25/06/2013 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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today. Coming up on tonight's programme - another day at Stormont


and another day debating our new planning law. Not everyone was happy


with the proposals. You get cowboy planning, cowboy builders. What do


you expect from cowboy politicians? The National Trust came under fire,


as questions were asked about the Giants Causeway. It is


disproportionate. I have to ask myself if I went with my family


would I be happy to pay that amount of money to access the visitor's


centre? I am not sure I would. joined by the news letter's


correspondent Sam McBride. So, a second day has been spent


debating the new planning law. Last night a controversial proposal to


create planning zones to be by the first deputy ministers was passed.


This evening another amendment was approved. We will get a flavour of


the debate in a moment. First the News Letter's correspondent is here.


We will touch first on the economic zones and the OFMDFM taking control.


It has been called a power-grab by opponents. That is obviously how


they see it? From the point of view of Alex Attwood t Planning Minister,


it is taking powers which are his, which will go to local councils


under the views of local administrations that the expanded


councils we'll have. It has given it to the first Minister and Deputy


First Minister. The Assembly would have a chance to vote op any if the


Environment Minister of the time didn't agree with the creation of an


economic zone in a certain area. But there was intense controversy about


this. It emerged that short notice last week - there was no


consultation on this. Even some of the MLAs found it sketchy, the


detail of it. One sounded critical of it at


points. It was an unusual debate. What about the significance of


today's developments? It follows in the same way. These are seen as


radical, probably more in terms of the DUP than from Sinn Fein. Both


parties are signed up to these in radical ways to make the planning


system faster, make it responsive to the economy. Critics say that just


letting people build is not necessarily the same as economic


development. The example was given of an airport and said, if for


instance, they extend Belfast City airport, you display jobs from one


airport to the other. It was a debate that was not informed I


suppose by a great deal of time because it came at such short notice


and that showed from the DUP and Sinn Fein benches. Allegations from


the other parties being thrown about quassy corruption. In some cases


that was denied. It has been a tough four or five days for Alex Attwood,


hasn't it? It has been a bruising few days. Whether he surviving


longer as minister - there were rumours he would be replaced by Joe


Burn, his party colleague. It will be a huge test as to whether he


moves this. He has the power, potentially, if he uses his nuclear


option to stop it in its tracks. We'll hear more from you in a


moment. Thank you. There were forthright and heated exchanges


today. Here is a flavour of what was said. The question for the House


today is whether or not we're going to choose to provide balance in our


planning system or further load the dice in favour of developers. It


seems the DUP are so beholden to their developer donors they have


tabled a table of this today, to ensure that even if we do get, even


if it is the democratic will of this House to introduce third party right


of appeal, they will choose to block it. Amendment 26 is proposed this


evening, this afternoon moves Northern Ireland more to a


deregulated Texas-style system. The system you get coy boy planning,


cowboy builders. What do you expect from cowboy politicians? I was lost


for words by amendment 20, Mr Speaker. I was gobsmacked by


amendment 24. I have great pride in our demock ca I have. To take --


democracy. To takeaway the review that you feel are wrong, to me seems


like we are taking steps towards a dictatorship. I was concerned over


some of the remarks of both of the last two speakers in terms of the


fact that both made sort of like snide remarks in relation to my


party. It noticeable indeed - remarks such as who's pulling the


springs? Can I say it seems to be that the chair of the committee has


been lost for words on our amendment. I have to say I maybe


give praise to the chair that someone who is lost for words seems


remarkable Leigh quaous. We have a reputation when it comes to getting


planning applications finally approved. That is not solely the


responsibility of the current minister. It is a legacy of our


legal system, where we have all seen business rivals lodge appeals in


order to simply block or impede the progress of all this. Our numbers


are not about, our amendments are not a numbers game. There are the


number of appeals on record taken over the last few years. He's


missing the point in they have damaged our reputation in regard to


final decisions made. The SDLP supports third party appeals and we


will support the amendment of the Green Party. We commend the minister


for the proposals he has brought forward in the bill, which will deal


much more effectively with enforcement against those who flout


planning laws and of course the potential for a higher ceiling of


fines to be enforced by the judiciary. That is something I


believe u ought to be welcomed. looks like -- likes like in the


future you will be able to choose any area, any side and create an


economically significant planning zone and then do what you like there


and you will not from amendment 26 be able to challenge it, if I


understand it correctly, unless it happens to be against your human


rights or against EU laws. It is a real shame on both those parties to


be agreeing this. I am warning this House that if we go down this route,


on this particular amendment, on any amendment, on any topic, this issant


amount to a totalitarian state in the fascist mood. What you cannot


challenge any longer under thisty ran anial proposition is a proposal


which is unlawful by virtue of being irrational cannot be stopped, cannot


be challenged by urt courts and... Oh, yes, I'll give way. Instead of


it being a developer's charter, he wants it to be a lawyer's charter,


where fat cat lawyers can make a fortune out of stopping jobs coming


coming here. That has been a case on Wlabt this, the would be -- what


about this - the would be objectors. It is and planning challenging is


the Stormont ministers. This is them moving to try to say, get out of our


territory in some ways. Thank you. Closing hospital beds, waiting times


and residential care for the elderly. All issues which feature in


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 43 seconds


a statement from the Health Minister It must take place with full


engagement with service users so members that the future statutory


care homes will be considered on a case by case basis, recognising we


must do what is in the best interest of the current residents T latest


statistics show that the performance improved significantly in May. The


health service is not meeting the standard that 95% of patients


attending an emergency department should be. . Seen within four hours.


