26/03/2012 Stormont Today


26/03/2012

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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Transcript


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Hello, and welcome to Stormont Today. As the sun shone on

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Parliament buildings and the temperature soared outside of the

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chamber, things were getting hot and heavy inside, as well.

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He should call, he is the person who has not been able to deliver.

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He is the person that one year ago was stalking the bid talks, I am

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going to do this, I am going to do that. We have seen what happens

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when you make decisions - absolute chaos, absolute destruction of the

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NHS. And Colin last orders for

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irresponsible drinking. The there are a small number who

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are clearly on the wrong side of the law, and they now need their

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irresponsible practices to become bitter.

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My guest at the seizing his the BMA's Dr Paul Barrar, who is aware

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A premature and wrong decision, that is how the closure of Belfast

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City Hospital's A&E department was described in the chamber today.

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What is your view on that closure? I think it is a positive sign that

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this issue is being debated at the higher levels of our local

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Government and the Assembly. It is being given the prominence it

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deserves. There has been a long- standing problem with the provision

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of emergency services across the province. We saw it in Ulster two

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years ago leading to the reconfiguration of a hospital there

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and withdrawal of acute services and the A&E department. These

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issues are due to be addressed in the Compton review. In the short

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term, we need to deal with the issue as it is and we have seen

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demonstrated it -- seen it demonstrated graphically at the

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Royal Victoria Hospital to stop a should the A&E department be re-

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opened? I think there needs a look -- needs

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to be a look at all those factors are of -- factors that contributed

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to that incident, and that means looking at how referrals are made,

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whether they be self referrals by the patient themselves or by a GP.

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Those processes within of the A&E department, tree azure systems,

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management systems, and how the A&E department to react and enter links

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with a hospital. And how it operates, because that

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seems to be part of the problem, doesn't it? It is not a question of

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how many departments we have, but how they are operated, people

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sitting for hours on end. Indeed, for example the number of

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beds within other wards within the hospital will determine how quickly

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you can move a patient from the A&E department to another ward. They

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may be waiting to get to a bed in another ward in hospital.

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The Ulster Unionist Party has called on the health minister to

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resign. Basil McRae made at the demand to

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resign during a debate on the Royal. Members were keen to hear what the

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Minister was going to do to ease the situation.

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Like the rest of the committee members, I was hugely impressed

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with the demonstration -- demonstration of professionalism

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from the medical staff. They are committed to dealing with this

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problem and indeed the senior management of the Belfast Trust is

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committed to dealing with the problem. The reality is, accident

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and the beds they cannot cope with this on its own. I have commended

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the staff of the A&E department, because I know they are doing a

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great job, I have said the problem is not accent and dependency, it is

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other parts of the hospital. The need to be supported by other parts

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of the hospital. A unfortunately, the situation at

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the Royal is something of a microcosm of an unacceptable

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situation in A&E departments across the North. We have to ask why.

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There are too many people presenting at A&E departments who

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have no need to be there. At 2008 reviewed indicated attendances at

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Kearney here were plenty-30 % higher -- 20-30 % higher than in

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other islands. Mr Deputy Speaker, the premature

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closure of the City Hospital has been a total disaster. Anyone with

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a brain at all what will have known or should have known that some

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40,000 patients will have to go somewhere. It is totally obvious

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this was a premature and wrong decision. Certainly, until proper

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provision was available somewhere else. And how a QC in 2008-09, as

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compared today, the Health Minister of that you had an odd lift of some

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�500 million. Where did that money go? -- and a

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lift. How is it glad we got to the year 2011 and did not see the

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improvement? We did not see the improvements, Mr Deputy Speaker,

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from that time until now, and one would want to know how the money

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was spent and where it has went, because I do believe there is

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considerable money within the system, and we need to ensure we

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spend that money wisely. We do not waste money within a our health

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service. Wes Brown was talking about issues

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to do with County Antrim. She said that heads Muzzle, I agree with her.

