamber can point to examples in

:07:12.:07:16.

their own constituency where the planning system has impeded economic

:07:16.:07:21.

development. It has cost Northern Ireland jobs, at a time when

:07:21.:07:24.

Northern Ireland desperately needs jobs, at a time whenever thousands

:07:24.:07:26.

of people from these shores are emigrating from anywhere around the

:07:26.:07:35.

world to get employment. I've listened carefully to the two

:07:35.:07:41.

previous contributors, in relation to their support for clauses two and

:07:41.:07:43.

six and talking about Northern Ireland being open for business.

:07:43.:07:49.

However, it is a sad reality that there are many brownfield sites

:07:49.:07:55.

within development zones. There are numerous empty premises in terms of

:07:55.:07:59.

commercial and industrial comem iss. There are many of -- premises. There

:07:59.:08:03.

are many shops and town centres that are already empty. It is

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questionable as to whether or not planning in itself is the Seoul

:08:08.:08:12.

driver for economic development. do welcome at this stage and support

:08:12.:08:16.

the overall principle of this planning bill coming forward. I know

:08:16.:08:23.

what many people in society, whether that's developers, objectors an the

:08:23.:08:27.

planning service themselves, want to see is a speedier planning process

:08:27.:08:31.

and, at times, it has been very frustrating for all those involved.

:08:31.:08:36.

The principle of this bill at this stage is obviously very welcome in

:08:36.:08:42.

that it is hoping to improve that. In light of some of the amendments

:08:42.:08:47.

tabled at the last minute to the bill, I feel I'm speaking with a

:08:47.:08:54.

heavy heart. In fact, as I have previously stated, I do not think

:08:54.:08:59.

the minister should have moved consideration stage today. This

:08:59.:09:05.

would have allowed everyone the opportunity to assess the amendments

:09:05.:09:12.

cooked up by Sinn Fein and the DUP working closely together behind

:09:12.:09:17.

closed doors. If it transpires by the time this review commences that

:09:17.:09:22.

some disastrous decisions are made on the basis that the so-called

:09:22.:09:26.

economic benefits have been given preference over the environmental

:09:26.:09:29.

damage caused and we're facing a situation in three years' time

:09:29.:09:34.

whereby fracking is taking place across Fermanagh or even in Belfast

:09:34.:09:39.

city centre is now proposed, a Nuclear Power Station has been

:09:39.:09:42.

constructed across Belfast loch from Titanic Belfast and every town and

:09:42.:09:46.

village in the north contains a waste incinerator, will those

:09:46.:09:50.

developments be closed down? Will efforts be made to repair the

:09:50.:09:56.

damage? Or will we be told that it's too late? It is my view that issues

:09:56.:10:05.

around the environment are already promoted, in terms of protection,

:10:05.:10:12.

and legislated for or in terms of practice and policy, accommodated,

:10:12.:10:17.

within the planning system. If this isn't actually going to give any

:10:17.:10:20.

greater weight to the economic materials, then what is the purpose

:10:20.:10:25.

of the bill and the two clauses? think that's a fair question. It

:10:25.:10:29.

might even be a question that you might want to put to your colleagues

:10:29.:10:37.

in the executive. It's questions that might be put to other members

:10:37.:10:43.

of the executive, because I didn't go out of my way to seek in the bill

:10:43.:10:49.

anything further than what was in the act. Given, I would suggest,

:10:49.:10:55.

that economic considerations, economic development is a material

:10:55.:10:59.

consideration, has been for as long as I know, it is already part of the

:10:59.:11:04.

narrative around planning decisions. You may argue, I don't, but some may

:11:04.:11:10.

argue that somehow or other these words on the face of the bill

:11:10.:11:18.

enhance that requirement. I don't agree. But Any Currency -- but in

:11:18.:11:21.

any case economic requirements have been part of the planning system

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forever and a day I presume. Reaction to that bill so far, I'm

:11:26.:11:30.

joined by economist John Simpson and environmentalist James Robinson.

:11:30.:11:34.