There are signs of improvement within hospital services. This can


be seen, for example, in waiting times for elective care, where the


number of patients waiting and the length of time they are waiting are


being driven down. You had mentioned and congratulated yourself and your


department on the improvement and waiting times. Do you acknowledge


minister, because this is something as a committee we have been looking


at, do you acknowledge this has only been achieved because there has been


millions of pounds put into the private sector? Do you not accept


this is a court fix approach and, as hard as this, or how we tackle the


issue of waiting lists in the long term? I accept we have done this


using the private sector. I don't make any apologies for. I welcome


the statement. But I do not welcome the fact we received little over an


hour's notice of it. It runs to about 4,000 words. That it contains


at least seven distinct new areas of public policy being announced and


that it is going to be subject to limited scrutiny because the whips


of this House have agreed that we would only have one member per party


to ask questions during questions so as to expedite the business of the


day. My question is this, firstly, what grounds of public policy did he


override his Permanent Secretary's advice on the business cases for the


lis born. -- Lisbon new centres? I did not override anybody's decision.


Civil servants are here to make recommendations and that is


something we, as politicians, should ensure always remains the case.


Health Minister, Edwin Poots. The Tourism Minister has criticismed the


National Trust to charge people to use the car park at the Giants


Causeway. Arlene Foster called it disproportionate. She had something


Ireland went across the world during the G 8 summit. We showed Northern


Ireland at its best and we had the most peaceful summit in the history


of G 8 summits. That is something we should be proud about and the fact


it gives us stand out across the global markets. One of our


difficulties from the past has been the fact that when people think of


Northern Ireland think they of it in a particular way. I think the G 8


will have done so much good in relation to the safety and security


issues over those two short days last week. I am very pleased that it


will go out across the world in a positive way. We look forward of the


working the tourist board w invest Northern Ireland and Tourism


Northern Ireland to make sure that Fermanagh and Northern Ireland gets


the standout it deserves after the G8 summit. That is a job of work I


have tasked the three organisations in congratulating them. If she's


asking me if I was pleased with the work carried out by the three


agencies, very pleased indeed. I have no difficulty in saying I am


pleased with the work of tourism Ireland. I have no difficulty saying


that they provided a good job in relation to G8. I do know that there


have been a number of complaints and I've listened to colleagues from


across the political spectrum making those complaints in relation to the


car parking at the Giant's Causeway. With the Minister agree that it is


grossly unfair and a disincentive to tourism that if a car load of four


people arrived to park at the Giant's Causeway, not intending to


use the centre because they have already seen it, but intending to go


to the stoned, that they are each charged park, which is an


extortionate amount and a gross disincentive? As tourism minister,


will she condemned that and press for change? I do think that there


are difficulties in and around that, I think it is disproportionate. I


have to ask myself if I went with my family would type the happy to pay


that kind of money to access the visitor centre. I'm not sure that I


would. I think The National Trust me to consider in relation to their


current charging policy whether it is the correct one. We heard Arlene


Foster speaking about the most peaceful G8 summit ever but it was


also an opportunity for those campaigning on global issues to air


their views. The IF campaign was vocal and MLAs put forward a motion


to recognise that. What was the purpose of the motion? The purpose


was to recognise the hard work and creative campaign that have been


overawed when many organisations across Northern Ireland. And a lot


of community artist that we have put on an excellent concept at the


botanic Gardens, linking on three issues of tax, land and aid. The


deck narration that came out of the G8 referenced work there needed to


be done on a lot of those key issues. The purpose of this motion


is to grab a stamp that, not to move the debate forward? It is to


recognise the hard work and give the commitment of this assembly and make


sure that they deliver to those commitments that they have laid out


at the G8. Do you think the leaders that were involved at the G8 summit


heard when you had to say and acted upon the calls that you made?


think that they did. The campaign was a hugely uniting campaign. We


were able to make the case direct to the Prime Minister at Westminster.