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Heads must roll. He is the person who has not been able to deliver,

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he is the person but a year ago was talking the big talk, I am going to

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do that, I am going to make the decisions. We have seen what

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happens when you make the decisions - absolute chaos, absolute

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destruction of the NHS. That is what you were responsible for. You,

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Minister, should be ashamed of yourself.

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Minimum alcohol surprising and so- called booze buses have been in the

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spotlight recently. -- alcohol pricing. During question time,

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ministers said it was time for everyone to get at their Houses in

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order. Irresponsible actions, be it by

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those who sell drink or those who are the excessive drinking on buses

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and coaches is something that this Assembly, through all the various

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ministers, needs to bear down on. There are issues that clearly now

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need to be addressed. In my meetings with bus and coach

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operators and nightclubs I said very firmly that the media

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spotlight is very much concentrated on them and there and -- their

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activities. There are many good bus and coach operators. There are many

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responsible sellers of drink, both in of seals and on sales. There are

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at a small number who are clearly on the wrong side of the law and

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the need their irresponsible practices to be curbed. I will be

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bringing forward various proposals on licences in the near future.

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The Alex at Lake then moved on to responsibilities of developers.

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This issue about developers who are in development seeking planning

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applications, who are getting planning permissions and at the

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same time are leading to rack and ruin sites that have not been

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developed for been abandoned during development is an issue I think we

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need to address. At this stage we may be going as

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far as imposing fines on developers who cease -- continued to trade who

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failed to complete works in order to make sure they step up to the

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mark and go forward. The Health Minister was next,

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answering questions about community pharmacy.

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I remain utterly committed to establishing a sustainable way

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forward for community pharmacy that will make better use of skilled and

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dedicated professionals to provide high-quality advice and support to

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patients in the wider community. I also announced in the Assembly on

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16th March that an additional �8 million of funding for 2012 has

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been released and is available to support new services, improve

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premises and support staff in rural and deprived areas. I have had to

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proceed on the best evidence available. I know: community

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pharmacies to agreed to participate in the surveys my department will

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now be undertaking and to provide the farm at -- further information

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that is needed. The longer this information is withheld at the

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longer it will take to arrive at an agreed solution.

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Can the Minister outline what steps he is taking to be in contact with

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community pharmacists? As I am sure he is well aware, they believe this

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falls short of what they had originally anticipated.

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I would tend to agree that it does fall short of what was anticipated,

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albeit perhaps what was anticipated was not correct in the first

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instance. I have instructed officials to try to engage with

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officials -- pharmacists, because negotiations were very much about

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what had already happened in 2011- 12. I do think there is a huge

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opportunity to move forward together to make proper use of our

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community pharmacists and give them the requisite amount of money for

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the services they provide. Can the Minister give an assessment

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to on the scope for the efficiencies in administration and

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management within the health service?

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I personally think it is substantial. In this particular

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case the savings we would be aiming for as the years transpire will

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actually take us to around �17 million per gear. We should not

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ignore that, because if we spend that sort of money on

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administration, we don't have it to spend on hip-replacement, we don't

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have it to spend on Accident and Emergency, we don't have it to

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spend on new cancer drugs. By a member was here today is saying,

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you should be spending on that on administration as opposed to the

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other things. I am afraid I would have to disagree with those members.

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I have to say I will be standing by my manifesto election commitments

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and disagreeing with those members who want to spend health money on

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administration. I want to spend it We were talking about drink, and it

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is a massive problem in the hospitals, isn't it? Yes,

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especially on a Friday or Saturday night. Gauthier Andy and you will

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see the damage that alcohol can do. We're talking about assaults, road

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traffic accidents and then we sometimes have people coming in

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with the long-term results of alcohol. Do we have time to wait

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for the review to sort these issues out? There is a sense of urgency

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here and there is not seemingly a sense of urgency? There are many

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things we can do now. Minimum pricing on alcohol, and then go to

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the use of alcohol as a lost leader in some of our big shops. Alcohol

