Official Report (Hansard)

Session: 2007/2008

Date: 22 November 2007

Draft Budget, draft Programme for Government and draft Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland

22 November 2007

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:

Mr Barry McElduff (Chairperson)
Mr David McNarry (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Dominic Bradley
Mr Francie Brolly
Lord Browne
Mr Kieran McCarthy
Mr Nelson McCausland
Mr Pat Ramsey
Mr Ken Robinson
Mr Jim Shannon

The Chairperson:

At last week’s meeting, it was agreed that I would table a take-note motion on the Department’s draft budget for debate by the Assembly on Tuesday 27 November. The Committee Clerk consulted the Business Office and has been advised that as there is already a general take-note motion on the draft Budget on the Order Paper for Tuesday, which has been tabled by the Chairperson of the Committee for Finance and Personnel, a motion from our Committee would not be admissible. The existing motion will allow for the draft Budget to be debated generally, as it relates to each Department.

Committee Chairpersons — or in our case the Deputy Chairperson — will have an opportunity to put forward the agreed view of their Committees during the debate. As the matter has already been appointed for consideration by the Assembly, the rule of anticipation would apply to a similar motion from the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure.

Today’s meeting will allow members to express their views on the Department’s draft budget; and David McNarry will reflect the views of the Committee in the Assembly debate.

The Minister briefed Committee members on the draft Budget and draft Programme for Government at last week’s meeting. Today, the Committee must formulate two responses: one on the draft Budget, which will be sent to the Committee for Finance and Personnel, and one on the draft Programme for Government and the investment strategy for Northern Ireland, which will be sent to the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister. Therefore, the Committee will be sending out “Dear Mitchel” and “Dear Danny” letters. Committee staff will draft the two responses over the coming week, and they will be signed off at next week’s meeting in order to meet the deadlines set by the Committees. Today’s discussions will be covered by Hansard.

The Committee for Finance and Personnel has provided an outline of the issues that the Committee may wish to cover in its response. I will seek the Committee’s views on each issue in turn in order to ensure that we formulate a systematic response. Members will have had time to think over the issues as Committee staff provided an outline of the issues to be covered, which is contained in Members’ papers.

I also refer members to the research paper on the draft Budget and draft Programme for Government; the Department’s extract from the draft Budget; correspondence from the Minister dated 9 November 2007; his briefing paper of 15 November 2007, and the Hansard report of our last meeting. The Department’s paper of 21 June 2007 on the comprehensive spending review (CSR) and a paper on capital underspends for 2006-07 have also been provided.

Two key tables have also been provided: the first shows the Department’s resource allocation, and the second shows its capital allocation.

We will begin with three general categories — resource allocation, capital allocation and information provision. Are members content with the way in which the Department’s resource budget has been allocated across the various areas? Do members think that more money should be allocated to one area, and another area reduced? Are members content with the total resource allocation for the Department over the next three years, or do they think that particular areas should receive an uplift in funding?

Mr P Ramsey:

The difficulty is that we are being lobbied separately by Sport Northern Ireland, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and other groups at different times. We have quoted what the Minister has said on the matter — then he has given us a different opinion, even in the draft Programme of Government and the Department’s aims and objectives over the next couple of years. However, 50% of the Department’s budget is allocated to two bodies that carry out work on its behalf; the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Sport Northern Ireland, and, without knowing their responses to the allocation the Committee’s challenge role is limited to a degree.

I have scanned information indicating there would be a serious impact for accessibility for young people and disabled people, and people have told me that the targets will never be met. We have a sports strategy, which was only introduced two or three months ago and would cost £100 million to implement, yet there is nothing in the budget for the sports strategy. I do not want to go on at length but, in those circumstances, I would like the Arts Council to make a presentation to the Committee on its budget allocation this year. I would like it to tell us how that allocation will affect front-line services and community resources, because that is where the most important work is being done.

