31/01/2012 Stormont Today


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

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Hello and welcome to Stormont today. Fred Goodwin is stripped of his


knighthood, but keeps his pension pot of �12 million. It's unlikely


he'll get much sympathy. Here on the hill, MLAs concentrate on the


young, youth unemployment an the eternal catch 22. A particular


problem faced by young people is in sufficient experience and it's


difficult to get such experience without having a job. There's a


danger of young people being lost to long-term unemployment. And grab


a box of tissues, as MLAs reveal their tearful secrets. People don't


realise that behind every hard- nosed politician, there's a person


who is soft about something and certainly sad songs really do get


me. With me throughout, Kula Yusuma, Concerns for a lost generation of


young people deprived of the opportunity to join the workforce


has become a major political issue, not just here, but also throughout


Britain. With me now is Kula Yusuma. It is difficult in this climate but


there's a loft young people facing unemployment potentially for a few


years to come. There is. It's nearly one fifth of 16 to 24-year-


olds find themselves unemployed and not in training on education. It's


in the a straightforward as saying let's get them jobs. There are a


group of young people who need a lot of training and support to find,


to get the skills to get into the work place. You're right, the


economic downturn, you see, seeing statistics, in Spain it's as much


as 50% of young people are unemployed. This is a global issue


we have to address properly. What do you think is the answer then?


Even this phrase NEETs, not in education and training, has


negative connotations. Yeah absolutely. Because we like to


label people, because we can put them in a box. That's what I mean


about things being complicated. You have a group of young people,


several thousand young people who left school with no qualifications,


without any skills to take them into a work place. They're barely


able to read and write. We need to support them. That's what


organisations like Include Youth are doing. We need to give them


proper financial support to be able to progress up the ladder. At the


other end you have graduates coming out with very good degrees and no


jobs. In those cases we need to get them, again into the work place and


help employers give them a chance to take them in and hopefully, we


can see these young people go through. But there's a lot of work


to be done. It's great that the Assembly's talking about it. We


need to see some action. Stay with us. Now, young people were very


much on the agenda today with questions to both the employment


and learning and the Education Ministers. But first, you might


remember two weeks ago, the Alliance Party's Judith Cochrane


told the Assembly how tempted she was to kiss John O'Dowd. Well,


today, it was her colleague Chris Lyttle who seemed keen to start a


little bromance with the minister. Thank you Mr Deputy Speaker. My


colleague Judith Cochrane threatened to kiss the minister for


the start of progress in regards to nursery provision. If he could sort


out the need for new build skills I maybe come down there and kiss


himself -- him myself as well. Can I ask the minister with regards to


communication with the schools, can I ask the minister how exactly he's


going to commune the deadline and time scales for this plan with the


schools who've been waiting for these new buildings for years?


will have to tell my wife there is a House where I can get a kiss in,


so there is. Last week the minister told education boards he was


unhappy with an audit of schools they'd carried out. He sent it back.


Today, members wanted to know more. Due to the sensitivity of the


publication of the audit, what implications do you see for schools


within north Belfast? Well, I understand there is some


sensitivity around the publication of the audit. Rather -- whether


it's north Belfast or any other constituency, the sensitivity of


the information, most of the information will be in the public


domain. I am bringing the information together, so I am as a


minister, have a clear picture of our schools across the area. This


is not the end game in relation to these aud its. The media should not


be using them as a league table or what mapping out the destiny for


schools. There may well be schools that are clearly identified as


having such problems that they are unsustainable into the future. If


that is the case, I have a duty to ask the managing authorities what


plans are in place to secure the education of the young people at


those schools. But I think in mat jort of case what's we will see is


a position where schools need further support and we'll ask what


further support are you giving those schools? How are we assisting


schools to work out of their current financial or educational


underattainment. We're entering the next stage of viability audits.


This is not the final destination. These reports should not be used as


a league table or speculate them in any way that would damage a school.


Onto the employment and learning minister and the issue of


unemployment among young people, clearly one of the most pressing


matters facing his department. Deputy Speaker, members have tabled


five questions all in the theme of youth unemployment and one on


general unemployment. With permission I will address youth


unemployment as a group and will see additional time in that regard.


