25/02/2013 Stormont Today


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

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Hello and welcome to Stormont today. The very nature of the structures


of the assembly were under scrutiny with the select committee here to


take members use today. The sports minister reassure us and LA's that


all is well with the police and fire games. Everything that was in


place remains the same. There are couples over the opening ceremony.


If hand opinion polls, flagpoles... They even squeezed in the South


Pole today. We have arrived at a crucial moment where we will


surrender Antarctica. To discuss that, I'm joined by our political


reporter for stop hoo-ha --. Should the public have the right to


know who gives a significant sums of money to our local political


parties? That was one of the issues under discussion today when


Westminster's Northern Ireland affairs committee came to Stormont


to take evidence on a Bill proposing a number of changes to


the political system here. Of political reporter watched


proceedings and he is with me now. First of all, why is the committee


here today and tomorrow? A this is the Northern Ireland affairs


committee and they are looking at the issue of structures in the


assembly. There are looking at things like the opposition, party


donations and all the structures that we are familiar with because


there is this Northern Ireland Bill that will be going through


Westminster. They've been hearing evidence from witnesses today and


they will hear evidence tomorrow. One of those that they heard from


was Jim Allister, the TV -- T U C leader. He has always championed


the idea of an opposition and this is what he told the committee today.


A great burden of what I want to say relates to not what is not in


this bill and my disappointment about that. Thatched homes in in


particular on the absence of the opportunity which existed at to


democratise the these institutions instalment. As things stand, this


dormant is a blot on a democratic landscape. The issue of party


donations was raised. One party did think it would be premature to drop


anonymity at the stage. That was the United Kingdom Independence


Party, who gave evidence today. One person was asked questions about a


number of MPs about the issue of party donations. He was asked about


this whole issue of whether or not anonymity should be dropped and


this is what he told the committee. I am not asking any specific things


on this issue. I am taking in the round and I am taking and thinking


of the general protection of people in Northern Ireland, who would wish


to sponsor ordinator to any political party. As someone who has


been threatened more than once... That is why we want to hear from


you? It is not something I would want to place upon anybody else's


shoulders. The that was David Nutt Berry, the Alliance Party and the


Greens disagree. They want full disclosure, as does the T U v.


Stewart... He made it clear why he feels there should be full


disclosure. I am not sure FARC for wrecked is any more or any real


than it is to any business person or any other individual. -- I am


not sure that is the case for any more real person. More evidence


being taken by the committee tomorrow. That's right. They will


hear evidence from the two Unionist leaders. They will hear evidence


from Alastair Macdonald. Also from Sinn Fein and from the Independent


and La David Carter. -- MLA. All these proceedings took place in the


chamber. The committee will go back to Westminster, they will take more


evidence in Westminster and then eventually a whole report will be


presented. We will get a sense of what the committee thinks should go


on to Westminster. After much speculation, it was


confirmed last week that the opening ceremony of the world


Police and Fire Games will be held at the King's Hall in Belfast. The


topic came up several times during questions to the Sports Minister.


She described the uncertainty as a hiccup but said that everything


else is in place. There are 41 sport and 57 venues. Not all are


based in Belfast. Something like 15 are outside. They have all been


settled. Everything that was in place remains the case. Pick up was


due to the opening ceremony. Can I ask the Minister how the venue will


be modified to accommodate the opening ceremony? I thank the man


before her question. But for last Federation visit, several visits


took place between April and June, the capacity for something like


21,000... The King's Hall can reach than. Even contract to see smaller


numbers when it is appropriate. It is not envisaged at this stage.


Even going by last week, the figures that were anticipated are


still to be expected from the first to 10th August. The opening


ceremony is more than able to cope with that. Could I ask the Minister,


in relation to the number of people attending, you've said 41 sports


have a 57 venues, can I ask the number of athletes and the number


of people we anticipate coming to watch the games? I have no figures


in terms of how many spectators there will be. I know that there


are 10,000 athletes and with those 10,000 athletes, they are expecting


15,000 to accompany them. That is up to 25,000. There will be a big


local interest, particularly for some of the events. The company is


looking at ticket regimes to make sure members of the public have


every opportunity to attend the events and particularly for the


schools. Some of the schools will be paired with countries who are


visiting and competing but I have no figure, not even an indication


of what the demand is yet. I expect that I will closer to the time.