Welcome to the programme. First of all, John, you think this bill is

:11:34.:11:38.

long overdue. This bill is absolutely necessary. I'm not saying

:11:38.:11:41.

that it needs an absolute statement about the economy being a priority,

:11:42.:11:46.

but it needs to bring the economy into play in a way in which economic

:11:46.:11:51.

issues can be put into the balance sheet. If we were now to amend the

:11:51.:11:55.

bill to take that out the reputation for Northern Ireland for being a

:11:55.:11:58.

difficult place to get planning permission would be made worse. We

:11:58.:12:02.

do have a bad reputation because planning permission an the

:12:02.:12:06.

principles behind it have been slow. This bill would tidy it up, improve

:12:06.:12:09.

it and I hope it can be done in a balanced way. I hope that will come

:12:09.:12:16.

out of this debate, which is still going on. You're not so keen now.

:12:16.:12:18.

Economic prosperity has always been part of the material considerations

:12:18.:12:22.

which are there for planning applications. This is not something

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new. We've always argued that it should be balanced against things

:12:26.:12:30.

like living our environmental limits and creating an equal and just

:12:30.:12:34.

society. So taking planning decisions which account for all of

:12:34.:12:39.

these things is surely the best way of creating a sustainable future so

:12:39.:12:44.

future generation cans benefit from what the decisions are. The balance

:12:44.:12:48.

was already there,if you like, in the programme for Government, around

:12:48.:12:52.

sustainable development, the environment and economic issues. Why

:12:52.:12:57.

are economic issues suddenly to the fore. There wasn't a bill with a

:12:58.:13:04.

clause that said economic issues were a material consideration. We

:13:04.:13:08.

might even disagree whether they were taken into account. So long as

:13:08.:13:12.

we actually take a language of there may be occasions in which something

:13:12.:13:17.

has a strong economic motivation in which any environmental issue might

:13:17.:13:23.

be minor or vice versa, then we will have a planning decision where we

:13:23.:13:26.

can defend the outcomes on the basis we put responsibility. I hope we

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actually put the responsibility on the minister of environment and that

:13:29.:13:33.

we don't alter that responsibility, which is still for discussion.

:13:33.:13:36.

think it's a bad thing to have the first and deputy first ministers

:13:36.:13:39.

take some of the planning powers to their department? If the first

:13:39.:13:43.

ministers want to have particular bits, it sounds as if they're trying

:13:43.:13:49.

to create an enterprise zone philosophy. Let's have those roles,

:13:49.:13:54.

if they can find an appropriate areas on the rules, but leave it

:13:54.:13:57.

with the department of environment and say to them, you've trained in

:13:57.:14:02.

the past your town planners. You tell us you've been taking into

:14:02.:14:05.

account economic issues. Let's make sure they're absolutely trained to

:14:05.:14:10.

cope with the needs of the 21st century, which will require a

:14:10.:14:14.

sharper training focus. There is the sense of frustration that the

:14:14.:14:17.

environment is coming at the expense of jobs and investment. What do you

:14:18.:14:22.

say to people who champion this bill? Absolutely. When the bill

:14:22.:14:26.

first came out and we read it, the RSPB and other groups were

:14:27.:14:30.

supportive of it. We want to see better planning decisions. We want

:14:30.:14:33.

to see it quick. We want those decisions taken in the best way. If

:14:33.:14:38.

you look back as far as 200#4, the planning commission was clear that

:14:38.:14:42.

it was the public who were saying they needed a system they could

:14:42.:14:45.

trust. With these new amendments we think that trust isn't going to be

:14:45.:14:50.

there. Therefore we need to see a Planning Bill which will secure

:14:50.:14:53.

sustainable development so future generations don't look back at the

:14:53.:14:57.

decisions and think, actually, that was the wrong decision. Well, we

:14:57.:15:01.

still have a few hours to go to make up their minds. Thank you very much.

:15:02.:15:05.

The House continued to divide this evening as the debate on the

:15:05.:15:10.

Planning Bill continued in particular causing controversy was a

:15:10.:15:14.

