26/06/2012 Stormont Today


26/06/2012

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. Day one of the Queen's Jubilee

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visit and she's been praised for helping Anglo-Irish relations. Up

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here, the stage is set for the Stormont party but inside the

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Chamber things were a bit less jolly. Politicians were debating

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cutting the number of MLAs - there was even a chance to lament those

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they had loved and lost. Women's Coalition are no longer

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here, the Progressive Unionist Party is no longer hear... If you

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really want to have an inclusive place that would include the

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Monster Raving Loony Party, you need to have a lot more than 100 or

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was! And an end of term prize giving for

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children campaigning against attacks on the emergency services.

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And my guest tonight is Economist Last night the Department of

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Justice got our end of session report. Tonight it's the turn of

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Finance. How have they functioned? The Department of Finance has run

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its budget as a pretty tight ship. What we have had today is the

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different departments that wanted to claim an extra 180 million and

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they were only able to allocate just over 90 million. It is early

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in the financial year so you could say that if they have 90 million

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left they are doing well considering there is only three

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months on, but there is some of that left over from last year. The

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his claims have been rejected. Their health service has been asked

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for twice as much as it has been allocated. Transient has asked for

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a significant sum of money and it has only been around half that.

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They should be going home saying that they were talking about being

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a bit short but they will probably settle for what they have got, even

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though it is less than what the bed for. It is all pretty confusing for

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most people. It does seem sometimes as though they get money from down

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the back of the so far. We keep coming up with millions of pounds

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from the we are. The Minister of finance is one of alter that

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accusation. We are told that up expecting is getting tighter and

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then as we go through a year there is always something that can be

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released from somewhere. It is it that the nature of a very large

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budget. If we start talking about 100 billion, that is only one %

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that they are playing with. Nevertheless, I think the fire was

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a finance their I would be willing to say that the department's one

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way to improve is that you should plan to live on what you have got.

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Live within your means. What about the bad news today on corporation

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tax? That I think is the worst news today in terms of the political

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process. We were built up to believe that yesterday's meeting

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would be a very definitive moment and we would get something of a

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proposal that might be adopted by the Treasury. Now we're being told

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that is not ready. That there are significant differences between the

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two party, mean that the Treasury and the ministers, and that there

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is our best to avoid extra burden on business and extra burden on the

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Revenue and Customs department. Code language for saying that it

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Northern Ireland wants to play with his ovation on this, the customs

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revenue department is going to charge in and that is going to put

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the bill up. There is a major debate going on about the bill.

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There is probably a major debate going on about the way in which we

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do it. I would say to her ministers, for goodness sake tell us what the

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proposals are that you have on the table, tell us what the

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difficulties are in more detail, because at the moment we are left

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wondering what you were arguing about.

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The property maintenance company Red Sky found itself at the centre

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of a storm last year when its contract with the Housing Executive

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was terminated. There were allegations of substandard work and

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financial mismanagement. But it seems now that Red Sky wasn't the

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only company which wasn't up to scratch, as the Social development

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minister revealed during questions. Last year, I became increasingly

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concerned that the issues which led to the termination of the Red Sky

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contract by the housing Executive in July 2011 may be present in

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other contracts which had not been the subject of any full

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investigation. I ask that a forensic investigation was carried

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out of a sample of Housing Executive maintenance contracts,

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including those of the contractors to whom that the Red Sky contract

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was reassigned on its termination on 14th July 2011. This is to

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provide me with insurance is in relation just -- in relation to

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insuring the circumstances of the relation -- termination of the Red

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Sky contract are not present in other contracts. The provision for

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the best possible Mac -- value-for- money service and thirdly the

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appropriate use of public funds. This has been carried out and

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considered. Given the importance of these contracts, I am sure the

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Minister will agree that there proper management is critical. He

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has outlined some improvements required, which will need a

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fundamental change on behalf of the prison Executive. Does he ever --

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Housing Executive. Does he have confidence in the Executive to make

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those changes? He raises a fundamental issue. I have to say I

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have concerns. In relationship -- in relation to the effective and

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timely employment could -- implementation of the Executive of

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the recommendations made in this review. On my secretary has met

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with both the chief Executive and the chairman of the housing

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Executive to discuss his concerns in relationship to contact

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management and what the Housing Executive is doing to ensure the

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effect of a timely and not -- implantation of those

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recommendations. I intend to raise VAT at a forthcoming performance

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review meeting. I recall that almost 12 months ago, and met with

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the chairman and the acting chief Executive of the Housing Executive.