Last week, I raised the subject of stadiums. At one stage, the Minister said no. However, his officials contradicted him about the amount of money that would be available through stadiums development to ensure safety at sports grounds. Therefore, there is uncertainty between the Minister and his officials. We know that development work involving young people and their health and well-being, and reducing social crime and vandalism, is being carried out in our constituencies in co-operation with sporting bodies.

One person tells me that the Department’s budget is going to be reduced and another tells me that we are going to receive a huge investment: that is not what I am reading in the draft Budget document and it is not what I am seeing at ground level. I do not envy Mr McNarry’s task on Monday, when he will have to reflect the Committee’s opinion regarding the impact that the departmental budget will have at ground level, when there is such a level of uncertainty.

Will there be job losses? Last week, I referred to Ulster Rugby’s modernisation programme. It has said that 15 people will be made redundant unless it is given a commitment before March. We are talking about programmes that are having an impact: I do not know what is happening, and no one in this room knows what is happening. Therefore, Sport Northern Ireland and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland need to appear before the Committee as quickly as possible. We cannot make a formal response to the draft Budget unless we know that the two bodies that we depend on to deliver the programmes have been resourced properly.

Mr Brolly:

The Committee requires more detail. It is OK to say that arts and sports are getting a certain sum of money each. However, I talk to people who want to know what each sport and each element in the arts programme will be getting. I know that correspondence has been received from a person in the world of theatre who wants to know how much funding will be allocated to drama. Perhaps, eventually, that will take place. However, at this stage, we should have some indication about how the Department’s budget will be divided up among the various bodies — and the various elements in those bodies — and what the priorities are going to be.

Mr McCarthy:

I agree with what has been said. I would probably answer no to all six questions about the resource and capital allocations.

The Chairperson:

You are not content with them?

Mr McCarthy:

There is no way that I would support a reduction in funding for arts and sports in Northern Ireland. I totally agree with everything that Mr Ramsey has said. My answer to the question:

“Do members think more money should be allocated to any one area and reduced in another area?”
is “absolutely not.” All of those areas need an increase in funding. I do not support what is outlined in the documents in front of the Committee, or the Budget as it stands today.

Mr McNarry:

The debates on Monday and Tuesday are take-note debates. The comments made by Pat Ramsey and Francie Brolly are relevant, but they will be more relevant when we move beyond the take-note stage and reach the point when we have to endorse the draft Budget. That may be five or six weeks away.

However, we are not on our game; and that is due to a lack of information, the way in which we request information, or because people are not giving us the information that we want. A combination of all three factors is probably involved, but more so the third factor.

I asked the Department what its actual bid was — and I thank the Committee Clerk for her help in this matter. I wanted to know what the Department had said it needed funds for, and what it got knocked back on. The response that I received was that the Department submitted a block bid and that it will be for the Department to determine how the money is divvied out.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I am not aware of any consultation between the Department and the Committee on how the bid should be broken down in general terms. We have been told — but consultation is a different matter; and we are still in a consultative exercise that will lead up to next week’s debate. I appreciate Pat Ramsey’s concern for me, and the difficulty that I will have in putting across the Committee’s point of view, on behalf of the Chairman, to the House. I am not sure that we can be specific. I hope that I will have guidance on how not to whinge — I do not like whingeing — but on how to point out the problems and shortfalls in certain areas and the gaps that need to be plugged, and so on, and to ask whether those problems will be addressed. I want to highlight three or four priority issues in my 10 minutes, and I hope that members will row in behind. I accept Pat Ramsey’s point; I would need an hour and a half to get across properly the Committee’s view on this matter. However, given that we have insufficient information, we must more or less work on the basis that we will have a good moan.

Mr Brolly:

My point was that we should be told how the block bid will be allocated to the various elements within arts and sport, and so on. However, David McNarry has hit on a more fundamental point: where did the block bid come from, and how was that figure arrived at? Was it simply a case of looking at the figure for 2006-07 and deciding to ask for some more in order to make somebody a wee bit happier? Every element — for example, the Arts Council and the Sports Council — should take total responsibility for everything within its remit. However, I do not know whether the Department took that approach. We have no information other than what David has just mentioned. There is just a block figure.