DUP Sinn Fein amendment to create economically sufficient planning

:15:14.:15:17.

zones to be administered by the first and deputy First Minister's

:15:17.:15:26.

office. The amendment itself clearly states to create opportunities for

:15:26.:15:29.

economic -- economics in the planning application. We're looking

:15:29.:15:37.

at trying to create certain zones for economic beneficial planning

:15:37.:15:44.

applications. It's probably on the same principle as simplified

:15:44.:15:49.

planning zones. I just want to outline the reasons behind all of

:15:49.:15:58.

this. I want to just state at the outset that this is not about OFMDFM

:15:58.:16:03.

taking over this role. If the department of the environment

:16:03.:16:07.

doesn't cooperate, then by order a draft can be laid and approved by

:16:07.:16:11.

resolution of the Assembly, which is another way of saying that the

:16:11.:16:15.

ruling DUP Sinn Fein kabal can override the department and force

:16:15.:16:20.

their will. So, isn't it rather disingenuous to pretend this is

:16:20.:16:26.

anything but a takeover? If it's about cooperation, would that be the

:16:26.:16:31.

same sort of cooperation that the minister had in the announcement of

:16:31.:16:35.

the schemes by the First Minister, which affect his department, in

:16:35.:16:41.

which there was no consultation whatsoever? Can I thank the member

:16:41.:16:46.

for the intervection. -- intervention. It states that in 8

:16:46.:16:52.

br. I go back to the point dr 8 B. I go back to the point and why we're

:16:52.:16:58.

offering there. The reality is this: Instead of us trying to look at

:16:58.:17:03.

creating opportunities and creating jobs within our own constituencies

:17:03.:17:07.

throughout the north, to try and keep our young people here, because

:17:08.:17:15.

clearly, our young people are leaving and if they -- there were

:17:15.:17:20.

jobs here they wouldn't be leaving. To say I was shocked when I saw this

:17:20.:17:23.

amendment would be an understatement. To submit such a

:17:23.:17:28.

substantial amendment with such far-reaching consequences right at

:17:28.:17:33.

the deadline for submission is, in my opinion, unacceptable. At

:17:33.:17:41.

committee I worked closely with my colleagues, including Mr Wear. They

:17:41.:17:46.

were aware of the likely amendments I would seek. I think to not extend

:17:46.:17:52.

similar courtesy to committee colleagues shows that this is Sinn

:17:52.:17:59.

Fein DUP riding roof shooed over the Assembly and indeed, the -- rough

:17:59.:18:07.

Shooed over the Assembly -- shod over the Assembly. We can use this

:18:07.:18:11.

as an opportunity not to lose investments, you know, take a look

:18:11.:18:15.

at our neighbouring jurisdiction, it's not just corporation tax that

:18:15.:18:19.

they use to attract people in. They have the opportunity of using

:18:19.:18:23.

quicker planning approvals and have used that there. On one hand, they

:18:23.:18:28.

use the lower tax regime to attract people then they offer quick

:18:28.:18:33.

planning approval in areas, that is something we should be zooing.

:18:33.:18:39.

That's the examples in learning I'm prepared to learn from them. After

:18:39.:18:45.

all the soft words and after Cameron, Obama and the G8, we are

:18:45.:18:51.

back to the reality of how OFM DFM do business. This amendment proves

:18:51.:18:56.

they don't want to work in partnership. They not only want to

:18:56.:19:02.

have their way without consultation, they want to grab the legal powers

:19:02.:19:07.

from DOE. Yet as others have said another power grab. Our political

:19:07.:19:10.

correspondent, Gareth Gordon, who's been following this debate is back

:19:10.:19:14.

with more analysis. This is a very controversial amendment tonight,

:19:14.:19:19.

particularly the one around the first and deputy First Minister's

:19:19.:19:22.

taking some of that planning power back to the centre. Now critics

:19:22.:19:26.

describe this as a power grab. Is that a fair comment? You certainly

:19:26.:19:30.

could describe it as that. It depends what side of the argument

:19:30.:19:36.

you're on. There is the element of the political coup. It takes some of

:19:36.:19:39.

the planning from the environment department and place it's right at

:19:39.:19:49.
:19:49.:19:51.

the heart of the OFM DFM. There's no secret of his displeasure in this.

:19:51.:19:57.

Of course, the DUP and Sinn Fein were reporting earlier on how they

:19:57.:19:59.

disagree vehemently about some of the parading issues, they have

:19:59.:20:03.

agreed about this. It's a carve up and they have the numbers to push it

:20:03.:20:06.

through the Assembly. Briefly, there has been ape development this

:20:06.:20:13.

evening. We had been expecting a very late night, for all of these

:20:13.:20:16.

amendments to be voted on tonight. That is now not going to happen.