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is too readily available. The BMA does not see itself as a killjoy,

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we think there is a role for alcohol in society but that alcohol

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should be enjoyed responsibly and safely. Sue Ramsey resisted earlier

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that there are problems of other parts of the hospitals. What about

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this idea that GPs should and have to go through a n d to get a

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patient admitted into hospital and that might cut down some of the

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traffic? That is something that needs to be looked at between

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cranny care physicians and those doctors who work in hospitals. It

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is certainly something we need to look at but it needs to be looked

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at in the round. There is a lot we need to do. The Minister talks

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about the shift on to them Compton review about shifting care into

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private care. With people being treated at home? Yes, which would

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relieve a lot of the pressure on hospitals and secondary care. But

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to do that, it needs to be planned and managed and resourced. Prison

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officers and the justice minister David Ford have reached agreement

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on new working practices. The Prison Service has been plagued by

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bad reviews and poor relations between staff and management. David

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Ford told the chamber that was now coming to an end.

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They have been a further review of body imaging scanners in line with

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the report. On the basis of that review, I intend to initiate a

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pilot of a full body imaging scanners as soon as the necessary

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authorisation for use of this technology in prisons is obtained.

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Caress him to outline on page four or, he refers to the further review

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of full body imaging scanners will stop the Minister will be aware of

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how emotive this matter is. Could he outlined a time frame and target

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for the introduction of this mechanism and who does he need

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authorisation from to go forward? He referred to the issue of full

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body searching it as being emotive and it certainly is. The prison

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service in Northern Ireland uses full body searching when necessary

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in order to ensure the safety and security of prisoners and prison

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officers. It is clearly something that we would wish to move away

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from where we can provide that security without full body

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searching. I can, at this stage, give no timescale for the

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introduction of the technology. I can give a commitment that as soon

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as licensing is agreed, it is my intention that they have an island

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prison service will be able to make sure they can use the technology to

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see how quickly it is possible to introduce alternatives to full-body

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searching but the necessity is to insure safety. Good read as the

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Minister did he receive legal advice on the conditions that can

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be attached for present officers. Did he read the advice or rely on

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some missions from officials? not personally read legal advice on

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the issues of the severance package, I think it is entirely reasonable

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that ministers should read officials but the point is about

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re-engagement of prison officers, I cannot give him the news that 4900

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applicants for the new custody officer posts which were received

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by the Department, one comes from a serving a prison officer. If there

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is not agreement on the uniform, does that mean the existing uniform

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will prevail for all staff? I got a made it clear in response to my

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first answer that the issue of uniforms for new staff may be

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something different than what is there currently but we have clearly

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established in this chamber in the past the precise detail of uniforms

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might well be regarded as controversial as to require

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Executive approval. Journey me now is the chair of the justice

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committee, are you happy this will end the antagonism that has existed

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between prison officers and management? I think the process

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should be welcomed. Leadership have stretched themselves to try and

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accommodate prison service management and that has required

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compromise but ultimately the finer detail still needs to be worked out

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but is moving in the right direction and we should welcome

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that. A sign of the Times, the number of people applying for jobs

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that will be indicated by people taking redundancy packages? 200 new

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custody officers, they wanted to ensure that you are selected on the

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basis of merit. We have changed the fifty-fifty recruitment, these

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individuals will come forward on merit but it does show the

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difficulties in our economy when so many people are applying for these

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jobs but it is a job that is valued so I can understand the demand that

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:18:44.:18:44.

exists for it. What about the issue of uniform, when it came in?