Would the Minister agree with me that this would be an excellent


opportunity for her to show case Northern Ireland at its best? There


will be so many people coming from all parts of the world and it will


be a opportunity to let the people see that we have a shared heritage


and we are promoting our shared and better future for everyone in


Northern Ireland? I would agree with a member. Not just that, but


some of the delegation have come over already, four weeks ago, from


five different countries. They visited some of our historical


sites, are tourist attractions and some of the communities. They were


nothing but impressed with what we had to offer. That was just a


glimpse of what will come from the start of August. Can I declare an


interest as someone who has applied to be a volunteer in the Games?


Could the Minster telly if the rumour is true that I'm going to


have to have -- have an awful lot of competition to give up some of


my time for free? I am afraid you are! I don't think we are done yet.


There is a request for 3500 people giving up their time to volunteer.


We are at 6000. One of the reasons we extended the deadline for people


volunteering, was on occasions, there were difficulties to do with


the services. They have applied. I think it is good news. By hope and


under his successful in his application and a look forward to


seeing him taking part. Plans to transplant at the


University of Ulster campus in Jordan's town to Belfast are to go


to the planning committee within weeks. But to the pan has been


welcomed, there are some concerns as the environment minister


revealed during question time. -- although the plan has been welcomed.


In terms of the design of the proposal, it will masques


significantly. It will go up very high. It will have impact upon


Heritage, parking, traffic and so on and so forth. In terms of the


nature and character and scale of this proposal, it is a very


challenging one. I hope there is nobody in this House or elsewhere


who thinks that this is an easy call for stop it is a big call


because it is a big proposal which will have a big impact upon fad


part of the city. If it is done right, it can be part of the


overall development of the north side of the committee but the


exchange, with north side, with it the underpass West Link. All will


gather around the cathedral quarter. We have an unprecedented


opportunity to shape that part of the city, an opportunity that only


comes once in a century. This is a community that, especially during


the summer and autumn of last year, demonstrated a great sense of


dignity and resilience. High think that they deserve a particular


degree of respect in terms of issues in that area, including


respect of this planning application. I had very frank


conversations in terms of how they should manage the supplication and


in terms of the character of the application itself. I think we are


moving forward. It would like to see a recommendation going to the


City Council in respect of the main scheme, in advance of the town


planning a meeting of 7th March. I do have major concerns to inspect


of a car-parking proposal. It might be that that particular part of the


application will have to be separated from the main application.


I do think this would be great opportunity for North Belfast. By


agree with the minister. But in this development, will the Minister


take into consideration and certainly not prejudice the


development of some element of social housing, which is needed in


that area? Local people are certainly supportive of it. I think


the issue of housing in that area needs very careful management. We


don't want to see a situation arrive -- a rise where we have...


There is the potential for that to happen. That is why I welcome the


city council report which, working with the various people in Belfast,


can map out how the student housing issue might be dealt with over the


next couple of decades. And we have to recognise that there will be a


demand for social housing in that area. There are areas which have


previously been designated for housing and then in my view, that


needs to be respected going for it. I do not think that development of


all the available land for the university is the way forward. I


believe it needs to be balanced development and that would include


potential student housing. Have you heard the story of the


finance minister who got cross- I have to congratulate the minister,


and appreciated as a wonderful job. Self-praise is the recommendation,


but I am giving it anywhere. Something that came that is the


commitment that is being given in the department's in relation to


redeeming funds as an -- at an early a stage as possible and we


are not losing it, so I appreciate that. Up until now, things are


working better and I know that in history, there are manys that have


to go back to Westminster because they were not spent, and I know the


media like to jump all over the budget will receive, the block


grant we receive and the money we spend, and we are not spending it


all. Can I say that within the parameters that have been set death


in relation to how much we can or cannot carry forward, it is good


for cheating -- set down. There will always be exceptions and


circumstances that cannot be anticipated and again, I think the


flexibility of the monitoring rate allows us to adjust. I would echo


the Commons about the efficiency savings. Some of the departments


have genuinely found efficiency, but possibly the same focus that we


had previously put on financial projections and performance with


innings to be addressed, because it is going to be an ongoing issue


with pressure on the block grant, so on that basis I would commend


the minister and the motion for the work that has been done so far,


just to join in! Are no the minister would feel short-changed


if I didn't mention that the ongoing costs are unsustainable.