The increase in youth claimant unemployment, those aged 24 and


under, between November 2007 and November 2011, for Northern Ireland


was 155% compared to the overall UK rise of 97%. While the rate of


youth unemployment may be marginally lower in Northern


Ireland at 18.4% compared to 21.1% to the UK as a whole, it


constitutes a major challenge. There are around 20,000 young


people who are unemployed here. Youth unemployment brings its own


challenges. Young people risk being denied the opportunity to acquire


the skills. A particular problem is insufficient experience to compete


for jobs and it's difficult to get such experience without having a


job. There's a danger of young people being lost to long-term


unemployment. This is an international issue and many


governments have made targeted interventions N Great Britain the


Government introduce aid youth contract. This initiative will


invest 940 million in new measures over three years to help young


progress in the labour market. It provides for advisors, 100,000 work


placements over three years, a new wage incentive to encourage jobs


and a new target for NEETs. In addition to youth contract measures


Wales has put in place the jobs growth Wales programme a �75


million scheme designed to create 4,000 jobs a year for young people.


Scotland has in place the Scotland scheme whereby organisations are


offered a grant of up to �6,000 for each job created. The scheme will


create 2,000 jobs in the next three years and represents additional


investment of �12.4 million. My department has a range of measures


to help the unemployed to find work. More needs to be done. Therefore I


have circulated to my executive colleagues a set of proposals to


help young people and to address the threats to the future of our


economy if we do not take effective action now. The executive should


shortly consider the options and it is for the minister of finance to


consider the issue of funding in the first instance. I will make a


full statement to the Assembly when a package of measures has been


agreed. This youth contract that the minister referred to there,


what do we need to do here, because as I understand it, the departments,


it's up to them how they spend the money. They don't necessarily have


to put it into youth employment. hope to goodness they do put it


into youth employment. Our understanding is that Stephen Farry


has bid for a proportion to come to Northern Ireland. It has to go into


programmes and processs to get young people, a range of young


people into employment. The one thing that he didn't mention and I


hope he will mention is how we give young people, there are a group of


young people working incredibly hard to get into training and


employment, but on, are on pre- vocational programmes. They're not


given a penny by the state. Why as their friends in tech, in colleges,


within so-called recognised training organisations get a


training allowance. One thing he has to do is recognise the work


that so many young people are doing. I'm hoping that some of this youth


contract money can be spent on giving young people a training


allowance to help them build the skill that's they need to get into


the work place. The Health Minister has announced what he's called a


full and rigorous investigation into the sued moan as infections


which claimed the -- pseudo moan yaz infections which claimed the


lives of four babies. Edwin Poots told the Assembly that the actions


of trust officials need to be rigorously examined. I must ensure


the review is thorough and rigorous and makes recommendations on


immediate action that's we need to take. I want an internal report by


the end of March so that urgent actions can be taken. He will be


aware that there have been calls for a public inquiry, particularly


from the parents of one of the children, one of the babies who


very sadly died. He's opted for an independent investigation, could he


tell the House why he's opted for an investigation rather than a full


blown public inquiry? In terms of public inquiries, there has been


calls from at least one of the families for a public inquiry by


some members of this house and indeed some people in the press and


I realise that there is a huge degree of public concern at this


time and people want answers. I believe an independent


investigation and review will provide the urgent answers that I


require. As I already stated, I've asked the chief executive of the


RQIA to assist me in a full, rigorous, independent investigation


into these incidents. A public inquiry in and of itself under the


inquiries act 2005 would not be the quickest or most effective way of


actually getting the answers. it was what everyone was talking


about here on the Hill yesterday, would Tom Elliott add insult to


injury and replace David McNarry on the education committee with his


Strangford colleague Mike Nesbitt? The Speaker made the announcement


to the House. Order. Members order. I would like first of all to inform


members that I have been notified by the nominating officer of the


Ulster Unionist Party Mr Tom Elliott. Mr David McNarry has been


replaced as deputy chairperson of the committee for education. Mr


Elliot has now nominated Mr Mike Nesbitt to be deputy chairperson of


the committee for education and Mr Mike Nesbitt has accepted the


appointment. A note from our producer, please be


more careful with what you do with your papers and microphone. Earlier,


I spoke to the new deputy chair, Mike Nesbitt. Well, I'm sorry about


the circumstances which have led to the appointment, but I'm very


pleased to be on the education committee. I think education and


enterprise would have been my two picks, my passions. I'm very much


looking forward to working with Joanne Dobson and the rest of the


committee. David McNarry talked about two agendas in the Ulster


Unionist Party last night. Which do you fit into? I didn't hear what he


said. All I'm focused on is reading my brief for the education


committee which meets tomorrow morning at 10.30. A lot of viewers


will be parents of school children. A lot of your viewers will be


teachers. I don't think they care about the internal maccinations of


the party. They care about the future of the education of their


children. There's not much more important than that in what we do.