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This was in the context of red sky. I asked for assurances and I was

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given assurances about other contractors. The evidence that is

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now emerging raises serious questions about the assurances that

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I was given by the chairman and by the acting chief Executive and I

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take that pretty seriously because they both sat in my office with May

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and even the issuance has personally. Her I wonder if the

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Minister would agree with me, with regards to organisations like Red

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Sky, it sometimes seems like the tail wagging the dog and they seem

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to have something of a senior members of staff in the housing

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Executive. We're trying to put a halt to some bad practice, they

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would then move that on. I think the Member for his question. It

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raises a fundamental issue that I touched on. It is becoming

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increasingly clear, it was clear last year to some extent, but his

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is now clear her, that the issues in regard to red sky were actually

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present in quite a number of contractors and the point being

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that not only are their shortcomings there, in terms of the

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service provided to tenants, but also in terms of the monitoring and

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management and the inspection of work. Somebody signs of some work

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that has not even happened in a place that did not even exist, I do

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not know how they managed that. to agriculture and the Minister was

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asked to what she was doing on cross-border flood protection. He

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had forgotten one thing. department is a competent a

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authority for the implication of the -- implementation of the

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directive. The risk assessment was completed in 2011. We are currently

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producing eight flood hazard maps, which are on target for 2013.

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Starting the drafting of the flood mismanagement palms, to be

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completed by 2015. The role of Comberton a authority is undertaken

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by the Office of Public Works. When carrying out the assessment, there

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was full co-operation and sharing of information between officials

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and Red Cross and Ireland. We have identified there are no significant

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flood risk areas. There are three rare rubies and catchments witty to

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For the other two did at -- -- we are drafting that flood risk

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management plans. We have agreed a joint approach, which will insure

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the flood risk is managed on the whole catchment basis and we will

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work closely across the silent. -- this island. Remember do not

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translate his question. Question seven.

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Well, we heard earlier from John how the finance minister shuffled

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his deck of financial cards and handed out millions of pounds as

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part of the June monitoring round. The Department of Regional

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development was the big winner getting almost 34 million for road

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maintenance and new buses.Here's how Sammy Wilson dealt out the dosh.

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The net impact including Maj reservation, the because of acacias,

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is that the Executive had available �76.6 million and its -- in respect

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to none ring first resource with further capital investments.

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Against this significant level of resources available, the

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department's beds for additional resources of �108.2 million, in

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terms of non ring-fenced resource, and �88.2 million in respect of

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capital investment. The individual bits by departments are detailed in

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the tables which are attached to the statement. I found the Mercer

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for its co-operation. -- minister. In relation to the statement, it is

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obviously it more significant level of reduced requirements, almost

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twice as much as last year in terms of resource. Last year the capital

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was only not 0.3 million and this year it is almost �30 million of

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capital. Does the Minister believe that what he has set out today

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indicates that the departments have fully declared their requirements

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at this time and how confident is he that they will not declared

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reduced requirements end of the January round? I thank him for his

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comments and wish him all the best as he leaves this place. I do not

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know where he is going. He is going to have a life of leisure! He has

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highlighted the issue of reduced requirements and of course be want

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departments, if they can identify those, we wanted departments to

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declare it reduced requirements as soon as possible because as has

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been seen by the statement today, it actually means that we can plan

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ahead, we can look at what schemes art of the greatest priority for

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the Assembly, what are the most pressing needs, and spend money on

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It's a difficult job because so many departments are looking for

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their share of the cake. Many departments have been disappointed

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and they cannot make a strong case that they need more money. They

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were told at the beginning of the year how much money there was and

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he is right, there has to be discipline now. There were one or

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two points in the decision-making process today that do not relate to

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the money. One that is that he has virtually changed the proposal of

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the New Deal. A small amount of money was set up -- set aside to

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put -- set the scheme up. He has scrapped that idea and he has now

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shifted �4 million a year to providing replacement boilers. This

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is a simpler but a much less extensive programme and I know the

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advocates of the green New Deal will be extremely disappointed

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because they thought they had a real winner here in terms of jobs

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and people being motivated to improve their houses. The Minister

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other department of social development has prism will walk

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away from it. It's like turkeys voting for

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Christmas asking MLAs to reduce their number here at Stormont. But

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that's what one committee was tasked with doing. No surprise then

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that they couldn't reach agreement. We remain to be convinced about

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whatever size of the Assembly. Convincing as if we are ever going

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to change the numbers, we have to be convinced that there are

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safeguard mechanisms that for me was part of the underpinning of the

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Good Friday Agreement. Too often in the past, constituencies have been

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left not properly representative. People were represented in a

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section away. I think the good examples we have provided,

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particularly here in the Assembly, ensure that inclusiveness is one of

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her guiding principles. McCartney made the point that

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already the objective of the agreement to have as many voices

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are represented in this place has been in some ways diluted because

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the Progressive Unionist Party is no longer here, and quite clearly,

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the larger parties have been able to make sure that the electoral

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system works to her advantage and squeezes out those smaller voices.