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issue has been dealt with and I think it is important that it was

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resolved when David Ford race that initially. Peter Robinson made it

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very clear that emblems and badges was not going to change and would

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be subject to the be to we have in the Executive. That has been

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clarified, it is important we get into the fine detail of how the

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prisoners going to operate, the structures that will be put in

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place, the environment you are working in so that we can focus on

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those details rather than being fixated with a uniform. When it

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comes down to the body imaging equipment that David Ford has been

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talking about, how important is that any attempts to resolve the

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Maghaberry dispute? That dispute is a long running one which needs to

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come to an end and David Ford needs to stand very firmly on the

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agreement that he had reached and should not be compromising with

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republicans that are protesting over this issue. The prison

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officers have made it clear that if there is technology that allows

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them to do the same job as they have been carrying out, they will

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support that. Ultimately, the safety of the security of those

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officers is paramount to ensure that prisoners that have been the

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past smuggled in Semtex, isn't allowed to happen again so let's

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see if this technology will get a licence to be operated within the

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UK but we shouldn't compromise the safety of the jail to facilitate

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these protesters. But it won't detect drugs which is surely a much

:20:09.:20:13.

greater problem for our prisons than a genuine threat of Semtex

:20:13.:20:18.

organs being smuggled and? Drugs is rife within a prison population, a

:20:18.:20:24.

significant issue in terms of the security of the present because

:20:24.:20:32.

some prisoners alleged are allowed to have medication in order to

:20:32.:20:34.

achieve a peaceful environment. That cannot be a sustainable way

:20:34.:20:38.

forward in the future. Medically it would not be good for prisoners to

:20:38.:20:41.

be taken of these drugs and that is something that needs to be dealt

:20:41.:20:47.

with. Be careful what you write on social

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media at be particularly careful what you write about politicians.

:20:51.:20:56.

Especially if you are about to appear before them. That is the

:20:56.:20:59.

painful lesson are representative of life in search and rescue

:20:59.:21:03.

learned last week. They will also hear from the justice committee but

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we start at social development and that cringe for the moment. I went

:21:11.:21:17.

into your own Facebook page and you are less than complimentary towards

:21:17.:21:27.
:21:27.:21:29.

us politicians in at tongue and Duke remarked. If you are wanting

:21:29.:21:39.
:21:39.:21:39.

to work with people. Read it out. It says all politicians can kiss my

:21:39.:21:46.

sweet ass. I would love to get on that particular invitation! I will

:21:46.:21:53.

not be taking you up on that. have not had a lot of dealings with

:21:53.:21:59.

politicians. I must say that that is not reflective of our website,

:21:59.:22:09.
:22:09.:22:09.

that is my own a personal page. When you talk about my, but then

:22:09.:22:18.

you say we in the second part. is not the page for the rescue

:22:18.:22:28.

organisation. That is everybody's starting point. What has to be

:22:28.:22:33.

weighed up is the extent to which, albeit this is a person of bad

:22:33.:22:35.

character because they have confessed to involvement and a

:22:36.:22:42.

crime, you cannot rely on what they have to say. There may be

:22:42.:22:45.

circumstances where in fact that makes them all the more reliable

:22:45.:22:48.

but there may be other circumstances where it makes them

:22:48.:22:56.

unreliable. It has to be judged on the individual circumstances. It is

:22:56.:23:01.

a question that would be impossible to answer in a simple form.

:23:01.:23:06.

reasonable person, having read the media reports of the court case,

:23:06.:23:12.

and having heard the character of the witnesses which was revealed in

:23:12.:23:15.

the court and knowing that you knew that the character of those

:23:15.:23:24.

witnesses long before it got to court are staggered. The

:23:24.:23:28.

predecessor, knowing what he knew about the character of the

:23:28.:23:32.

witnesses, thought there was any chance of their evidence standing

:23:32.:23:42.
:23:42.:23:43.

up in court, how did that happen? As I said, all accomplices are

:23:43.:23:46.

witnesses of bad character because they are witnesses of bad character

:23:46.:23:53.

that they are winners his chair crime. That is just starting point.

:23:53.:23:58.

You have to look at the evidence they give to see whether or not it

:23:58.:24:03.

is supported by other types of evidence or whether or not you

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could seek to rely on it. Did you sit down and analyse the cases that

:24:09.:24:13.

had collapsed, dozens in the Eighties, did you actually go and

:24:13.:24:18.

look at the transcripts and see what happened? I have done, yes.