Surely you care about what happens in the party. I do. A lot of what


we do is internal. I'm not going to wash our dirty linen in public. I'm


focused on my role and getting myself up to speed on the actual


they've covered so far and what they're covering tomorrow. You'll


be aware that Stormont and beyond is awash with rumours, do you see


yourself in some future role as leader of the Ulster Unionist


Party? If you look at the clippings, you'll see that I have said


publicly and unequivocally, I will never, ever challenge Tom Elliott's


leadership. But if he was to step aside, would


you put your name forward? If the building was to collapse, would I


still want to be an MLA, who knows. What happens now with the party?


Obviously, basil McCrae and Danny Kennedy gave a news conference this


afternoon, how do you reassure supporters you're on track going


forward? Last night I was at the division Alanual general meeting of


Fermanagh. There were about 160 people there. They're totally


united. I was at a party assembly group meeting this week, totally


united. I was in east Belfast last week, totally united. Are you sure


there's an issue here? Are you sure it isn't just to some extent a


media invention? I'm very happy. I'm very confident that the Ulster


Unionist Party is moving in the right direction. My focus isn't so


much on the party, it's on what the people who are paying my salary


elected me to do. As of tomorrow that is to do with education policy.


Are you supportive of Tom Elliott's action against David McNarry


considering he's your colleague in Strangford. It's not a question of


whether he's my colleague in Strangford. The leader has taken


action, we all in the Assembly group support the leader. You don't


regret to see him go? I told you that I regretted the circumstances


under which I come to be the vie chair marn of the education


committee. That's what I'm focused on. I'm happy to continue talking


about that. In terms of anything else, I understand as a journalist


you're going to poke around and see if you can get me so say something,


if there is dirty linen, I'm not Conall McDevitt com and affable


enough MLA you might think, but he seemed to get under the skin of the


Social Development Minister day during a debate on pensions. Nelson


McCausland was summing up at the end of a debate proposing the


second stage of the Pensions Bill which would keep us in line with


the rest of the UK when he picked on the SDLP member. I think that is


indeed the right and the responsible way to take this


forward. Could I actually just say in his case I do not commend


irresponsibility and financial and fiscal incompetence from people you


cannot work out... Can I make two point. If he wanted to speak on the


matter, he might have been in the House. He could not even be


bothered to be here to ask the question or make an intervention.


The key point is and maybe he could tell me where he is going to


conjure up �700 million from? A quick answer will do. Health or


education? Which are you going to cut? I thank the Minister for


giving way. The neighbour is McDevitt, minister. Committee


members often spend hours listening to presentations from ministers or


interest groups, but sometimes their burden is less pressing and


then they can become a little wistful, nostalgic event. We start


our weekly look at the work of the committees at education where they


are discussing P E. Is it compulsory to provide swimming


lessons or swimming for schools? This particular school does not


have access to a nearby swimming facility. My understanding is that


it does not provide swimming lessons. Then I made inquiries and


the Department were very good at coming back and said, it is a


statutory requirement, it is in the curriculum. A think it has to be


noted that whilst in the past football and Gallic were perceived


to be predominantly male who played those games. But when David speaks


about rugby, what about hockey and other games that females play? That


does not fit in. In my own area we have a fantastic hockey team. If


that is not being funded, I know the community fund so that and the


coaches come from the community. If we are talking in terms of equality,


I think we should include female games like hockey. And cricket. It


was an amazing thing why cricket was such eight Keene Sport west of


the province, which is a very English thing. The answer I was


given when I asked why there was a cricket club in Brady, at the Mills


was the reason why. The mill owners would have provided a sport and


they played cricket and that was the link. What it does raise his


maybe we should look at this as another potential area for inquiry


for us. I agree with that and I agree with what Mekelle is saying.


