28/11/2011 Stormont Today


28/11/2011

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. With the First Minister telling his

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party conference he wants an end to the them and bus -- us mentality,

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is it touchy-feely politics? glad to see I can still get under

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the skin of Sinn Fein. And this statement... I believe the current

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system of teacher training is neither affordable nor sustainable,

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this is why I believe it is essential to carry out the study

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and produce objective analysis of the financial stability of the two

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university colleges. My guest throughout the programme is Sandy

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Smith from Enterprise Northern Ireland. The Chancellor is due to

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make his Autumn Statement tomorrow, that is on top of the discussion

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about Arrow programme for government. Small and medium-sized

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businesses are flavour of the month but how much will the measures

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help? Sandy Smith, we had a discussion lastly, programme about

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some criticism about the programme for government not emphasising

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enterprise enough, do you think that is the case? We welcome the

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programme for government and we would like to see something in it

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about enterprise strategy. Our response to the programme for

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government will be to help the assembly to put something in place

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that will stimulate enterprise and that a bigger proportion of our

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budget will go into specific issues. Will the fund not go a long way to

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helping small and medium-sized businesses either expand or get off

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the ground? It would be if that money did get his way to small

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businesses, but under the current budget there is a very small

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portion of the Budget that gets to small businesses to help them, both

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in terms of capital to work with and in business start-up. The

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programme we have been operating over the last few years is of the

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order of a couple of million pounds, and what is in the budget currently

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will be something of that order, whereas the overall budget is

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something like 180 million so a very small proportion is spent on

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stimulating small businesses. the government not emphasise and

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put its eggs in the basket of foreign investment because they see

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that as were the big job numbers come from? They do, but is that

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where the big jobs come from? I suppose if you were developing a

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business model, you would be saying out of the entire budget a third of

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the money might going to growing businesses locally, and a third of

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the money going into stimulating new business start-up. No economist

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really has come up with a total solution to an economy like ours,

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but if there are three possible ways of generating business, I

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think a reasonable suggestion that at least something approximating

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one third of the Budget should go into each of the three pocket.

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with us. There was good news for mountain bikers and lovers of

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nocturnal wildlife at question time today as the agriculture minister

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Didier U-turn over closing forest at night, and the plastic bag tax

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was back on the agenda. He was the new policy in response to Sam

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Gardner. I wish to see forests used widely. Section 1 of the Forestry

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Act creates a right for users subject to bye-laws. Those rules

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should make clear to when these are suspended, for example when there

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was a risk to health and safety. That Wright should also be

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suspended when there is anti-social behaviour, when there is damage to

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the forest, or officials are being obstructed. There is a need to

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adopt a less restrictive by-laws and suggests most people behave

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responsibly for their own safety but also their attitude to other

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forest users. After consulting with the agriculture committee, I am

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proposing to relax the restriction of night-time used by pedestrians,

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to allow the continued use of forest roads after dark, and I also

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intend to put cycling and other recreational facilities across as

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much forest land as possible. ask her why she is proposing to

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relax the situation, could she give a commitment to the house that she

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will also be very happy to reveal with a view to increasing the

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number of designated mountain biking and cycling routes within

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forest parks? I have a meeting in the next few weeks with the

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mountain biking Association. I have met them informally before just so

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we can work in partnership more together. Our strategy set out that

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we need to work in partnership more for recreational use, so that is

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one of the issues I am actively working on. Egg producers have been

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complaining the ban on battery eggs is not being complied with by many

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other states in the EU so what is the minister doing to ensure a

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level playing field? Many states are in a position to comply with

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the ban on battery eggs. A legal production could adversely affect

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stability and fairness in the sector which is important to our

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economy. I have been working closely with ministers regarding

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the implementation of the laying hens directed. We have pressed the

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commission to agree a way forward on enforcing the new rules that

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will protect our producers who are compliant from disadvantaged. There