:20:16.:20:20.

Suddenly, the Assembly heard that there is a petition of concern. We

:20:20.:20:23.

understand that petition has been brought by the DUP about amendments

:20:24.:20:31.

that were brought by the Ulster Unionist Party and inserting the

:20:31.:20:33.

word "environment" in some of the amendments. That means that the

:20:33.:20:39.

whole debate has to close down. They will have to come back tomorrow. So

:20:39.:20:44.

even at this late stage, it's not certain. Very much. The Education

:20:44.:20:49.

Minister announced more places for newly qualified teachers through the

:20:49.:20:52.

project delivering social change. But before the good news, the

:20:52.:20:56.

minister had to defend his record on the controlled school sector.

:20:57.:21:01.

minister in a written reply to a question I submitted on this issue

:21:01.:21:06.

stated that in the Catholic maintained sector there were 182

:21:06.:21:11.

additional places. In the integrated sector 63, in the Irish language

:21:11.:21:16.

sector it was 38. It strikes me that the control sector is at the pure

:21:16.:21:23.

end of your thinking. Do you accept that this is not a fair aloe

:21:23.:21:25.

indication and distribution of the additional places allocated this

:21:26.:21:31.

year. If the member is accusing me of prejudice, I have to say I take

:21:31.:21:39.

it seriously. Outside this chamber to bring me to account and I invite

:21:39.:21:49.
:21:49.:21:52.

him to use either. Could the minister give his rational for not

:21:52.:21:58.

giving additional places to maintain schools which have a history of

:21:58.:22:05.

oversup scripgs, for example St Francis? I'm not sure how it's

:22:05.:22:07.

associated with this question, perhaps more associated with the

:22:07.:22:11.

previous question. I'm happy to respond. Considering that I have

:22:11.:22:17.

been accused of being prejudiced, the member shows up two good

:22:17.:22:23.

example. I torn down a school, a Catholic school in my own

:22:23.:22:28.

constituency in relation to temporary variation. I don't see how

:22:28.:22:33.

I can display more fairness than that. Why? Because the sums didn't

:22:33.:22:39.

stack up. OFMDFM, delivering social change project is progressing well.

:22:39.:22:43.

The principles of the selected schools have taended information

:22:43.:22:50.

sessions. The -- attended information sessions. The 230 recent

:22:50.:22:53.

graduate teachers will be in post from September onwards. The project

:22:54.:22:57.

will ensure extra support for children and primary schools to

:22:57.:23:01.

achieve the expected levels of reading and maths. It will provide

:23:01.:23:06.

tuition to pupils in post primary schools who are not predicted to get

:23:06.:23:13.

at least a C grade in English and/or maths. I am funding an expansion of

:23:13.:23:16.

this project adding an extra 36 posts to bring more primary schools

:23:16.:23:21.

into the project and to ensure that every qualifying post primary school

:23:21.:23:25.

has at least one fulltime teacher or increasing from one to two teachers

:23:25.:23:28.

for larger schools. It's emerged the Health Minister

:23:28.:23:34.

went against the advice of his most senior civil servient and ordered

:23:34.:23:37.

two proposed health centres to be built by the private sector. The

:23:38.:23:42.

information was revealed as the health committee questioned the

:23:42.:23:51.

secretary. I was minded that they actually cancelled the session.

:23:51.:23:54.

That's how annoyed I am. Over the last number of weeks, we have tried

:23:54.:23:58.

to accommodate the department. Still papers have arrived to us late. We

:23:59.:24:03.

have a responsibility and a job to do. I accept thaw have deadlines and

:24:03.:24:07.

need to get committee papers cleared. I accept all that. But

:24:07.:24:12.

especially on this issue, I gave another week and still, papers have

:24:12.:24:16.

come to us late. The rules of Government pointed to doing this in

:24:16.:24:22.

a way that kept the asset within the public service, owned by the people.

:24:22.:24:26.

What the minister has done is set aside those rules and taken a

:24:26.:24:31.

decision to run an experiment which means the asset will be privatised.

:24:31.:24:37.

