28/05/2013 Stormont Today


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

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Today. On the programme, the SDLP feel the heat of Special Advisors


even though they did not start the fire. We will not be supporting a


petition of concern over the SPAD bill. There was one kind of bridge


building announced today. As a well-known builder of bridges I am


happy to say that as a result of the work which has been carried out in


assessing the Narrow Water Bridge project, that has now been completed


by my department. Commentator Alex Kane gives us his perspective on the


agenda of today. On last week's programme the SDLP's


Dominic Bradley suggested his party would try to beat of the Special


Advisors Bill. But the row that followed not least the reaction from


Ann Travers, the sister of an IRA bit, has prompted a change of heart.


TUV introduced the bill aimed at trying to prevent former prisoners


convicted of serious offences from taking advisory posts. Here is what


Dominic Bradley told Mark Carruthers. We are considering using


the option of a petition of concern. That is a nuclear option.


We have tried other options are available and they have not


unsuccessful and we have to consider a petition of success -- a petition


of concern. Could you be persuaded to live with the legislation? I do


not think we can be persuaded to live with the bear -- love with the


legislation. We have made every attempt that we could to shape it


into law and that has not unsuccessful. We are considering


supporting a petition of concern. Are you going to do it? We probably


will do it. Today the SDLP leader backed off any attempt to formally


block the bill. We had lengthy discussions this morning and we will


not be supporting a petition of concern over the SPAD bill. We are


concerned about the floors and the fact that it has not been possible


and our amendments have not been accepted, we field that the victims


concerns and issues take priority and we have had lengthy discussions


with a number of groups and with our own wider party over the last week.


That is the line we are taking at this stage. We believe, going


forward, there is a need for a greater focus on victims issues and


we will be taking that up and finding mechanisms to ensure that


victims do not remain in the shadows and there are issues are put to the


forefront. We hope that satisfied some of the questions people are


asking. Will you vote for the bill? We have difficulty with the bill and


it is flawed and the proposer of the bill has not shown himself willing


to accept amendments. We are unlikely to vote for the bill at


this stage. We will not vote for the bill unless the proposer shows some


commitment to making it functional. He is death to alarming the


amendments that we believe would have been good law. -- he is death


to allowing. We will not be signing a petition of concern. The affair


has not, it has been good for victims and has put their issues top


of the bill. Victims have been left stranded for 15 years, nothing has


happened and the present government of the Sinn Fein and the DUP have


not shown the commitment that is required to get to reconciliation


and the truth. We need a truth and reconciliation process. That is not


happening. We are happy that this issue is now top of the agenda and


we intend to keep it there. Alex Kane, in your previous job you


advise the Ulster Unionist Party on media matters. What would you have


been advising the SDLP? This was a mess in the terms of the media and


their own internal message. I do not know whether what Dominic Catt --


Dominic Bradley -- Dominic Bradley said was a kite flying exercise. It


was not stamped down immediately after the original interview. They


left it open and it must have been a leadership decision to do that. It


panned out disastrously. They ended up having to admit they cannot do


the petition of concern. They will now have to abstain and they were


always going to. I said that three weeks ago, that they would always do


that so I do not know why they went through this entire mess. It is


interesting in terms of the party and how much control Alistair


McDonnell has. There seems to be a breakdown in what people thought.


ties into a wider view within the party. Alistair MacDonald does not


have as huge degree of support inside the party. Many people field


they should go to our stronger position, to the right of Sinn Fein.


What they should do is talk quietly with a variety of groups and now it


just looks as if abstention is an option that they were forced into, I


humiliated climb-down. Alistair McDonnell has said that he did not


think it was damaging and obviously he would say that. What message does


it send out? It highlights the irrelevance of the SDLP at this


stage. They are clearly a group who would like to get out of the


Executive altogether. You need to set yourself in opposition and say


here is something different about us. This nonsense of trying to be


all things to all men, it is the same as the Ulster Unionist Party.


Either you are in the Executive as opposition or you are in as


ministers, you cannot be both. will hear more from you.


It was granted planning permission and EU funding of over 17 million


euros last October but the Narrow Water Bridge project had failed to


get the nod for Stormont financing until today. Sammy Wilson gave


details when he briefed the Assembly on a recent North South Ministerial


Council meeting. As well-known builder of bridges in this Assembly


I am happy to say that as our result of work which has been carried out


in assessing the Narrow Water Bridge project, that has been completed by


my apartment. Members will know there was considerable G interest in


this Assembly and it was important, especially of -- because of the low


score the project had, and that was about concerns regarding the ability


to deliver, that we had proper scrutiny of the project, there are


number of conditions attached. We would expect that to be put in place


to safeguard public money. The first one is if there are any cost


overruns on the project, or delays, that the local county council has


given a guarantee that it will fund any shortfall. As far as the


maintenance of the bridge is concerned, that will be the


responsibility of the local county council and the operation of the


bridge will be left to one of the northern Ireland local government.


