25/10/2011 Stormont Today


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

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Welcome to Stormont Today, featuring the best of bidets events


at the Assembly. We start with a little quiz, who is


the First Minister talking about? He takes on a roll of a wrecker in


this Assembly. We should not pay too much heed to his words or


tactics. And why some MLAs have their doubts. I believe it was the


right decision, and I still believe it is the right decision. I do not


believe you require a review to make a decision. Stay tuned for


more on that later. I am joined by Terry Maguire. He is


a pharmacist. Concerns about losing rural


pharmacies were raised today. Changes to the way that chemists


are paid, mean many that -- many are under financial pressure. Is


there a crisis? There is a crisis. I was disappointed to see that the


ministry did not appreciate that. 30% of our funding, �30 million has


been taken out of our funding. The first payment to receive was in


June. Four months later, we are incident problems. How does that


manifest itself? Are people having to close their pharmacies? It is


affecting all pharmacies, the most pressing issue is staff. Every


pharmacy are looking at their staff complement. They need a trained


technicians and counter staff. They are looking at how they can survive.


It means that people have been paid off. 125 people have lost their


jobs in the last three months. That will increase over the next few


months. It is a major crisis in that respect. Pharmacies in


deprived areas, and rural areas, they are extremely important.


Losing their pharmacy will be a big blow. Thank you very much.


Responding to the Sinn Fein motion, the minister said he would like to


act, but a legal action means his hands are tied. I do not think it


is necessary to see judicial review in the first instance. I have not


had the opportunity to engage with the CP NI, I do not think that this


matter can be resolved without being dragged to rout the courts.


Mesa -- it some pharmacies to go to the war, it would be better if we


had been able to go -- get around the table, have a meaningful


discussion. Particularly if you take into account the needs of


rural pharmacies, in areas of deprivation as well. I recognise it


is a public medium. I am constrained in what I can do that


this time because of judicial review. The minister recognises


that you are having a struggle. There was an opportunity before the


judicial review cake tin. He could have taught a was at that time. He


didn't. He is now, in a way, hiding behind the review. Will have to


wait and see what happens. That will happen in next few days. We


need to resolve this, it is a crisis. It is a red herring, there


is the number of pharmacies that was thrown in. He has said that


there are more pharmacies per head in the population than the rest of


the UK. That has only raised his head since this discussion has gone


on. The implication of the payment scheme happened back in April, the


first we heard of the issue of the number of pharmacies, was when the


minister made a statement. They are completely separate issues. If the


Minister thinks we have too many pharmacies, he needs to sit down


and discuss that. To take a simple figure of say 3%, does not make


sense. We art and extremely dispersed population. -- we are. We


are not arguable or Manchester. Liverpool.


Sammy Wilson was in fine form today, he displayed his Euro-sceptic


covers -- colours. We start with questions to the education minister.


Can I ask the Minister what his assessment is of pastoral care


afforded to children of ethnic minorities. Teachers and staff have


problems with the children. I wonder what his feeling on the


pastoral support and care is? have a very high level of pastoral


care. It does come down to individual skills, it comes down to


be muttering of the school. I believe that we have a very high


level of care for all pupils in the state. With regards racial equality


issues, I am of the view that there are lessons to be learnt. I'm


studying the report into the experiences of ethnic minorities in


our schools. I will report back on that in due course. We have a very


good care system in our schools. That is driven by schools, and the


staff involved. Would you consider a more holistic approach,


particularly in respect of the Roman families? They have no right


to seek employment, they have no right to welfare entitlement. There


is a statutory obligation to send their children to school. When they


don't have, I have asked the question already, when they don't


have access to transport, or school meals for. There was unfortunate


incident last year regarding their community. We have produced a poor


boy that community. We have made substantial amounts of money


available, particularly in the Belfast board airier -- border area.


There was a tough response to this question on business rates. Does


the Minister believe that Tesco's reaction is accurate to their


business plans? I believe that her Tesco's response to this has been,


quite deliberate, absolutely pathetic. Heres was a major company,


I know they used to bullying their way a wound -- around, they are not


going to use bully-boy tactics here. Anyone who tells me that a �100


million investment project, they are going to look for return over


the next 20-25 years for, will be derailed by a temporary tax of


�840,000 spread over the 20th term of a �100 million and that the


project. Anyone who tells me of that will put it in danger, they


have not done their sums very well, or must think we are a bunch of


idiots. That amounts to, 0.42 % India. Over a 20 year period. --


over the year. If that makes their project vicarious, I do not pick it


is a by his investment decisions -- I do not think it is a wise


investment. They are bullying, they're not gonna get away with it.