Mr K Robinson:

It might be helpful to look at the Minister’s letter dated 9 November. On the final page, it states:

“The nature of the CSR settlement is such that DFP did not specifically approve or disapprove bids but acknowledged that it was appropriate to increase the total of funding available to the department to discharge its functions.”

It looks as though a fairly blunt instrument has been used. It seems that a figure was thrown in that was knocked around a bit and emerged slightly altered.

Mr McNarry:

The Northern Ireland Events Company has been allocated £2·1 million next year; £2·1 million for the year after that, a then reduced figure of £1·5 million for year three.

The Chairperson:

Reallocate that.

There is a reference to the Arts Council on page 6 of the paper from the Research and Library Service, which is contained in Members’ papers. What is our initial answer to the question: are Members content with the way in which the DCAL resource budget is allocated across the various areas?

Mr McCarthy:

No.

Mr McCausland:

I want to make two quick points.

This year’s Budget allocation follows the pattern that has emerged over many years. As regards the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, its budget is small and inadequate.

There is no link between the increase in the Department’s budget and those of other Departments: that says something about how the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure is viewed in a broader sense. One almost gets the sense that the question is: can the Department be trusted with more money? When one considers what has happened with the Northern Ireland Events Company, it is tempting to say that there is good reason for asking that question. As a general observation, a pattern has formed over the years and, under devolution, we are suffering from the legacy of the past.

The draft Budget does not distinguish between the two agencies that make up the North/South Language Body. I shall return to that point.

Mr P Ramsey:

I do not want to get into individual aspects of the draft Budget, but at the Committee meeting on 15 November 2007, the Minister told us that he will fulfil a commitment that the Secretary of State gave two years ago for a budget of £53 million to fund elite sports facilities. The Executive have now taken £22 million off that budget. Government are saying that the only way that that money can be recouped is by selling off land, yet we do not know what land will be available. There is uncertainty and lack of clarity on a range of issues. At last week’s Committee meeting, the Minister talked about great capital injections into arts programmes. We now we find that much of the money has been ring-fenced from previous years. It is not new capital resource money — the £4·1 million that the Secretary of State announced two years ago, in Derry, for arts programmes has already been distributed. That money is being counted in the round, which is crazy.

Although the debate on the draft Budget takes place next week, I propose that we invite the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Sport Northern Ireland to come to our next meeting and give an update on how they view the draft Budget and the draft Programme for Government. The Committee will then know, across the Department’s governing areas, whether those bodies would expect to be distributing the funding.

Mr McNarry:

I support that proposal. Can we ask the Minister to state the starting point for calculating his bid? The Department does not seem to want to give that information to the Committee. The Committee Clerk has informed me that we have asked for it. The Department has said that it made a bid, but we need to know what the starting point was. With that information, we would be able to look people in the eye and know the difference between what they asked for and what they got. I am all for sport, but the proposals are sport-heavy.

The Chairperson:

Members may be interested in Annex A of the Department’s paper on the comprehensive spending review dated 15 June 2007 which lists the committed and desirable bids for capital investment projects. The Committee’s concerns and proposals on resource allocation are being heard; they are being recorded by Hansard, and they will formulate the Committee’s response.

Mr P Ramsey:

My proposal is clear. To enable the Committee to have an objective view on the draft Budget, we must hear what effect it will have on arts and sports in Northern Ireland. Therefore, I propose that we invite the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Sport Northern Ireland to the Committee.

The Chairperson:

Do you want those bodies to come here as soon as possible?

Mr P Ramsey:

I propose that they are invited to the next meeting.

Mr McNarry:

This is perhaps an unfair question. However, so that we can reach some sort of outcome — does whoever compiled the questions now know the answers to them on the basis of what they have heard from the Committee this morning? In other words, have they picked up the consensus that members are, or are not, content with the way the Department’s resource budget is allocated?

The Chairperson:

In other words: what is our consensus as a Committee?