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is also an agreement that would allow eggs from legal cages only to

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be processed in the state, and a plan to see how they will reach

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full compliance. I have made it clear I want any proposal brought

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forward by the Commission to have guarantees built in, and for any

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legislative amendments to be brought forward as a matter of

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urgency. The plastic bag tax is not as straightforward as it might seem

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- it's actually a single use carrier-bag Levy, and the

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complications don't end there. the minister does bring forward

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this tax, could he tell the House how it would be collected, who

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would be collected, the cost of administration of that collection

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and how his department would be able to know how many bags

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retailers were handing out? Could I thank the member, and those are

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matters that do occupy my mind at the moment. The simple model in

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terms of collection would be for her Majesty's Revenue and Customs

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to collect on behalf of the Northern Ireland government. They

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do so in respect of all other taxes including VAT at the point of sale,

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and it seems to me that is the right model going forward. That

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where you would be able to mitigate the bureaucracy and expense and the

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upfront cost in introducing this levy on the single bag users. So

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far however, HMRC have declined that offer, but I welcome the fact

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that you have written to the Treasury to ask that they would

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further consider putting into their IT systems a mechanism whereby this

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levy would be collected by them. I hope they will accept that proposal

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because the alternatives are either end in-house or out house model is

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likely to be more expensive, more bureaucratic, reduce the amount of

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income that would come to our own Exchequer arising from the single

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bag levy. I hope the HMRC recognising that tax affairs are

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changing, that administrations will look for flexibilities in the

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future and they could use this particular intervention as a model,

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adjusting their financial mechanisms and tax collecting

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mechanisms in a way that helps devolved administrations going

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forward. He would have thought the public administration would provide

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light relief? Responsibility was handed out of the blue-eyed boys,

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irrespective of their ability to carry out duties. Can the Minister

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assure the House that in this new 15 member council that members will

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in fact have the capacity training and will honestly earned the

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additional money that they may receive? Because that is not what

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happened in all cases in the past. Last time I looked my eyes were

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green, not brown. It is only Margaret who thinks I am the blue-

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eyed boy. Let's not go there! more serious note, a quick appeal

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to Alex Attwood and Paul MLAs, please speaking to the microphone.

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The employment and learning minister says there should be a

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single teacher training system in Northern Ireland. He says there is

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no reason why teachers should be trained in five separate

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institutions and he told MLAs he remains committed to a merger

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between strong mayor teaching College and Queen's University.

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desire is to facilitate and agree a shared system of teacher education.

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I'm not going to be prescriptive of the type of sharing and integration

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that may be recommended by the study. Areas for consideration

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should include services, facilities and teaching. This is regarding an

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- issues like quality of access. I believe the current system of

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teacher training is neither affordable nor sustainable. This is

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why I believe it is essential to carry out the study and produce

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subjective analysis of the financial stability of the two

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university colleges, but I think it does also need to be undertaken an

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informed debate of the funding in the future. I'm convinced the best

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way forward is to develop a fully integrated education system

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comprising an integrated system of teacher education. However, I know

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I can't deliver this by myself and the views of others, including in

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particular the stakeholders, are critical. Why it is this

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announcement only about two and universities? Is the Minister

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In April 2003 a joint study was begun by the Department of

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Education into teacher education. It went out to consultation last

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year and consultation closed a year ago today. I wonder if the minister

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could tell us what is the future of that strategic review and why this

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is not a joint review being conducted by his department and the

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Department of Education? Does he not except that in page five of his

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statement when he talks about Strang moors College managing its

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affairs as best it can? At the outset of his statement he said

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that he talked about the values and traditions of colleges. Can hire --

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can I ask how he can guarantee that the unique heritage of that college

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will be preserved in such a merger? With me is the chair of the

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employment and learning committee. We are talking about them and us

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politics and the debate sounded very much for them and us. Yes, it

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was disappointing. The key point is that we are producing too many