Here is the Finance Minister outlining his role in the great EU


referendum vote in Westminster. am very proud of my party's record,


we were the only party who attended, and had 100% vote in favour of a


referendum in the House of Commons last night, and we did not have to


be whipped to get there. I hope that we have proved that when it


comes to the issue of Europe, which of course, don't forget, the impact


of Europe, and European regulation on business is in Northern Ireland,


and the United Kingdom, the amount of red tape, the loss of


sovereignty, the regulations which apply in Northern Ireland, do not


get debated in this chamber. There are those, and bureaucrats in


Brussels who oppose it. Some good will have not had based -- some


people have not had a safe rapidity years.


During questions, the Education Minister was asked about The Colony,


and why he had rescinded it? -- Circular 1979/10. Its future is now


in question, here is what the minister told members. I want to


assure that service delivery support young people is efficient.


It is not defensible to consider -- to continue with an outdated


structure. It results in organisations receiving �1,000 per


annum without conditions. Other organisations must apply for scarce


resources, they must demonstrate efficiency and value for money. It


would be impractical to allow one organisation to remain outside


these conditions. Currently Circular 1979/10 provided for one


body, that is that community and regional level. There is direct


engagement with the minister. Can I ask him whether any new policy will


maintain this level in policy development? The youth forum


continues to have active development in policy. I'm


currently reviewing youth provision, I want to ensure the limited forms


we have are probably used. I want to ensure that youth worker is


connected, very closely, and indeed is in one would be a provision, and


that it meets the needs, and is delivering a modern education


service. I will continue to look at Does the minister share my concern


that official was drew the circular without consulting with the stake


holder community? And does the minister not accept in light of his


review of youth services, it would have been better to wait for the


outcome of that review before with drawing any circular without


consultation? The removal of the circular was an administrative


model which did not require consultation. I signed off as on


the agreement to remost circular. I believe it was the right decision.


I still believe it is the right decision. Not surprisingly the


Youth Forum is less than impressed. One member told me why: We agree


that the system in place that means we exist in a bubble and we get


funding automatically is wrong and should be changed. But that's no


reason to withdraw an entire policy on how young people engage with the


minister. If you want to add to the policy amend it. Don't throw away a


good policy that sets up fundamental rights for young people.


So the minister, though, would say that the circular was out of date.


We're not satisfied that the ledge sligs and the policy that the


minister misquoted makes the 1979 /10 circular de fufrpbgt. The way


the youth service operates is rights based. It's very much in, it


takes due regard on UN convention on the rights of the chide and


international legislation. We're saying that without this policy,


without anything to replace it, which there's just a vacuum at the


moment and the department have said that incoming policy, there's no


date on when it kill woman in and it hasn't been finished written, so


it's a premature decision. We're saying the current policy sets up


the framework for those other pieces of legislation to be obeyed.


Without this document there is no way written down for young people


to directly engage with the minister for education and the


department in a way which suits them. By taking it a way you're


boredering on infringing international statutes. What does


it mean for the forum? Can you function effectively? It changes


the way we will function. It grants us funding, that's nice. We have


said to the department, cut our funding do, what you want with the


funding, but make sure the direct link between a youth-led


organisation, we are the only youth led organisation in Northern


Ireland. We have a committee which decides on everything to do with


the organisation, so we're saying keep that direct link, do whatever


you want to policies, update them, don't throw them away and leave


nothing in its place. Young people will be the only people who lose


out. We were talking about the cost involved in running pharmacies. Of


course, we spend a lot more on drugs, prescription drugs than


anywhere else in the UK. Yeah, it's been a problem identified a number


of years ago N total in community we spend about �450 million a year.