Mr D Bradley:

How much latitude is there on the reallocation of resources? For example, last week it was said that almost half of the departmental budget is being spent on libraries and museums and half on sports and arts. The degree to which those resources can be reallocated is very small, because libraries and museums have to be run and maintained etc. If one takes away from one side to give to the other, one service will be weakened while another will benefit. I am not sure to what extent we can suggest reallocations without damaging existing services.

The Chairperson:

You are moving in the direction of answering the third question in that section;

“Are members content with the total resource allocation for DCAL over the next three years?”

Mr D Bradley:

It was more concerned with the first question.

The Chairperson:

You are saying there is little wriggle room. Have you concluded that there is a need to increase the total resource allocation? Is that what you are saying?

Mr D Bradley:

That would be desirable, if possible.

The Chairperson:

Perhaps that should be our emphasis.

Mr McNarry:

The Minister has been here and has been pretty up front and fair with us. He assured us that he did his level best to get the best that he could. That is an admission of failure, because he did not get what is needed.

The Chairperson:

The beauty of the take-note debate on Monday, David, is that you will be addressing your remarks to Peter Robinson.

Mr McNarry:

We will have some fun, because he is a good pal of mine.

The Chairperson:

Good. Glad to hear it. That might work in our favour.

Mr McNarry:

There was a bit of irony in what I said there, Mr Chairman. [Laughter.]

We are stuck with the budget, and we need not think that we are going to make strides and change anything. What we need to do is put down markers as to what the Department is responsible and accountable for.

The Chairperson:

Can I bring to members’ attention that when the Minister addressed the Committee on 15 November 2007 he said:

“I have been able to secure a £46·3 million uplift.”

You have to give him immense credit for that, David.

Mr McNarry:

I do.

The Chairperson:

The Minister also said that that was:

“a net £24·3 million uplift — in resources over the CSR years.”

The point that he was making was:

“That resource increase, along with the new capital baseline of £233 million in years 1-3 and an indicative £410 million in years 4-10, will allow my Department to make a significant difference in meeting many of its key goals.”

I know that you are not swayed by that, Mr Ramsey.

Mr Brolly:

That uplift is fine, but if the Department has been underfunded in the past, then the new allocation should not be based on that underfunding. We must get out of that cycle and find a different way of deciding how much money the Department really needs, and build it from the bottom up. David McNarry has already asked how the figure was arrived at.

It strikes me immediately, especially with that statement about an uplift, that the Minister, or the Department, are just using previous figures, adding a bit on and saying they have got some more money, without any reference to how much is really required, or has been required historically.

The Chairperson:

Obviously, the impact on projects at ground level, as has been referred to by members, is a key issue. If the Arts Council, Sport Northern Ireland, the rugby authorities and the GAA are all saying that their healthy programmes are being threatened by lack of funding then we have to hear from those people. Is that right?

Mr P Ramsey:

Mr Brolly also talked about a major issue. During its first couple of meetings, the Committee agreed to carry out and inquiry into the underfunding of arts and sports. However, because of pressure due to the Libraries Bill, etc, we have not been able to do that. We should certainly be taking forward that inquiry early next year. We must ask the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety whether it acknowledges the contribution that sport makes to health and well-being, and if so, why is that Department not following the example of the Scottish Parliament, which has allocated resources towards sport directly from the Scottish health budget? That is a preventative measure, which will make savings in the long term.

We should be saying the same thing to the Department of Education. Our Minister is in a dilemma because I do not think that he is getting that kind of direct support from his Executive colleagues.

Like David McNarry, it is up to all of us to convince the Minister of Finance and Personnel to re-examine the issue in the round, and convince the Executive of the merits of having a Budget that is more health-oriented than at present. The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure has done what is required of him, but he is being prevented from doing any more. We must convince other Departments to commit resources to sport.

We often hear about the pressures that various Ministers are under, but if Northern Ireland is only committing half per capita of the amount that is being spent on sport in England or Wales, we are doing something wrong. The same goes for the Arts Council’s budget: if we are spending only half of the amount that is being spent by Dublin, Cardiff or Glasgow, and we fail to create the social capital that accrues as a result of arts programmes in the community, then we are failing the people involved in those activities as well.