The minister did highlight in his opening remarks some office


successes around tourism and maybe I need to take the opportunity to


tell their how wonderful he is at this stage. However, in the face


off good news stories, the recent unrest has shown how, when we


scratch the surface, divisions are still very evident and that there


is no doubt this division will continue to hurt us economically


and financially, by deterring tourism and investment and


committing our ability to attract and faint taint of talent. So while


I offer my support to the Bill, the question still stands about how


much longer can we as an Assembly afford to keep spending money


managing division rather than finding sustainable solutions.


wishing to be a party-pooper and wishing to go on record that I


actually do like Sammy Wilson quite well, I rise to speak, however,


fear opposition to this Budget Bill. And while they finance minister did


a good job of presenting the Budget, the budget he had to do that there


was a complacent but it accrued by a complacent Executive and


presented to the complacent Assembly -- agreed Fife. However, I


exonerates -- exonerate the minister, who is someone who has to


present the Budget to create behind closed doors by the Executive and


he has carried out his duty professionally. I did consider


making some amendments, but what is the point? This Budget is and what


a done deal before the Minister presented it to the house -- is and


was. In fact, the house must share my thoughts, because there are no


amendments tabled by any party. The purpose of the Bill is to authorise


the use of resources totalling over 16 billion by departments and


certain other bodies. Current capital receipts of over 2 billion


contribute to an overall operating total of just under 19 billion. And


the finance minister, in his usual combination of jolly approach on


the one hand and school teachers called in on the cover, has been


the only minister to present on that the -- during the Budget


debate. His job was to act as the delicate it Minister task with the


job of presenting a Budget Karpov agreed at the Executive table. No


other minister, it would seem, felt it move -- necessary, or was


present to defend their department will spend, despite the universal


criticism of all departments five disassembly. The -- 5 disassembly.


This short, final starch, let me emphasise that, final stage of the


budget Assembly, they have been many opportunities in this house


over the last couple of weeks for those who take the view that


somehow or other there are fundamental flaws in this Budget.


Fundamental flaws which he believed are shared by a widespread number


of people in this house, and I'm sure that had he come and put a


cogent case, and much more importantly, put some amendments


down, then that untapped source of discontent they have been able to


find some expression to it. -- may have been able to.


The Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson. Now, he might not have been a


household name a week ago, but he's certainly heading that way now.


During an extraordinary day at the World Track Cycling Championships


last week, Newtownards rider Martyn Irvine won a silver medal in the


individual pursuit before going one better and winning gold in the 15k


scratch race. Today, MLAs on all sides of the chamber rose to


applaud his achievements. Despite being almost out on his feet after


his earlier exertions, with 10 out of the 16 laps to go in the scratch


event, he broke from the plunge and face if he went for it -- from the


bunch. Sprinting away with every last drop of energy he had. And he


has done it all on a shoestring. It is bread and water in cycling. You


rightly in, but you ride with very little resource. The budget for


track cycling in Ireland is well under 100,000 euros, at just under


�90,000. Compare it with the 8 million available per year with the


GB team available. It goes mainly -- it goes mainly to fund Mark if


and one other rider. Hovered rather do more than just honour him -- I


would like to do more than just on him, I would like to invest in him


and show how proud we are. The this is an achiever and they'd all the


more remarkable -- made all the more remarkable given the resources


available to him. Even Martyn Irvine said he couldn't live on


what he lives on. Everybody should be proud of what he has done


through his hard work, his discipline and his endeavour.


Hopefully the likes of Martyn Irvine and Wendy can inspire a


generation, over the major events such as the Giro d'Italia, and


Northern Ireland can be more than the capital of golf. A Hall of


Newtownards will come together to celebrate this achievement -- the


whole of. We will remember it is not exceptional to this area, with


a silver at the recent World Swimming Championships. We


congratulate Martyn Irvine and, yes, there is pride across the whole of


Ireland, because he did win wearing an Irish vest and I look forward to


seeing him in Northern Ireland colours next year at the


Commonwealth Games. The Ulster Unionist Party's Mike


Nesbitt. Staying on a sporting theme, this afternoon, Members


backed a motion calling for more investment in grass roots sport.