The Minister will be glad to know that 50 years ago I was a baby and


50 years later, we are going to have our bridge. But the Minister agree


that the local councils on the border regions and the Kilkeel


Chambers of, is did a wonderful job? It will bring economic and cultural


tourism to the region. I am sure people who are watching this today


will be surprised at the statement she has made. I am sure most people


did not put today day over 30! There we are. Can I just say on the


project, there has been extensive lobbying, more lobbying than I would


have liked to have seen. All of these projects, and it is important


because there are many projects which did not succeed, some very


good projects, it is important that people have an assurance that these


projects are chosen purely on an objective basis and not on the


amount of public lobbying which happens. Could I ask you Minister,


when you talk about the monitoring and delivery of the bridge, can I


ask you about that? The timescale is that the money must be spent by the


EU target of June 2015. There is an extension until December 2015 for


bills and settlement. That is the timescale we are operating under.


What does the future hold for GCSE and A-level qualifications here? It


is a subject the Education Minister John O'Dowd addressed in Question


Time today. It follows a recent meeting with his Westminster


counterpart, Michael Gove. Since our meeting I have received a


letter from Michael Gove which indicated his decision to end


certain examinations. I was not pleased. In response I it was


imperative that ministers should meet and have discussions with each


other and these discussions would remain confidential until ministers


have the opportunity to discuss the indications. Would the Minister


agree that no single jurisdiction has the right to dictate how the


GCSE and A-level brand is used now or in the future? I would be


concerned about breaking up the ownership of the brand among the sea


jurisdictions. He is perfectly entitled to do so but I will insure


members -- as she remembers that the study is ongoing and there will be


an announcement in the future. The key purpose of eggs as is to ensure


our young people are tested robustly. There are a small number


of areas in which there is a shortfall in provision but we will


be working closely with the boards to address this. In some instances


this will involve bringing new providers and to address this. In


some instances this will involve bringing new providers enter the


programme are encouraging existing providers to run additional


programmes. More places will be provided for preschool provision.


Prominent investors pervading places for children from disadvantaged


backgrounds. While I understand the rationale for this, does the


Minister agree with me that it is subsequently often much harder for


parents who are working to find a suitable place even though they need


a preschool place for their child as much as anyone else? I am glad to


hear the member understands why the social clauses are involved in this


because children from disadvantaged backgrounds do have more


difficulties presenting throughout school. In terms of the social


clauses, I would like to have reviewed them earlier. I would like


more lower paid working families to meet the criteria and I have to wait


on the outcome of the welfare reform Bill and then if it does go


through, I will look at the social clauses. From education to health


and the major review of health services transforming your care. It


dominated headlines yesterday when health trusts moved to close 18


homes. Ministers insisted there was no Utah and today they stood by the


policy when the SDLP moved a motion looking for greater protection for


health services. We appreciate the need for reconfiguration and so we


have no ideological opposition. The concept is about making services


more accessible to those who need it the most, and in a more convenient


way. We support they need to tailor our health and social care system


around the patient. We are open-minded about the changes that


might bring. But, we are gravely concerned at the potential


privatisation of parts of our health and social care service which is


possible because of the transforming your care proposals. When 75% of


services are in the private sector, why the sudden outreach? I have no


hangups whatsoever about whether it is private or started to worry. My


only aim in life is what is best for the person living in the residential


or nursing care? That must be the main motivation? If the private


sector can provide that effectively, and cost effectively,


that is a good thing. The strategic implementation plan is currently


being updated to take on board and reflect the conclusions of the


public consultation. We hope this will be completed by the end of May


2013. Two or three days. Once it is completed, we will be taking


evidence from the health and social care borderless and we will want to


know in detail how they will introduce the changes and who they


will be consulting with. On the policy, on transforming your care,


they are no Utah is only policy. There will be no Utah is on it and I


believe that after I leave office and my party leaves office, there


will be no U-turns by the programme. In terms of ensuring that patients


and not profit is at the centre of care provision, that will always be


the case, but that does not mean that the private sector there is


always bad, or that it cannot help us or assist us in providing


healthcare. What we are looking for is not to provide a pure level of


care in spite of the fact that people do not have as much money,


but to ensure we provide the level of care that people expect and


should receive with the lesser amount of money, and in order to do


that we have to use our money more wisely and investment better than


deliver better results. Edwin Poots speaking there in the SDLP motion


was carried narrowly. The Culture Minister came under fire


during question time as she explained her department's strategy


for supporting boxing. She updated the assembly on the high-profile


case of Sandy Row Boxing Club. A new manager has been appointed and


is directly working with local boxing clubs on the number of


matters including funding applications, child protection and


increasing participation. Meetings are also being held between managers


and individual clubs and local councils to review situations.