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If you really want to have an inclusive place, that would include

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the Monster Raving Loony Party, you would have to have a lot more or

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people here. LAUGHTER. Hopefully some of those other comments will

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be picked up. I will not step into the gutter like that! We need to be

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careful of what we mean by terms like inclusive pity which would

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ultimately take you to how many people this place would have to

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have full stop -- have to have. may be right that it should be the

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same as the district councils. Maybe it should be a living and two

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in Belfast which would make 72. Or five or four. That is the truth. We

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don't need 180, or 96, or 80. Many people would tell you you don't

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need any. The SDLP's Conall McDevitt is here now. When it comes

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down to the figures and shrinking the size of Stormont, how many

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seats would the SDLP news that she went down to 96? We don't intend to

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lose any in the area and practice. We intend to grow our

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representation irrespective of how many seats there. It is not

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necessarily a particular number but how this place can work. How we can

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better scrutinise the executive and how it can deliver more for the

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people who liked it. We are not spending enough time having that

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debate and maybe a little bit too much time about random numbers.

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it not about the Good Friday Agreement? Guesses about the way

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the Assembly works and the way the committee's work. We still bring

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some narrow partisan politics and to this chamber rather than

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thinking about the way the committee structure is meant to act

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as an opposition. If we gave ourselves a bit more space to allow

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the system to work a bit better we would deliver much better results,

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much better government and much better scrutiny for everyone in

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this region. Are we not ultimately tied to the cross-community vote?

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The vast majority of issues we vote on day and be out do not break a

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long commuter lines. It is a tiny majority of issues that trigger

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that mechanism. We need a political culture that understands we do not

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have a traditional government and opposition and it is the committees

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which are meant to be the opposition. We need to allow those

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sitting on committees to behave in a challenging function irrespective

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of who holds the ministry. We saw an example of that this evening,

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the committee's tried to overturn the decision. Not everyone dead and

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that was my point. The parties were whipped into supporting their

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respective ministers. Things are working half the way it should. We

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need more freedom. If a committee makes a decision, we should be more

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attentive to the fact the committee has done it in an informed way. We

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should many think again about how we were per parties. That is as

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much of a debate we need to have as about the number of representatives.

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What about getting away from the man that on a collision? It is an

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option but there will always be a Coalition government. We are

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divided society and you could not envisage a government that is not

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cross community. The question is not whether we have a slightly

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unique form of government but whether we can make our system, the

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government Park and the opposition Park, and whether that comes in the

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form of a traditional opposition or that group of committeds. We have

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at the moment about of a dichotomy. We have new institutions but old-

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style politics. Business this morning started with the health

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minister Edwin Poots delivering an updated suicide prevention strategy.

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It's been six years since the original Protect Life report.

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Here's the minister outlining the scale of the problem here.

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The bottom line is that almost 300 people every year are buying by

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suicide, almost six times the rate of death due to road traffic

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accidents forced up tragically, some families have lost more than

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one close relation to suicide and the burden of suicide impacts more

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or among certain areas and certain groups. The rate is twice as high

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in deprived areas and males are three times as likely as females.

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Young people in deprived areas are particularly vulnerable as are

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marginalised groups such as people with mental illness. Young people

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often get bad press, especially after attacks on buses and the

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emergency services. But a group of children from West Belfast came to

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Stormont today with a very different message, as Kevin Sharkey

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has been finding out. The message is simple. It is from

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children from the Good Shepherd School Full Stop This is an area

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where services have been attacked creating a negative view of the

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area and its young people. These young people on packages to change

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and are using art to communicate that. What these children are

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involved in is important. We often hear of buses are being attacked by

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young children and often these attacks are condemned by adults and

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community groups. What is happening here is that people -- children are

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trying to get people of their own age to stop the attacks. There has

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been loads of stuff about stabbings and things like that on the news.

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You have to try to get people to stop. Today, a recognition for

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their efforts here at the Assembly. It is a positive story and these

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young people here represent the bigger majority of young people in

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this region than the small group who actually took part in those

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attacks. Appreciation from one of the services that tends to bear the

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brunt of the attacks. Children are our passengers. Children are our

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core business and we need to be able to get her children to be safe

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on buses at all times. Initiatives like this encourager young people

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to be safe on our buses and reflect -- respect drivers and the buses

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themselves. We heard the SDLP view on shrinking

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MLA numbers here. What do the UUP think? John McCallister is here.