It boils down to about �228 per head of population. Whu compare


that to say for example, England it's �161 per head of population N


Scotland where the demographics are similar, the age profile and social


deprivation rates are the same, they spent spds171 -- �171 per head


of population. So why is Northern Ireland so far ahead? The minister


pointed this out today. As a profession, we have always agreed


with that. Where we need to invest in terms of pharmacy services is to


address this bigger prob -- problem. There's huge savings to be made in


terms of more generic prescribing and using cheaper medicines


generally. There's a huge amount of work could go done. That would


address a lot of concerns the minister had about the cost of


pharmaceutical services generally. Talk of the past, in particular a


conflict transformation centre on the former site of the Maze Prison


is one topic sure to get the pulses of our MLAs racing. The Ulster


Unionists have concerns about such a centre. The DUP have come round


to the idea. They backed an SDLP amendment which called for any such


centre to consider the needs of victims and survivors. One of our


concerns in the Ulster Unionist Party is actually around the


current proposal of the conflict centre, the conflict resolution


centre, conflict transformation centre, whatever the name is put on


it. I know some time ago I had asked to see the application form


for the funding for that and I think if there was less seekerycy


about the proposal, -- secrecy about the proposal maybe we could


look at it in a more difintive manner. I didn't get the


application. I'm not sure what the proposals are. The conflict


transformation centre should be tasked with giving the necessary


expertise to ensure the forth coming debate and reflection on our


history should be approached in a mature and responsible fashion. Mr


Speaker, given the recession, I hope it's not too late and it is


true that the Maze site has the potential not only to have a major


impact on the area's economic future but for a mature discussion


on our past, hopefully helping to bring reconciliation closer.


History is about everybody telling their story. That's everybody.


That's the people who were in the prison. The people who staffed the


prison. The British soldiers who were on the watch towers. It's also


accepted the people who visited the prison, the quakers and all those


representative groups should be invited to tell their story. Indeed,


people who were victims, as a result of the conflict in the north,


should also be allowed to tell their story. That's what


republicans want, nothing more and nothing less. That's what people


should be addressing here today instead of making up or pretending


that republicans want something else when it's not there to be seen


or examined. The issue I wish to start with is the fact that the


huge transformation that we have seen in the DUP position is, of


course, driven by a philosophy that we must keep Sinn Fein happy if


we're to keep our jobs. That is why whereas a few years ago, the


stadium proposition was utterly rejected, because it was tainted by


the presence at the Maze and the ugly buildings at the Maze and the


fear they would become a shrine and that would brand and would taint


the entire proposition. I look across the chamber, the picture


that comes into my mind is of a certain Japanese man. That's not a


racist comment Mr Speaker, not is a reference to the appearance for the


member of north Antrim, it is a particular Japanese man, I think


his name was Onudo. He was sent to the Philippine island during the


course of the last war, sent with a job to carry out certain acts to


disrupt the role of the Allies. He stayed in that jungle even after


the war was over, even though they went round the island with loud


speakers to tell them that the war as over, he wouldn't believe it.


Though they dropped leaflets from the skies on him, he wouldn't


believe it. 29 years later, Mr Speaker, he came out. 29 years


after the war was over. It seems to me that the member for north Antrim


still hasn't come to terms with the fact that we have left the era


about which he seems to be content to mire himself in. We have left it


behind. We're in a new era. We're trying to move forward. I know that


the member tries to style himself as a official opposition in this


Assembly. He is not an opposition at all in this Assembly. He is the


opposition to this Assembly. And it is a very distinct difference. He


is opposed to these structures. He wants to bring them down. He takes


on the role of wrecker in this Assembly and we would be very


foolish in this Assembly if we were to pay too much heed to his words


or to his tactics. How do prescription charges play into all


this snfrplgts they are a red herring from the start, because


they're in the a solution to the problem in any way. Prescription


charges were introduced by the 1960s as a means to reduce the


numbers of prescriptions dispensed at that time. The Government


realised if things were free of charge as the health service was


set up to be, it would be a problem. Of course, our minister in common


with Scotland and Wales decided back in 2010, 2009 to do away with


prescription charge, first to �3 and then to zero. There is an


indication that perhaps the numbers of prescriptions dispensed has gone


up considerably more than expected because of that. Indeed, there is


some concern that the lack of a prescription charge has actually


encouraged misuse of the health service for want of a better word.