Looking ahead, an independent team is due to be appointed in July and


they work will be informed by these meetings that are being held at the


moment in the Lee for the individual premises. The state of the boxing


clubs across the North are not good. In view of the comments just made


about Sandy Row Boxing Club and be very reasonable recommendations put


forward in the report on sectarian and racial abuse, as the Minister


spills saying that unless they meet hard she is not prepared to look at


the issues of fair treatment three sectarian and racial abuse that


Sandy Row Boxing Club has been subject to and continues to refuse


to be brought forward? Again, he is consistent with his inaccuracies.


have never said in this house or anywhere else that it will not


receive funding because it refused to meet me. Any boxing club will


only receive money once they are affiliated that that is the


criteria. If it is good enough for others, it is good enough for Sandy


Row Boxing Club. I am delighted they have agreed to meet the independent


panel and they believe it is a positive step. I hope they receive a


fair hearing and I believe me well and I hope they decide to the


affiliate because I am concerned that the children are affected


because of the stands of a fuel of the officers of the club.


ministers position is that unless a club which has been discriminated


against by those to whom they are affiliated, there will be no funding


for them? I know you like to dodge the issue but what advice are you


getting to help address the SU of sectarianism? I met with the various


panel members just last month and offered them support without


conditions, so I think in fairness to that, I reject the assertion


about myself and my department being involved in discrimination. I think


it has a scurrilous remarks to make. I will repeat myself again. Like any


other club, they have to be affiliated. I would appeal again to


Sandy Row Boxing Club to step back and think about the actions because


it is at the end of the day about children and young people who are


going to be left behind because of the actions of some of them.


assembly managed to fit them for questioning times today with Nelson


McCausland discussing shared housing but first up was the agriculture


minister answering questions about the Agri-Food strategy. I intend to


talk about all the departments implicated because obviously there


are implications for others. We intend to bring in executive people


for discussion and they plan to do that over the next three months


because that is one thing they are looking for. We do not want to take


a fantastic piece of work and not take action quickly. Some of the


targets are very achievable before the timeframe. The agri- food


industry would say these are exciting times but the farming


industry would say that the Minister is providing or what could be the


biggest crisis in living memory and it goes across all sectors. What are


you doing to bridge the gap between farming and Agri-Food to make sure


this report will more directly benefit the farming community?


of the key results of the report is the recognition for industry, to say


that the processors and retailers are involved in the supply chain.


The farming sector can be an equal partner and can be treated as such.


They are crucial to the success of this and all stages have been looked


at by the farming industry. I intend to continue working with the farming


industry and the executive has come on board to recognise the need to


support the farming industry and what has been a uniquely horrendous


time. All new housing developments are deemed to have shared potential.


They currently undertake a screening exercise for all shared development


proposals within the context of the religious make-up of the local


community. Where there is a history of good relations, local political


views and the proximity of integrated schools. If subject to a


screening exercise, a new bills scheme can be considered as a shared


scheme. They can sign up to the involuntary neighbourhood charter


which secures the agreement any manner which will not accept --


aspect the peace and enjoyment of their neighbours. I and my officials


are currently considering whether to take forward proposals for an


additional new ten shared housing developments in light of recent


statements by the first Minister and Deputy first Minister. Despite the


challenging environment, do you acknowledge and Wellcome the work


carried out in areas of south Belfast? Yes, indeed. The cohesion


unit within the housing sector is very much supportive of those


particular areas where you have a mixed community they are already. I


am aware of a number of projects that they have, having supplied the


member with details of those over the last couple of years right


through to the present. Some very good work has been done. Mixed


communities can come in different forms and for me the key thing is


not that they are sheer but that they are stable. You can have our


share of the area and then it goes one direction or another. You can


have an area that is sheer that the moment but which can transition from


one identity to another. It is important that they are stable as


well. Lots discussed in the chamber today but the education story seems


to stand out in terms of what it means for devolution. The irony of


this says that Michael Gove complained about how many boards


they were in that somewhere too simple and too difficult. He wanted


to bring it down but the impact has been to magnify the differences


between the various regions of the United Kingdom. It ties in to the


corporation tax as well because as we move forward we are growing for


the park, and the further irony is that the consequences of this are


being debated for certain as Lee. It will be interesting how they go


forward because it is all important for so many children. Look at the


whole 11 plus transfer test which we have still not resolved. The A-level


situation could go on and on and the schools themselves in Northern


Ireland will not be able to agree. It is not going to be resolved soon.


Was there that had from Edwin Poots that he might be moving in a


reshuffle? That was a whopping great sign, I am on my way out! For the


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Mark Carruthers is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont, and is joined by key people from decision makers to opinion formers to make the experience enlightening and entertaining.

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