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Thank you for coming in. It is surely not a bit numbers but about

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Stormont working effectively which surveys suggest the general public

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do not think it is full stop I agree with that. It is about how

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you get effective government and we want to see that evolve. The debate

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has been too simplistic about numbers. Numbers of Representatives

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and government departments. You have to look at efficiency in

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government departments and the overall headcount in the Civil

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Service but all of that is whether we moved to a government -

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opposition structure. Looking at the numbers of Emily is an

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isolation would be a mistake. -- MLAs. Within the parameters, are

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you with the DUP around 80 or are you thinking 96? To if for a 25%

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reduction in one election would be difficult even just to acclimatise.

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You may go one that direction or seven elections. The next point

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would be new boundaries. You can then look at what government

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departments with the number of ministers and junior ministers need

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to be. If you moved to a government and opposition you could argue for

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a slip a larger Assembly in that case to have a proper scrutiny

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function. There does not seem to be an appetite for that. You

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campaigned for that inure Ulster Unionist leadership campaign.

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Survey after survey is telling us that people want to see this place

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with much more robust scrutiny and deliberate. There does not seem to

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be de well within the politicians? -- the will. There is not an

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appetite for making changes and there is a nervousness. That is the

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argument I was making during the leadership elections. As a party,

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my party leader certainly made that point. We have made it consistently

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and the Assembly Executive Review, that you need to look at all of

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these issues. There is a willingness among all parties to

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look at her range of issues. There is no consensus on this so what

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happens now? The committee report is done but realistically, most of

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the work will be done at party leader level. I am a member of that

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committee now. People continue to report and have her own findings

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and take evidence but realistically, it will be decided by the party

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leaders as to what we changed. There seems to be a willingness

0:25:460:25:50

that there could be agreement by the end of the year that we could

0:25:500:25:54

see quite quick movements are on that. Tonight the Queen is at

0:25:540:25:56

Hillsborough castle ahead of tomorrow's meeting with Martin

0:25:560:25:59

McGuinness at an arts event in Belfast. She spent much of the day

0:25:590:26:02

in Enniskillen but is now at her official residence where she can

0:26:020:26:05

look at her portrait that Jim Allister wants to see back at

0:26:050:26:13

Stormont. Mark Devenport has joined the crowds.

0:26:130:26:17

The Queen is spending the night here at Hills brat at her official

0:26:170:26:21

residence at Hillsborough Castle. There are some Crecy are looking to

0:26:210:26:26

greet her but the fault is this evening will be on her private

0:26:260:26:33

business, recharging her batteries but a big political their head. The

0:26:330:26:36

focus tomorrow will be on the arts event where she will have this

0:26:360:26:41

handshake with the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. We are

0:26:410:26:45

yet to get the precise choreography but some figures from the arts will

0:26:450:26:53

be there including Barry Douglas and Adrian Dunbar. Politically, she

0:26:530:26:58

will have Martin McGuinness their and the First Minister Peter

0:26:580:27:03

Robinson. We later in the day, she and the Duke of Edinburgh will move

0:27:030:27:08

on to the Stormont estate where up to 20,000 people are expected for

0:27:080:27:12

this Jubilee party. That will be a big event for her by areas well.

0:27:120:27:16

She has a busy schedule and was delayed today so it must have been

0:27:160:27:20

a lot of hard work for her to catch up on her timetable. Tonight will

0:27:200:27:24

be rest and relaxation while she prepares.

0:27:240:27:29

A final word for you. Sammy Wilson was critical of the Public Accounts

0:27:290:27:32

Committee but members of the committee were saying they do not

0:27:320:27:37

go far enough? This was a beautiful illustration of why the multi-party

0:27:370:27:41

Coalition we have is not the same as a government with opposition.

0:27:410:27:45

Sammy Wilson was saying that by the rules of the Public Accounts

0:27:460:27:48

Committee at Westminster, the committee does not start asking

0:27:480:27:52

accounting officers for details. They have to come back and listen

0:27:520:27:57

to what the Minister says and take that answer. The Public Accounts

0:27:570:28:00

Committee has been trying to do a bit more detailed work by talking

0:28:000:28:05

to accounting officer so they can establish their position. It is not

0:28:050:28:11

a bad idea that they have that right. Sammy Wilson is going from

0:28:110:28:16

parliamentary tradition by saying, they should not. He is an economics

0:28:160:28:22

teacher by trade. Head as he shaped up as a Finance Minister? I work

0:28:220:28:25

together with Sammy Wilson and I used to think he was a superb

0:28:250:28:29

examiner in economics. As a minister, I will take him down a

0:28:290:28:33

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.


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