24/06/2014 Stormont Today


24/06/2014

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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Coming up in the next 30 minutes, David Ford outlines his vision

:00:25.:00:28.

A justice system which protect the citizens and treat victims with

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respect and fairness and makes best use of scarce public resources. A

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justice system of which we can all be proud.

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As the racism row rumbles on in the Assembly the Social Development

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I will take no comment at all from Sinn Fein members about anything to

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do with racism after 30 years of the terrorist campaign that thrives on a

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racist attack on anyone who was British and not Irish.

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And I'm joined by the political commentator, Cathy Gormley-Heenan.

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Proceedings at Stormont were very much dominated

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by justice and education issues today, but the media focus was

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The Queen was in Belfast attending several functions with the Duke

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The couple visited Crumlin Road Jail, the set

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of the American television series 'Game of Thrones' and attended

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But it wasn't just the locations chosen for the Queen

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The Queen was here today and she spent much of the day in the company

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of the Deputy First Minister. This has become something of a regular

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occurrence. It certainly is. The impact factor is probably not as

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high as it was but this was the first visit that Martin McGuinness

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and the Queen met privately and a loan without intermediary is

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probably not as high as it was but this was the first visit that Martin

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McGuinness and the Queen met privately and a loan without

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intermediaries to soften the conversation or move either one of

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them in a particular direction. And again, these sorts of actions are

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part of the choreography of the peace process. First you have the

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meeting elsewhere, then with people and then alone. I expect further

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meetings to take place. They seem everything relax uncomfortable in

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one another's company. Yes, and that is a great difference between the

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political and personal. As part of the political portfolio he needs the

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Queen in his capacity as Debbie the First Minister but personal

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relationships have been built up for a long time. They are both obviously

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very aware of the symbols of being seen together. The symbolism today

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was phenomenal. Part of the tour was in Crumlin Road jail, that spoke

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volumes. Both Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson were detained at Her

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Majesty 's pleasure in the prison at different points during the conflict

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and the fact that both of them were together with her and taking her on

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the tour was hugely some bollard but even more so the fact that she went

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to Crumlin Road steel which was a jail which is very popular for

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tourists and that agreement was found between unionists and

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nationalists on the use of that jail as it is the traction spoke volumes.

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The Queen the Queens Phil then it was made public several years ago.

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That has never happened before. Is that another example of the

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increased normalcy of the relationship between the northern

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Irish republicans and the Royal family? Yes and sending the message

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that there is absolute faith in the PSN I to look after the Queen on her

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visit. And briefly, the first and deputy first ministers might have

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been showing the Queen the sites but they have also been thinking about

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politics, day-to-day politics in the background. There was a beating at

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Stormont Castle logo has been scarce and there could be talked before

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next week. Well anything happen before the summer recess? We only

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have 12 and a half weeks but the message before the election is that

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we have a window of opportunity to sort this out at my question would

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be, what has happened since the end of the elections until now that has

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delayed progress again on this issue?

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Back to Stormont now and the debate on the Justice Bill

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I am bringing forward measures to improve the way that the system

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supports victims and witnesses, speeds up his profession and

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increases the level of protection the system provides a Giggs they do

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is founders. Part one trait a single jurisdiction for county and

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magistrate courts, this will bring these two court cases in line with

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the High Court, Crown Court and Coroner's Courts, delivering greater

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flexibility in the disposal of court business by allowing cases to be

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listed in or transferred to in terms of court weather is good reason for

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doing so. The new arrangement will allow us to better meet the needs of

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victims and witnesses, allowing cases to be dealt with at the court

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venue that best suit particular case. Part of the mix prosecutor --

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prosecutorial fines different. This will increase capacity. It will

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enable some fences to be dealt with at an early stage without cost to

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the court, enable prosecutorial resources to be better connected to

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prosecute more serious offences. This dispenses with the idea of the

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investigating officer to appear in court and releases resources to

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policing. Part four contains provisions that will improve the

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experiences of victims and witnesses in the justice system. It will

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increase the standard of service that victims and witnesses can

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expect to receive. These provisions should also give rise to a greater

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focus on the needs of victims and witnesses across the criminal

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justice system. Too often victims and witnesses are unclear about the

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services available to them. They might not know when they should be

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provided with information about their case or what measures are