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teachers and we are going to have to rationalise. Sooner or later we

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will have to put the three of them into one. Are you not guilty of

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them and us as well by calling for the merger? For me it was pure

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economics that if you are �2.5 million down and you do not have

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any money you have to do something. The real problem is that only 10 %

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of the teachers we produce our getting full-time jobs when they

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leave. If you are producing and that many teachers, there is

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clearly something wrong. Why not rationalise with the two colleges

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merging and look at the St Mary's issue further down the line? There

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is a concern that if you go down one brute that Rolls will be

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changed. What is important in the society in which we operate is that

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there should be one rule for everyone. You can look at the

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balance sheet and say that you need to take action now. What has

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happened with this decision is that strangles has been hung out to dry.

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It will lose money and it will be difficult for the staff and the

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students and I do not think it will be much better for St Mary's.

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don't think this is a case so far as Sinn Fein and the lining up to

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support St Mary's? At there are obviously tie is in this area but

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that does not mean you can't rationalise the situation. More

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dialogue would be better. I can say to you that we are taking a very

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impartial point of view. As a party we have accepted that it is not the

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case that strangles has a Protestant ethos, it takes students

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of all denominations, and we are trying to get the best training for

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our teachers. What about your committee? There seems to be a

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state of some disruption there. You were off on your trip to Paris last

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week and in your absence this decision was taken about when

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stayed's strike and you returned it today. It has been claimed that

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that was undemocratic. It certainly was not undemocratic. The way you

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deal with things in any committee is that you publish the agenda and

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if you have any minor bits you can deal with them in any other

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business. Today's meeting was done properly. Notice was given in

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advance, here is what we are going to discuss, everybody had a chance

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to have their say and we had a democratic vote. Barry was being a

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bit opportunistic, shall we say, when I was away, which is politics,

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but I have made sure that the vote has been regularised. FE are you in

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charge, given what happened in the sand by Diego trip? -- San Diego.

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chairman is there to chair meetings. I only have two of votes.

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Everything is done by consensus. The issue with San Diego as a

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disappointment because I thought that was blown out of proportion. -

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- is a disappointment. This was only a proprietary negotiation and

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it was only going to go ahead if everybody agreed and I will be

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showing two members of committee when we meet again is the

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transcripts of the meetings at which they agreed to it. Thank you

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very much. Sandy Wilson may have had them in stitches at the DUP

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conference on Saturday but his comments have angered some Sinn

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Fein members. My primary function is to

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scrutinise the work of the minister. I found his remarks at the weekend

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disgraceful, speaking as a former prisoner. I found that they were

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demeaning to him as a prisoner and to the entire executive and I would

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go as far as to say that they eat demeaned the audience at home.

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Those remarks bear absolutely no relation to what he still got to

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say. I am glad to say that I can still get under the skin of Sinn

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Fein. It pleases me but I have the response from them but I do. --

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about I have. -- that I have. The imagery her children being placed

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in a long creche is not something I made up. They were the people who

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called the nursery long creche. By simply followed up a bat in a jury

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and I am sure many people across Northern Ireland will be amused. --

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followed up goes comments. -- those are. I assume they agreed with all

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of my comments about the former education minister. Staying with

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the DUP conference, conferences are full of people trying to get their

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case across the politicians. I met one campaign on Saturday he has

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been highlighting the plight of patients with learning difficulties

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trying to get rehabilitated into the community. A lack of resources

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means that we will take some years for all of these patients to be

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rehabilitated. You have more freedom in the community. You can

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go to your local shop, the cinema, the opera house, you can visit

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museums. So it is an issue of independence? Yes. A bit more

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freedom to do things. People in -- what do you think people need?