The committee is mindful of the pressures on the minister's budget


and that knowledge is the difficult job she has been balancing it


vestment with tangible benefits. However, the committee is calling


on the minister to ensure this all sports are not overlooked for


investment. By spectator and -- the Without Investment, the sport may


not be able to develop. It may not have enough like it, but I was once


a keen sportsman. Though I challenge anyone to the effect on


share sportsman than I am now. I want to talk about that old


chestnut, joined-up government. We all call for it and we very rarely


see anything happening and we have a department for the very small


budget which makes it even more important. If we do for for many


that is probably wasted by duplication of resources and


inefficiencies, not so much in this department but with other


departments -- if we do that, if with a fat education, for schools,


the sports fields, there is a lot of money being spent their fat may


be could be spent in just a slightly different way -- that may


be. Sport adds to a wide range of social and economic cultural needs.


It improves health and well-being that gives us opportunities and a


fast moving world to come together, celebrate and enjoy shared


experiences. I should say that Mr Deputy Speaker, since the new year,


I have taken to the treadmill myself and managed -- as you might


observe, I am not match-fit check that I do feel a tremendous benefit.


Experience has shown me that physical exercise is good for


everybody and should be available for everybody. We often talk about


their shared future but unfortunately, these discussions


are frequently academic and lack a degree of practicality. With no


physical exercise has health benefits and, like the previous


speaker, I too have taken up swimming recently and it has done


me great, it has helped my recurring neck problems. But sport


also has the power to break down barriers in society and bring


people together. It is a practical thing for fostering good community


relations and that must never be underestimated. I am not too far


from you. A lot of sport, if I'm not watching it through invitation,


I am watching it on television or listening on the radio but I do


understand the power of sport in terms of health and the economy and


certainly in terms of education, and certainly in terms of safety


and health and well-being across the board. And there are many


overlaps for term fees to say that in my short time in the department,


I have seen some of the has kept afloat.


Now, an unlikely subject found its way onto the floor of the chamber


today. At first glance, you might wonder how MLAs could justify


spending time talking about Antarctica, but today they did -


and they even managed to drag the continent - temporarily - into the


flag dispute Delighted to address the House on this hot topic.


It is important that in our society, this house is not the cold house


for anyone, but I beg to move... don't give up the day job.


Assembly will be aware that the First Minister and Deputy First


Minister have led a legislated consent memorandum in which they


are seeking support for a legislative consent motion, in


respect of the Westminster Antartic full to Northern Ireland. The bill


includes a provision that regulation of activities in


Antarctica should be made and accepted matter in terms of our


devolution settlement. During the drafting of the Antarctic Bill, it


was identified but the Antartic and the subjective -- subject matter of


the Bill had inadvertently been devolved to the legislators in both


Scotland and Northern Ireland. In our case, the matter of regulation


and activities in the Antartic was admitted -- omitted from his first


scheduled to the Northern Ireland after 1998. While the matter is


technically a devolved here, no relevant functions were transferred


without and the department he has any her to spit it powers in


relation to the Antartic. -- and no tip-off that he has any legislative


powers. As such, it proudly flies the Union flag and I think there is


no restriction that it can fly the Union flag so why was just one


drink, would it be a warm house for Unionists and Belfast City Hall? --


I was wondering for?. In Antarctica, effectively the day last pretty


much all day, so in terms of daylight, the Union Flag can be


seen for long periods of time. After that rather interesting and


diverse debate, I think we have arrived at the crucial moment where


we will surrender Antarctica. The question is that the motion


standing in the Order Paper be agreed. All those in favour say 5


Mac -- say aye. The ayes have it. Deputy Speaker, John Dallatt.


Our political reporter Stephen Walker is with me again. Unusual


debate there, Stephen. Yes, when you think of the things that are


normally discussed at Stormont, health, education, the economy and


we have the debate about Antarctica and the jokes were very predictable,


skating on thin ice, a cold house for Unionists and nationalists, but


it was a little bit of light relief. A quick look ahead to tomorrow, it


is a pity that busy order paper. is, one of the debates that jumps


out of the debates about flags. There is a motion being put forward


by the SDLP and Sinn Fein that the whole issue should go to the at hoc


committee. It looks like the Unionists will oppose that and it


looks like they will be a petition of concern, so after Antarctica, it


is back to the more normal subjects. And the Northern Ireland affairs


committee, as we mentioned earlier, is here for a second day, hearing


evidence and interestingly, Sinn Fein is going to be appearing.


is right. The Unionist leaders are going to be there, Peter Robinson


and Mike Nesbitt, Alastair McDonald will be there and a representative


from Sinn Fein. We don't know who it will be, but it is clear from


recent statements from Sinn Fein that when it comes to the issue of


political donations, they will call for transparency. An interesting


day, will have the details tomorrow night, of course. I'll be back the


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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