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available to help them get the best evidence in court. The charges will

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address this by setting out for victims and one is a statutory basis

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what services are to be provided, the standards of service required

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and the clear indication of how they should be treated by criminal

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justice agencies. Part seven makes provision for the introduction of

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violent offences orders to help mitigate the risk of violent repeat

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offending. The court can make an order where it is satisfied it is

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necessary for the purpose of protecting the public from the risk

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of serious violent harm caused by the offender. The provisions aim to

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provide a similar level of protection to the public from the

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risk posed by violent offenders. This is already provided to sexual

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offences prevention orders to manage the risk from sex offenders. The

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bill include Ruth reforms to manage guilty pleas. -- the bill includes

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reforms. The provisions will require sentencing courts to state the

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sentence that would have been imposed if a guilty plea had been

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entered at the LA is reasonable opportunity and places the duty on

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the defence solicitor to advise a client about the benefits of an

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early guilty plea. With these provisions we hope to encourage

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those guilty of a criminal offence to admit their guilt at the earliest

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reasonable stage. This bill is part of a blueprint for the better

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justice system in Northern Ireland, one that protects it citizens,

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treated victims with respect and fairness and make the best use of

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scarce public resources. In short a justice system of which we can all

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be proud. The Justice Minister, David Ford,

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outlining his proposed changes to the justice

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system in Northern Ireland. And Cathy Gormley-Heenan

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is still with me. The Minister is promising a justice

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system we can all be proud of. Yet he has several areas to

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improve and he also needs It is, some of the efficiencies that

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can take place as part of the bill do not actually require a lot of

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money. For example one of the more senior judges recently, just as we

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complained that the length of time it was taking some cases to even get

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to court needed to be addressed and that be addressed quite easily by

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ensuring that representatives from the Public prosecution service have

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to go to court to explain why there is a goalie in the proceedings in

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blue have now been brought before the court in a timely fashion. That

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does not cost money at all but requires personnel to be available

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to the court in a certain period of time. Thank you for now. This is

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what this assembly is all about. Legislating on things that impact on

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people 's lives and now that we have started this bill through the

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passage of the house it becomes the house is built. It is up to MLAs to

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shape this bill. In 2012 the committee brought a report to the

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assembly on this crucial piece of work that had been undertaken

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regarding the experiences of and services provided to victims. And

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witnesses claim encounter the criminal justice system. The

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findings before difficult reading. Statements such as an accord, people

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are misinformed, ill informed or not informed at all. As the trauma

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suffered by families can often be exacerbated by the criminal justice

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system. This made the committee determined to ensure that the

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changes would take place. We would be in support of the idea of a

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single jurisdiction. We will support that because it was out playing very

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clearly. Rather than bringing this measure in with other aspects of the

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court system. We will ensure better case management and in terms of the

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use of witnesses and particularly victims, they will assist this

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process and we will make sure the courts are held in appropriate

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places. In my own experience as a lawyer that to some extent victims

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and even witnesses were regarded... As incidental to the legal process,

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to the trial. I think that the interests of victims was often boxed

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during the course of those trials. -- often lost. What we have with the

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justiciary and indeed amongst lawyers generally is the realisation

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that victims do count. I welcome any efficiency that is brought into the

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criminal justice system. I am sure that is what we are hoping to do

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with this bill. And who would not welcome a faster federal justice

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system? Although I hope that the minister is not indicating that we

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do not have a fair justice system at the moment. I am wondering that when

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we have a faster justice system will that bring more economic savings to

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the justice process? We have talked a lot in the justice committee and

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indeed at various times in this house about the legal aid bills and

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I have been one who has said that we need to reduce the legal aid bill

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but we must also reduce and look for other efficiencies in the justice

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system. I wonder if this faster process is being proposed within

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this bill and will it actually result in any economic savings? The

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introduction of prosecutorial fines, for low-level offences, is an

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important member -- important way to reduce pressure on courts. Many

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offenders plead guilty and Magistrates' Courts, rendering many

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experiences are necessary. I can take of no circumstances where if

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you were a barrister or a solicitor you would ever let your client into

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the dock without having told them, by the way, you fight on and are

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convicted you will look at this range of sentence. If you plead

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guilty you will probably look at this range of sentence. To think

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that, all, a disabling through for a criminal justice system to put it in

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clause 78 with all of the celebrity that this brings that it shall be

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the solemn duty of solicitors to advise their clients of what would

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happen in respect of an early guilty plea. Such nonsense.