It would have been better to have had the Committee’s inquiry into sport before the draft Budget because we might have been able to identify areas and models of good practice, not just in Britain, but in other European countries that excel because they invest in sport to better effect. As we prepare to conclude our discussions on the Libraries Bill, we must concentrate on how best to frame our inquiry into sport and the arts, and we must encourage people to take part in that inquiry. We must travel, whether it is to London or Dublin, to examine models there. The inquiry is too important for us not to take a holistic approach.

In order to be prepared, we must focus on those two clear areas. It may make a difference to the Executive and other Members to have evidence that shows that sport and the arts make a valuable contribution to health.

The Chairperson:

Many strong points are being made here that will be helpful. I will ask Mr McNarry to take the Chair for a few minutes. I am going to speak to senior officials in the Department about coming here today.

(The Deputy Chairperson [Mr McNarry] in the Chair)

Mr D Bradley:

During the Minister’s presentation to the Committee last week, I highlighted the apparent imbalance in funding between libraries and museums on the one hand and arts and sports on the other. The Minister made the point that a lot of activities in arts and sports are delivered by volunteers. That is a good and worthy thing, and I hope that it continues. However, it should not be used by the Minister or the Department as a reason for underfunding those activities: in fact, the opposite should be the case. The fact that there are so many volunteers in arts and sports should lead us to ensure that they have the best support mechanisms available in order to encourage them to continue in their volunteering and that their work is of the highest calibre. Quite often, that includes the provision of better local facilities. From a funding perspective, volunteering should not be used by the Department as a get-out clause.

Mr Deputy Chairperson:

That is a good point, Dominic, and it is worth making again. However, we are in danger of regurgitating things that we have been saying for weeks. We must focus, if we can, on how we are going to help.

Mr D Bradley:

How do you know that they will not be focused?

The Deputy Chairperson:

If they are focused, that will be good, but one of them is suspect in that regard. We can then give some direction to the clerks, who have to draft the end product.

Mr Shannon:

I am grateful for the opportunity to comment on the matter. The Committee is unhappy with the funding that is available, but whether we like it or not, we have to be conscious that we can only spend what is available, which restricts what we can do. The pie is only so big; there is no money tree to take money from when it is needed and no pot of gold to dig up at the end of the rainbow. Those things do not exist — there is a set budget.

Every member of the Committee wants to see a commitment to sport, and I agree with Pat’s comments about the priorities for the Committee; we want to know what they are. If sport is a priority for the Committee, which I hope it is, other Departments also have a role; sport is not just an issue for DCAL, but also for, dare I say it, the Department of Education and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety. Sport can feature highly in the work of the respective Committees, and commitment is needed from the Ministers. If this Committee is going to commit to sport, it must realise that sport also falls into the remit of other Departments. I am particularly concerned about the major projects and how they level out.

I have, however, great sympathy for the Minister, who has only a certain amount of money and must now find a way to dole it out. That is not an easy job; you cannot go to Tesco on a Friday night and spend £1,000 if you have only £100 in your wallet and no credit card. You must be sensible. The Committee must focus on where it wants to go, and then get the Health Department and Education Department to fulfil their roles — irrespective of what they say — in promoting sport in the community. Although DCAL has the directive role, those Departments also have a part to play.

Mr P Ramsey:

DSD do as well.

Mr Shannon:

Yes; DSD as well.

Mr McCausland:

The Committee has emphasised the importance of sport in improving health. We must also strengthen the arguments for the role that culture plays in strengthening our tourism product. Cultural tourism is the biggest potential growth area for tourism in Northern Ireland, which includes attractions such as museums. Look at how Northern Ireland is marketed abroad and how many adverts include the Ulster American Folk Park, which presents a particular image of Northern Ireland.