I don't have experience of that. I know the patient client consul who


is an advocate for patients has looked at this issue and asked


patients what the most important things in their opinion are about


the health service. Interestingly they like to see a reintroduction


of the prescription charge because they value the health service so


much, they say the lack of a charge is detrimental to health. I think


we need to look at that. I know the minister is currently looking at it


in a number of ways. Seeing it reintroduced at �7.20, as it is in


England, would not be positive. was talking about 50p or a pound,


�3 Seems to be sensible. Where you have exemptions that's when the


complications kick in. We as pharmacists are expected to be


policemen. That's grossly unfair. I'm not supposed to say to someone


"Which medicine do you want?" We need to look at this in the round.


I would suggest we go in for a lesser cost, with less exemptions,


which are fair and aappropriate so we can address the issue of


prescriptions generally. Having said that, there are -- they're


only a contribution. They're a tax. They're not a way of Government to


earn money. I think we have to be careful. Minister was suggesting at


one time it would be some way of paying for expensive drugs. It


can't be. Certainly an interesting debate. Now, coming to Stormont


might not be any child's idea of a top day out, but a new website aims


to help school children understand how the Assembly works. It was


launched here today. I went along to take a look.


We're committed to working with young people in the Assembly and to


do that we've developed a new website. The website, the internet


is a resource that's been increasingly used in the classroom.


We need to develop a resource that relates to young people. We have


developed a new website that's interactive, it's intuitive. It's


linked to the curriculum. It's full of interactive ideas that are


designed to support teaching about the Northern Ireland Assembly and


to bring it to life. It's quite a dry subject. How do you engage


young pm and make them interested in the functions of government?


need to look at it from a child's perspective or young person's


perspective and build the activities from the ground up. We


know that multimedia is the way forward. That's the way young


people are engaging. We've worked very hard to use resource that's


are interactive and intuitive and bring this place to life. Young


people can come here and visit. How do they react to the place?


Different students have different expectations. So, when you're


talking about the primary school audience, you're talking about


really it's just an opportunity to put this place on their radar and


say whenever they see the news at night, oh, I recognise this place


and I kind of understand what it's about. Post-primary, anybody


studying AS Government and politics will have completely different


expectations. They'll want to engage with the politicians. We


give that opportunity. I suppose it is just an extension of the fact


that we now have local government and we have our politicians much


closer than all of the generations before. Absolutely. That's


something that we've tried embrace within the website as well. We've


interactive polls and we will have the opportunity for live chat


between MLAs and students from the classroom. Margaret Ritchie's


departure from Stormont, the latest on the Irish presidential race and


a spoil sport minister. Our political correspondent Martina


Purdy had plenty to talk about when I caught up with her earlier,


starting with Ms Ritchie. As you'll recall, when she said she wouldn't


be seeking re-election, she said she wanted to focus on Westminster.


That meant she would give up your MLAs job. I'm told the selection


process is under way and prot ses will take place on December 4, when


they have a convention. Around four or five people are interested in


replacing Margaret Ritchie. Former MLA, Eamonn O'Neill, possibly Colin


McGrath. Obviously, there's also a lot of focus on the SDLP leadership


campaign, which is in its last lap. There will be hustings on Thursday


night. The voting will be on November 5. Of course, the other


big leadership race this week? Martin McGuinness is one of seven


viing for the job of Irish President. If you believe the


bookies, he's not owe favourite to win. He'll be back as deputy First


Minister fairly soon. We don't want to pre-empt the outcome of the


election this Friday. But he, if he comes back, he'll be coming back


after a break, there's Hallowe'en recess next week. I was speaking to


the office of deputy First Minister who said it would be good to have a


fulltime minister back. John O'dowd is handling education now. What


about the reports that Sammy Wilson has scuppered a big party. There


has been a newspaper report that said the Finance Minister turned


down a request from the organisers of the European music awards to


have a big party at Stormont with a marquee. But when we pursued that


story today, it turned out the DUP said Wilson bill -- Sammy Wilson


got no such request. That's all from Stormont for now. Thanks to my


guest, Terry Maguire. We're back in two weeks, as the Assembly is


taking a half-term break. Join me on Sunday for the Politics Show,


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Tara Mills 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.