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Social Development Minister told the Assembly today that more that

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1400 jobs in Northern Ireland could be directly under threat if the

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Nelson McCausland was referring to public sector employees here who

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work indirectly for the Department of Work and Pensions in England.

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The jobs could be lost because the staff will no longer be operating

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the same social security systems. What might be the implications in a

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job situation? Around 600 staff are currently employed. It provides

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processing for a number of working age benefits in the South East of

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England. That work is done on behalf of the Department for work and in

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so. There are 800 staff employed in the child maintenance service

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providing service to the eastern area of England for the Department

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for Work and Pensions. The total number of staff is over 1400.

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Following a meeting with Iain Duncan Smith in March 2012, I highlighted

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to this assembly my concern that these jobs will be at risk if

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Northern Ireland does not progress with welfare reform. That is because

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many of the competitive advantages that Northern Ireland offers will

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disappear as the staff will no longer be operating the same

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systems. While I share some of your frustrations, can you tell the house

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when you last meaningfully engaged with any of this political parties

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in this chamber to progress that matter? It is a matter that is

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brought up regularly around the executive table. On many occasions.

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Because I think that is where the matter sits at the moment. The

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member would also be a way that there is a ministerial subcommittee

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which has been working on this for some time. We the point some time

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ago for everything possible that could be done in terms of extracting

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agreements from Westminster and trying to get our reasonable package

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of flexibility is in Northern Ireland, that is work that was done

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in quite some time ago. Can I ask the Minister Fred he agrees that the

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treatment of Michael was racial and intimidation? The disappointing --

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it is disappointing sometimes divide the people take situations and

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telling them to make political points. The members should learn

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that lesson. The situation has been clearly identified by the Housing

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executive and by others and the nature of their decision. I'm not

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familiar with the details of the situation other than what I have

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read in the newspapers. Having said that, anyone should have the right

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to be treated equally by the Housing executive and should not

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disadvantaged or discriminated in any way because of their race or

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anything else. I would take no comments at all from Sinn Fein

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members about anything to do with racism after 30 years of a terrorist

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campaign that thrived on a racist attack on anybody who was British

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and not Irish. The Education Minister today

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revealed the names of the 15 schools which have been

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approved for rebuilding. John O'Dowd told

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the Assembly that ?170 million will be divided between eight primary

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and seven post-primary schools. The Minister said

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the schools were selected according Limited capital re-sources have been

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made available to me. The scale of investment goes across a wide and

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diverse schools estate. I am sure that every member of this house can

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identify a range of schools that are in need of investment. I would love

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to be in a position to make a statement that promises investment

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to all schools in need. But I must be realistic and ensure that any

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school announced for investment will be sustainable for many years to

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come. The major project I am announcing today are as follows.

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St Mark's and St Luke's Primary Schools, Twinbrook.

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Monkstown High School and Newtownabbey Community High School.

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St Joseph's High School, Crossmaglen.

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In welcoming this announcement, I think it is mixed with good news,

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partial news and no news. I think in respect of the case of this

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announcement, some of it is a case of jam tomorrow. If you want jam

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tomorrow, you have to grow fruit today. Are preparations in

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recognition of the lead in time. The announcements I have been making

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since June 2012 have been learning processes. The Department for

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Education is now taking forward the largest capital programme. Could the

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Minister tell us what it will mean to the construction industry in

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terms of finance going into that industry? A recent report carried

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out by the construction industry suggest that every pound announced

:20:48.:20:53.

in relation to capital investment stimulates a further two within the

:20:54.:21:00.

construction industry. My primary objective is to build new schools

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for our pupils and communities. But I am acutely aware that this

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announcement will also help the construction industry.

:21:11.:21:24.

And it was a busy day for the Education Minister, as he was also

:21:25.:21:28.

called to answer an urgent oral question, tabled by the chair of the

:21:29.:21:31.