Improving tourism and the role of education must to be looked at. It must be emphasised across Government that we fail to strengthen culture and arts at our peril — we do ourselves a disservice if we do not. The matter must be examined in the areas of health, cultural tourism, and the strengthening the education sector as well.

(The Chairperson [Mr McElduff] in the Chair)

Mr K Robinson:

There was a classic example of that in the Northern Ireland match last night; the advertisements around the ground included www.visitireland.com — someone had moved in promptly and got in a tourist plug for the island. There was also a map of the island, which was slick marketing. Whoever was responsible had tailgated an event that attracted a lot of attention here and across Europe and got in the marketing ploy.

Mr McCausland:

Tourism Ireland is the only body that can market abroad.

Mr McNarry:

An issue that I hope the Committee returns to is the broadcasting rights for the opening stage of Rally Ireland. The people at RTÉ had the broadcasting rights, while our channels were only allowed to show a minimal news clip. RTÉ had the rights and, of course, could sell them. However, nobody in Northern Ireland is buying, so we will probably have to wait several weeks to see the whole rally. The people at RTÉ had the rights to it, and good on them: that is good marketing.

The Chairperson:

OK. David has indicated to me that we have agreed to conclude this part of the meeting. The Committee staff have the task of recording the decisions on which we have reached consensus, and the main points will appear in Hansard.

Mr P Ramsey:

A range of hugely important points are contained in the Hansard of the Committee’s last meeting.

Mr McNarry:

I detect that the Committee is more or less stating that this is an opportunity to challenge DFP and ask for more money, which is what Pat was saying. I need to be able to stand up and justify why the Department needs more money and appeal to Peter Robinson in the broadest terms. It is a bit like Oliver Twist going up to Mr Bumble and asking for more, and I know what will happen. However, if that is the pitch that members want —

Mr D Bradley:

He wins out in the end though.

Mr McNarry:

He does, yes.

The Chairperson:

OK, Oliver — sorry, David — that is a good point.

Mr McCarthy:

To follow on from what David was saying, I received a letter from a constituent who quotes facts and figures for the arts: the arts generate £900 million a year for the local economy, the creative arts employ 33,000 people locally, and the list goes on. The arts inspire the imagination of children, and that is what we are talking about. If we lose out on funding, we will lose out on what the arts have to offer.

The Chairperson:

A shift of imagination is required in those who do not understand the value of the arts; whereas we think that we do.

Mr McNarry:

To give credit where credit is due — which is difficult for me — the Finance Minister is an astute man. He is backed by an administration that, with all due respect, beats what we have, purely because of resources. If I stand up in the Chamber and say the wrong thing on behalf of the Committee, the Finance Minister will cut my throat, because he will have the facts and figures to hand to do so. I will not give him that pleasure on your behalf. I want to argue the case that we need more money, but not in such a way that he can respond by saying that certain resources are already available. To return to an earlier point, we simply do not know what the bids are for.

The Chairperson:

OK, that concludes this part of the meeting.

Mr McNarry:

I need protection.

The Chairperson:

We need to move on to capital allocation.

Mr P Ramsey:

As Peter Robinson is a former member of the Sport Northern Ireland, you can take advantage of his leaning towards sport, David.

Mr McNarry:

Are you suggesting that I wear my red beret?

Mr P Ramsey:

No.

The Chairperson:

We come now to the capital allocation in the draft Budget. Are members content with the way in which the DCAL capital budget has been allocated across various areas? I have three questions to ask, and the Committee Clerk will, perhaps, help shape their context.

Mr P Ramsey:

We cannot be happy if the Minister’s staff tells us that some of the money refers to ring-fenced projects.

The Chairperson:

It is like the old-money, new-money syndrome that you highlighted, Pat. You heard Peter Hain refer to those matters a couple of years ago, and now they are appearing on the agenda now as if they are new.

Mr McCarthy:

Therefore, the answer is no; members are not content.

The Chairperson:

Pat Ramsey’s concern will be expressed. Are members content with the total capital allocation for DCAL over the next three years with respect to capital projects? If not, should particular areas receive an uplift in funding? Do members have concerns in this category?