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need places where there is freedom to come and go but where they can

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be looked after at the same time, where they get meals cooked for

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them. That shows that everybody is looking for money for all kinds of

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campaigns. What can you say to the government to prove to them that

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you do a good job and you are creating jobs? All of the

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performance indicators do we have met and that is very important. We

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met with a group of MLAs today and we showed them what we have

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achieved. The other interesting statistic is that for every small

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business you start each one generates almost three jobs and

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over the period of the last seven years of the programmes we have

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been running we have generated almost 20,000 jobs. That is a very

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important statistic and a very good use of the resources. If we had

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more resources we could continue to produce those outstanding

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achievements. What is in a name? Quite a lot, it would seem. What we

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call things or people could have serious implications so what should

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we call people over the age of 60? It is an issue that clearly matters

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to 1 m l a, as we look at our regular look at the work of the

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Stormont committees. -- MLAs. you adopt the terminology of senior

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citizens instead of older people? Don't put those people down. They

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don't want to be referred to as being old, even at 100 they are

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senior citizens. We would not call anybody old. You talk about

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services far older people. People are comfortable about being

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described as that. There are mixed views on senior citizens, as long

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as they are not called the LED -- the elderly! The old people's home

:24:15.:24:21.

is probably something we should ban. It just shows how vexed our

:24:21.:24:31.
:24:31.:24:39.

language is. They resented. -- and they resent it. In terms of the

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public perception, there is clear damage being done to the minister

:24:43.:24:50.

and the Department and in terms of the perception of a lack of

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transparency and this is not the first time that such an allegation

:24:53.:24:58.

has been labelled against this minister, so it is very important,

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if this committee asks the minister to appear before it, to get some

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clarity on what is going on and how this process came about, where a

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five-year licence to give one company be exclusive rights to

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extract gas from 750 square kilometres of countryside included

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a farm holding belonging to the minister's husband. I think the

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committee should invite her to appear before the committee.

:25:32.:25:35.

accusations are coming from Mr Flanagan but it comes no surprise

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to those of us to have been watching his activities over the

:25:39.:25:44.

past few months. Any opportunity he gets to have a go at the minister,

:25:44.:25:54.
:25:54.:25:55.

he has a go. It is very unfortunate that we, as a committee, are

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hearing such wild accusations. he tells us that there is no

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conflict of interest and there is nothing to declare, he can say that,

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but we need transparency. Myself and the deputy chairmen meet with

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the minister with a beauty trying to understand what his position is,

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and also extending the invitation to attend the committee.

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necessarily next week. I think the import is that she would attend

:26:47.:26:57.
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next week. That committee is due to meet again later this week and if

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the minister is there we will bring you the highlights. Another appeal

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to MLAs - please turn off your mobile phones so that we do not get

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that buzzing. You can keep up with just about everything going on in

:27:13.:27:20.

the Chamber by going to our democracy live page.

:27:20.:27:27.

We heard earlier how Peter Robinson used his conference at the weekend

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to call for an end to sectarian division but any end to them and us

:27:32.:27:41.

politics does not seem likely if today's business is to go by.

:27:41.:27:47.

At the weekend Peter Robinson's vision was for an end to them and

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us politics but there was a lot of it around the building today. In

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the teacher training to belt we saw the Alliance Party coming under

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fire from both nationalists and Unionists as he tried to to work

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towards a joint policy. If this is the problems about a single shared

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education system, it is not a good omen.

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There was more them and us about policing. There was never going to

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be a meeting of minds about this. The nationalists were asking for --

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former police officers to be compelled into co-operating with

:28:32.:28:39.

investigations into past wrongdoing. The DUP effectively put a blocking

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motion into place, meaning but the nationalists would need a cross-

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community agreement. -- and meaning that. The support is very extensive

:28:55.:29:04.

across Northern Ireland. We have expert access to bore facilities

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for people wanting to start up businesses and there is a massive

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support network for people with businesses. You can get space and

:29:14.:29:24.
:29:24.:29:26.

use workshops. Yes, and we would like to see new businesses coming

:29:26.:29:31.

in to the areas available. More importantly, the expertise that

:29:32.:29:37.

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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