The Minister told the Assembly he hasn't cancelled teaching

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redundancies after 120 school staff scheduled for redundancy were

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All applications were assessed against a strict code Delia --

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criteria. I am prized Tora ties and -- I have prioritised schools in a

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closure or amalgamation situation. If funding were available, I would

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be in a position to proceed with a further 28. 93 applications have not

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been approved as they did not meet all the criteria. But if funding

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were to become available, they may proceed. They have not been approved

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at the stage for various reasons. I have not cancelled teacher

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redundancies. I find it ironic to be called to the chamber for not

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funding redundancies. Can the Minister tell the house

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today where did you know that this scheme was not going to be fully

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implemented and why was this scheme introduced without there being

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financial security in regard to his budget? In relation as to when I

:22:54.:23:00.

became aware of the situation, when it became clear that the safest --

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the executive was not in a position to agree. That bid has not yet been

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successful. Once that became clear that it would not be in place in

:23:23.:23:25.

time, I informed schools of the position we were in.

:23:26.:23:29.

A new apprencticeship strategy announced by the Employment Minister

:23:30.:23:33.

came up several times during the course of question time today.

:23:34.:23:35.

But first, we heard about the possibility of a veterinary school

:23:36.:23:38.

being established at the University of Ulster's Coleraine campus.

:23:39.:23:45.

The proposal has been brought forward by the University. It has

:23:46.:23:54.

the discretion to offer better now vacate -- veteran Larry courses. It

:23:55.:24:02.

is preparing an economic proposal to support it. This proposal might be

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used to bid for additional funding. Would you consider the possibility

:24:12.:24:18.

of economic support from agriculture and rural development because of the

:24:19.:24:25.

subject matter? Investment is very expensive. The universal themselves

:24:26.:24:33.

are talking about a school of 250 students, 50 across five years. It

:24:34.:24:42.

is more expensive to train of it than any profession you might think

:24:43.:24:55.

of. -- a vet. The university can go ahead with his from its existing

:24:56.:24:58.

resources, but that might be a distortion. It is something we can

:24:59.:25:06.

consider, but it has to be determined. The minister talked

:25:07.:25:10.

about apprenticeships at level seven and level eight. What uptake does he

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anticipate at those levels and what resource strategy will he be

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deploying? Today, we are launching the high-level policy framework for

:25:26.:25:30.

apprenticeships and we are making a major switch from a situation for

:25:31.:25:34.

apprenticeships are primarily offered at level two and level

:25:35.:25:41.

three. We have a fresh youth training offer which will address

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the level two issue. This is very much in the hands of sector

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partnerships to develop the framework. It is possible, we have

:25:56.:26:05.

seen in other parts of the world apprenticeships being delivered at

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level seven and level eight. We want to make sure that Northern Ireland

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is part of that, but it is in the hands of the business community to

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come forward. Can I ask the Minister, he read a

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statement this morning saying that while he -- that access would be

:26:28.:26:39.

widened, could you expand on that? We are looking at the expansion of

:26:40.:26:47.

apprenticeships. We want to look at any particular barriers that exist

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and we have raised issues about some of the gender imbalances that exist

:26:52.:26:57.

already. Also people with disabilities. This will be

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cross-referenced with work we are doing without disability employment

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service. We are developing a disability employment strategy which

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will be available in the autumn. And Cathy Gormley-Heenan

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is with me again. There's just another week left of

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the Assembly and there's a definite Not much of a serious nature

:27:19.:27:22.

is being discussed or passed? One of the things before the

:27:23.:27:35.

election was that everyone thought that welfare reform would not be

:27:36.:27:39.

touched until the election was over and dealt with swiftly afterwards.

:27:40.:27:46.

But given the severity of the penalties from the Treasury this

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would be dealt with before the end of the parliamentary term. That

:27:51.:27:57.

hasn't happened. If it is delayed until September, we have another ?10

:27:58.:28:03.

million of penalties. A good effort, could do better.

:28:04.:28:12.

Now, sometimes politicians up here on the hill can be accused of

:28:13.:28:16.

of being a little out of tune with the electorate

:28:17.:28:19.

but this evening in the Great Hall that certainly wasn't the case.

:28:20.:28:42.

That was Ross Houston from the Lisburn Flute Orchestra.

:28:43.:28:44.

He'll be taking part in a Guinness world record attempt in September

:28:45.:28:47.

Do join me for The View on Thursday at 10.35 on BBC1.

:28:48.:28:52.

Until then, from everyone in the team, bye bye.

:28:53.:28:57.

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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