The rules of government include the prerogative of ministers to decide,

:24:37.:24:41.

exercise their own judgment. financial rules. With the greatest

:24:41.:24:48.

respect shall the rules, you're a counting officer, you will be hauled

:24:48.:24:52.

in front of the committee with your ability to uphold the financial

:24:52.:24:57.

rules. It said in these case it's was best to build something and that

:24:57.:25:00.

the people of Northern Ireland would own it. The minister overruled that

:25:00.:25:05.

using his powers as minister to say no, we'll privatise them. He has

:25:05.:25:08.

decided to proceed with a third party development on the basis he

:25:08.:25:15.

thinks that's worth considering. I wrong in saying that he overruled

:25:15.:25:24.

it? It's overruling, advice, advisors advise, ministers decide.

:25:24.:25:30.

That's with every decision taken. I'm accountable to advise in line

:25:30.:25:34.

with object objective, evidence-based information in

:25:34.:25:37.

relation to value for money. That was done. The business case is

:25:37.:25:41.

there. It is entirely reasonable and appropriate for a minister to take a

:25:41.:25:45.

different view. That's within the rules. The rules provide for that.

:25:45.:25:52.

What we do know is that despite the minister's protestations that this

:25:53.:25:58.

is not a charter for the stealth privatisation of the asset base,

:25:58.:26:02.

that in fact, it is. If he continues to use ministerial direction and if

:26:02.:26:07.

there's no legislation in place that puts a duty on you to point out to a

:26:07.:26:11.

minister this is contrary to policy, all you can say to him is - it's

:26:11.:26:14.

just against the financial rules. If you direct me to do other-wise, if

:26:14.:26:19.

you say you want to privatise, minister, off you go. Policy is for

:26:19.:26:27.

the minister and for the Assembly. Science, technology, engineering and

:26:27.:26:31.

maths were the main topic in Question Time for the employment and

:26:31.:26:35.

learning minister, Stephen Farry. He was asked how he intends to get more

:26:35.:26:39.

students, particularly young women, to take them up. Science,

:26:39.:26:42.

technology, engineering and maths are becoming increasingly important

:26:43.:26:50.

to our economy. As such I'm providing an additional 1200

:26:50.:26:55.

under-graduate places by 2016. ? Vment In recognition of the high

:26:55.:27:00.

growth potential of the ICT industry, I have identified it as a

:27:00.:27:04.

priority sector for my department. I chair a Working Group which includes

:27:04.:27:07.

representation from employers, colleges, universities and other

:27:07.:27:10.

government departments. We've had a significant increase in the number

:27:10.:27:15.

of applications for compute irscience at both universities.

:27:15.:27:19.

That's to be welcomed. There will come a point where capacity has been

:27:19.:27:29.

reached. The ICT sector in Northern Ireland is growing. It is a major

:27:29.:27:30.

area of indigenous growth. We're attracting inward investment. We are

:27:30.:27:34.

poised to have tens of thousands of new jobs created over the coming

:27:34.:27:39.

decade or longer. That is in the current context, where we don't have

:27:39.:27:44.

a lower level of corporation tax, in the event that we did have to lower

:27:44.:27:47.

the corporation tax level rnings the number of jobs we could create in

:27:47.:27:50.

the sector would be hugely significant. Can the minister

:27:50.:27:54.

outline to the House what discussions are ongoing to increase

:27:54.:27:58.

the number of schools that actually offer computer science as a

:27:58.:28:03.

qualification instead of ICT? believe that the new A-level that is

:28:03.:28:07.

being offered in local schools from September is an important

:28:07.:28:12.

development. It is important that we make a distinction between A-level

:28:12.:28:18.

and computer science and an A-level in ICT. It is the build the

:28:18.:28:22.

programme is makes a difference in terms of people's employability

:28:22.:28:26.

down-the-line and it indicates what companies actually want to see in

:28:26.:28:32.

terms of skilled young people coming through. Despite proportionally more

:28:32.:28:34.

females participating in higher education than males, females

:28:34.:28:39.

account for fewer than 30% of those graduating in stem subjects,

:28:39.:28:44.

excludeing medicine and health. Over 70% of students in ICT and over 75%

:28:44.:28:49.

of those studying engineering and technology are male. As part of a

:28:49.:28:54.

strategy my department is working with organisations such as E skills

:28:54.:28:58.

UK, Improve as well, which are promoting stem careers to females.

:28:58.:29:05.

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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