:24:18.:24:21.

When I heard about this case, I thought they were going to problems

:24:21.:24:26.

because it was the same basis as so many others that had collapsed. Do

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you accept this has undermined public support, no, public

:24:31.:24:35.

confidence in the system, the fact we have had yet another one of

:24:35.:24:39.

these high-profile collapsing of cases? Of course I do, it is one of

:24:39.:24:44.

the reasons I am here, apart from the fact I feel I haven't

:24:44.:24:48.

obligation to inform this committee in broad terms about matters of

:24:48.:24:56.

criminal-justice. I raised this issue because I am aware of those

:24:56.:24:59.

concerns and the figure is important that the complexity of

:24:59.:25:04.

these situations be articulated and the public be assured.

:25:04.:25:08.

Foreign trips, and the Assembly to the report and an explosion in the

:25:08.:25:14.

number of all-party groups, all in a day's work at Stormont.

:25:14.:25:18.

We regularly have visitors from other areas but we are sending a

:25:18.:25:23.

delegation of now to another area which is Kosovo in the Balkans and

:25:23.:25:28.

the Speaker he rarely goes on these trips himself, is going with Judith

:25:28.:25:32.

Cochrane from the Alliance Party and David McLarty, the independent

:25:32.:25:36.

Unionist. This is a building of the relationship they have had put the

:25:36.:25:40.

last few years in the Assembly in Kosovo in which they have been

:25:40.:25:46.

exchanging research and IT. What is this about I here about we have

:25:46.:25:51.

some competition? The Assembly is going into the TV business, it is

:25:51.:25:55.

starting up a series of monthly programmes which is running on his

:25:55.:26:02.

website. Inevitably I don't imagine that it will go in for many exposes

:26:02.:26:05.

of the politicians here but they do have some interesting expand very

:26:05.:26:11.

stuff about had system works. Here is an excerpt of the work of the

:26:11.:26:17.

education service in the building. So, the Allies for getting rid of

:26:17.:26:27.

school uniform was 32. The nose for 12. The eyes when. We seem to have

:26:27.:26:32.

had an explosion in the number of all-party groups here? Yes, this is

:26:32.:26:37.

a more informal side of Stormont Live. We have as many as 22 all-

:26:37.:26:45.

party groups, many dealing with were the manners. Some of them may

:26:45.:26:50.

be more left-field, there is an all-party group on funerals and

:26:50.:26:55.

bereavement, and another one on rugby. There is one on

:26:55.:26:57.

international development, even though that is not a devolved

:26:57.:27:01.

matter and they will be active this week because they have some awards

:27:01.:27:06.

on Thursday night, I have been written as one of the judges, so it

:27:06.:27:13.

should be quite interesting. Schools and individuals all in for

:27:13.:27:18.

those awards and one interesting guest will be Ian Clark, the

:27:18.:27:22.

subject about BBC documentary this weekend, from County Armagh who is

:27:22.:27:27.

now an air in part of Kampala, the you gander capital and could

:27:27.:27:31.

probably teach hour home-grown politicians a thing or two about

:27:31.:27:34.

his approach to dealing with problems of the people he is

:27:34.:27:40.

representing their. The budget cuts that are coming

:27:40.:27:45.

down the track for the health service, particularly hospitals,

:27:45.:27:52.

just seemed unrealistic by? Everyone is aware of the current

:27:52.:27:56.

financial crisis and the challenges it imposes on the health service.

:27:56.:28:01.

There is room for efficiencies and doctors will not shirk from that

:28:01.:28:03.

responsibility but where there is a need for increased funding to

:28:03.:28:09.

deliver the care the patient needs, then we will be advocates for that.

:28:09.:28:14.

Where funding comes from and the priorities for funding is a

:28:15.:28:18.

discussion for wider society and for connected politicians but

:28:18.:28:22.

surely what defines us as a society is how we care and that that did

:28:23.:28:26.

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.