I used to play hobby and the next top you was the best game. It is an


important piece of work for the committee to undertake in terms of


the judiciary. Could I suggest that we invite a witness to give


evidence on this issue? Can I anticipate the witness. There has


been a certain former Secretary of State who has written a book and he


has very definitely outspoken views on this issue. He has taken the


very unusual step of making a public comment about this. He says


it is an assault on the independence of the judiciary. That


was a response to Mr Payne's comments that Sir Paul Girvan was


off his rocker! Being serious about it, he has clearly a very strong


views on this. He has been on the inside track as far as this issue


is concerned. I am proposing that given the fact he has very strong


views that we invite him to come before this committee and give


evidence. On the judiciary? On the appointments to the judiciary.


to attend we will have terms of reference for our work on this and


part of that will be witnesses and if you want to pick up almost


Secretary of State for this list... They were talking about p, but on a


more serious education at, is there some sort of early intervention


needed to prevent children ever leaving school without some basic


qualifications and the skills to read and write? Absolutely.


Education is one of the biggest factors that can help children


overcome some disadvantage. Our education system is very good. I am


not going to criticise it for the sake of it, but too many people


coming out at the other end with not enough and generally they come


from poorer communities weather have been family difficulties


through no fault of their own, so we need an education system that


can educate all its children. That may mean a classroom assistant, it


may mean children come out of the classes to get extra attention. It


does not necessarily mean that many resources. It means we need to


think differently about how we educate some of our children.


Should we have targets to say that children should never be able to


leave school without being able to read or write? I am not saying


targets is right, because we have seen what is happening with league


tables, but we should have targets that recognise a child's potential.


If you have had a difficult time in your life, like a bereavement, as


you may not get a GCSE at 16, but you may get it at 18 once things


have settled a bit. It is to make sure children learn in the best way


that they can. It has been a busy week for the Ulster Unionist Party,


but today they attempted to move on as Martina told me earlier. We had


Basil McCrae and Danny Kennedy appeared together at a news


conference to say how much they supported the leader and they


wanted to move forward and the party was united. They came


together and Baz on a crate is seen as the man who prefers opposition


and sees the fortunes of the Ulster Unionist Party best served by going


into opposition, with Danny Kennedy the Minister involved in the talks,


both different wings of the party coming together. Interesting DAVID


COULTHARD: Nari mentioned agenda as last night. When he talked about


two competing agendas he meant those two interests. Although David


McNarry appeared on the programme last night, as a hurt and winded


MLA, who he said was unfairly punished, he was more angry and


vengeful today. He said this will be a 15 round fight and is not


going quietly. The we have had discussions about two agendas and


is this all semantics? He said last night he did not recognise this


term a liaison officer, which was how Tom Elliot referred to him in


the talks with the DUP. He spoke of a panel of four. He would not tell


us who else was on this panel, but informed sources tell as it was


David Campbell, the chairman of the party, Danny Kennedy and the Ulster


Unionist leader Tom Elliot. I rang Tom Elliot and asked about the


panel and he said he did not recognise there was a panel. He


said there were meetings, there were areas of co-operation. The


last meeting was 45 minutes. He said there were games being played,


but in fairness to DAVID COULTHARD: Nari he was never officially known


as a liaison officer. -- DAVID COULTHARD: Nari. We have been


asking the politicians about which sad songs would make them cry. What


would bring a tier 2 your eye? people say I am heartless and it is


not possible to make me cry, but I say Elvis Presley and you can play


his music at my funeral, which would cheer up many people around


here. Perish the thought. Listening to a sad song has reduced seven out


of 10 men to tears according to a studied. If the title music of this


programme brings a tier 2 your eye, get eight issue and keep watching


as MLAs reveal a softer side. was being facetious I would say


every song that the Reverend McRae recorded. It would be a song by a


group called the Stanlow brothers, different things to different


people and it is a survey of how people view things if you are a


father, a brother, a son and you are all those things. When I


listened to my children perform, the tears come to my eyes. But I


remember when my sister, who is a trained vocalists, did her first


solo in church and she sang, I was moved to tears. Every time I hear


that song in church tears come back to me. In a survey it brought back


memories of the Show Band Days and suddenly the band would start to


play Elvis and the men started to cry. It told the story of the


orphanages which were in vogue in the Sixties and the whole idea of


people turning up to adopt somebody and passing that little child


because it was blind. That really was emotional. People do not


realise that behind every hard- nosed politician there is a person


who is soft about something and it certainly sad songs really get me.


I do not know which is worse, nobody's child or two little boys.


What would bring a tier 2 your eye? I have two if you indulge me. One


is the South African national anthem and that always makes me cry.


The other is Peggy Gordon, an old Irish folksong, because my children


performed it when they were very young. It still brings a tier 2 I


just thinking about it. One is personal and won his emotional


thinking about people's struggles. Anything to do with children is


tricky. Thank you for being our guest this event. That is it for


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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