Someone said there had been a bit of a seachange in the way that these


issues were discussed. The making poverty work campaign a few years


ago found it hard to get any traction but the IF campaign did


have an impact. It did, and other campaigns as well. These campaigns


are having an impact. A split in the Executive on pension reform last


November which stopped Westminster legislative issue on behalf of the


pig sector workers here meant separate legislation was brought


before the house today. The second stage of the Service Pensions Bill


was moved by Sammy Wilson. object of the bill is introduced


major changes to public service pensions in Northern Ireland from a


rope 2015. The Bill which I put in the Assembly in 2012 kids in fact to


the principles of tension reform agreed an executive in March. The


model to be adopted for general use in the public services schemes. The


Chief Secretary to the Treasury made it clear that a proportional


reduction will be applied to the Northern Ireland block allocation if


registration to reform public service pension arrangements in


Northern Ireland is not concluded to the deadline to the deadlines


contained in the Westminster public services pensions act 2013. It was


evident that a full macroeconomic analysis or appraisal has not been


undertaken of the proposed pension reforms, either locally by the


Department or in Britain by the Treasury or as part of the initial


Houten review. Representatives emphasise the need to assess the


impact of increasing the age of retirement, taking turns of


displacement in the labour market and the correlation between this and


youth unemployment. The committee will continue to support the


Minister in this process and ensuring that consideration of the


bill is given priority, but that should not be at the expense of


robust scrutiny. This will represent a further attack on public sector


workers who have already faced a freezes and a rise in pension


contributions as result of previous legislation. This further attack has


been pushed through the Assembly by the Finance Minister at a time when


his colleagues and indeed all of the parties in the Assembly are seeing


their own individual salaries rise. Historically when pitted against the


private sector, the public sector was viewed as low on power with


salaries, but other benefits work accepted. A salary cap has emerged


between the two sectors in the opposite direction. I know that the


STL P are always looking for an opportunity to poke the main parties


in this assembly in the eye -- SDLP. They love particularly taunting Sinn


Fein. We are more socialist than you are, we are redder than you are. He


should be read in the face after that's each!. Londonderry seems to


be the centre of the world at the moment and it was no surprise when


the British Irish Council to the decision to meet their last week.


This summit again underlined the British Irish Council's unique role


in developing links between its member administration through


positive actual relationships and providing a forum for consultation


and exchange of information on matters of mutual interest. The


council welcomed the hosting of the summit in Londonderry train the city


's tenure as UK City of Culture 2013. The first item on the agenda


was a presentation to the council by the chief executive of the Derry


Londonderry culture company. It highlighted economic benefits


arising from Londonderry's selection as the first UK City of Culture. It


aims to deliver a lasting legacy for the people of the city and


surrounding area. I understand this is the 20th summit of the British


Irish Council. The First Minister detail what he believes to be its


greatest achievement? I think if the member looks at the statement he


will see immediately that the greatest meant is the sharing of


information, learning from the experiences of others, is about


things that we should do and things we should not do. I believe it is a


useful gathering of the leaders of the various administrations within


the overall British Isles. I had that I will get full encouragement


from my Unionist colleagues to maintain that east-west link, just


as others will be encouraging us to maintain north-south links. Can I


ask for his assessment on the presentation given by the culture


company on this impact so far, not just for very bad for the region as


a whole? The impact goes beyond that. And once most eager to listen


to the presentation worthy areas that have it soon for next year's UK


City of Culture. They were very much wanting to learn from the experience


of the Derry Londonderry company. There was a willingness on the part


of the company after the present year is over to share their


experiences, both the mistakes and indeed give adages that they had


during the course of the year. -- the advantages. There were hot air


balloons and music early in the morning and I thought that was


something that politicians should not be involved with! The planning


Bill has been dominating proceedings putting Question Time there were


other legislative matters to deal with. This time it was the reform of


local government, but first heritage and history book centre stage.


sleeping giant of Irish tourism and potentially of Irish life is the


Saint Patrick 's experience. I have been making this argument that on


the far side of all the big investments, it is now the time of


Saint Patrick, it is now the time of the County of town and we need to


grasp that option team now and over the next two decades. Northern


Ireland's natural and built heritage is one of our greatest assets but


there is a skills shortage of contractors to work on such


buildings. If the Minister aware of such rob them? I would welcome


hearing precise details of what that might be. Part of the life of the


Northern Ireland agency is to have a group of people with the skills


bursary to help with the maintenance of our heritage sites. For example,


the reason why the walls of Terry part in the state and condition that


they are today and arguably the best they have been for decades, is


because of resource and skills that exist within the Environment Agency


and which are deployed for the preservation and maintenance of the


walls. It been my aspiration that the house would have had the


opportunity for first and second reading not just of the


reorganisation bill but also of the Road traffic Bill. We have had some


conversation in that regard at one executive meeting it has not yet


come through to a full executive discussion. I would hope that by


this Thursday the bill will be discussed by the Executive, that it


will be approved by the Executive. And it has been discussed that we


should have first reading next week in order that the bill and its


contents with the publicly available for people to make comment on over


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.