Mr P Ramsey:

In his statement on the Northern Ireland strategy for sport and physical recreation 2007-217 to the House on 9 October 2007, the Minister said:

`“Northern Ireland still needs a wider, long-term plan for developing sport and securing its future.
What issues do we need to address? First, we must recognise that we are starting from a much lower base than many regions of the UK”.

However, in accepting that at face value, we have had £22 million taken off our budget. Not only do we start from a lower base, but we are becoming lower. I imagine that the culture and art budgets in England, Scotland and Wales are not being sliced merely because of the legacy that has been promised to them by the Olympics.

Mr Shannon:

The emphasis and focus on sport in the draft policy is not as strong as it should be. I am particularly concerned that some of the projects that should be delivered will not happen. My concerns would be eased if the Olympic money were separate money. However, that does not appear to be the case, so we will lose out considerably over the next while. There should be more emphasis on physical sport in the strategy. However, I am realistic about how that will happen, and I am trying to focus clearly on where the money will come from. It is fine to have a wish list, but you have got to have a way of making it happen. The investment required to deliver the strategy for sport is not as strong as I would like it to be.

Mr McCarthy:

There is no mention of the multi-sports stadium, as far as I can see.

The Chairperson:

What is your point, Kieran?

Mr McCarthy:

Where will the funding for the sports stadium come from?

Mr Shannon:

What if we do not go ahead with the national stadium and use that money for sport. Can I do that?

Mr McNarry:

I second that.

Mr P Ramsey:

We could give 30% each to soccer, Gaelic games and rugby and continue using Windsor Park.

Mr Shannon:

That is my opinion.

The Chairperson:

Do you speak for the DUP on that matter, Jim? Or is that a personal view?

Mr Shannon:

I speak for a brave few in it: probably a large majority of it.

The Chairperson:

We will move on. I ask Jim — for the third time — to switch off his mobile phone. I have let it go twice, but three times is too much.

Let us move to information provision. We have shared our concerns about capital allocation. Reference to the multi-sports stadium and other references have been captured.

The Minister has previously said in respect of infrastructure investment:

“We have secured £112 million for 2008-09 and 2010-11 for investment in the physical infrastructure for delivering sports. That level of funding will allow me to consider the next stages for the emerging proposals for a new multi-sports stadium.”

That statement seems a little vague to me; the Committee may want it pinned down.

Are members content with the information provided in the draft Budget? If there are no issues there, we will move on.

Lord Browne:

Generally speaking, there is not enough information. That is the point that Pat made. The Department makes all these pledges — for example, to increase the number of the disabled who participate in sport. How many are there? How many young people are there? How many adults partake in sport and how many do not? How many facilities do we have? We could have a better breakdown of the information relating to sport, culture, museums, and so on. That could be improved.

The Chairperson:

There is a lack of detail.

Mr P Ramsey:

With reference to the multi-sports stadium, could we ask for an update? I understand that planning difficulties have arisen.

The Chairperson:

Are you proposing that the Committee write to the Department? When is the update due?

The Committee Clerk:

It is scheduled for13 December.

Mr P Ramsey:

In the planning process, the Department could run out of time to build the stadium. That might suit a lot of people around this table.

The Chairperson:

On 13 December the update will be provided. Are you content with that, Pat?

Mr P Ramsey:

Since it was raised with me as a planning matter, could we ask specifically whether there is a difficulty with the planning application?

The Chairperson:

It is agreed that we will write immediately to ask that question.

Let us move on to the draft Programme for Government. I remind members that there is a take-note motion tabled for next Monday. David, speaking on behalf of the Committee, will reflect the views of members on the draft Programme for Government and the draft investment strategy, as expressed today and as they affect DCAL.

The Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister has provided an outline of the issues which the Committee may wish to cover in our response. We will take each of those issues in turn. Members may wish to turn to tab 9, where the Committee Office has provided an outline of the issues. The draft Programme for Government is at tab 10; the public service agreement (PSA) framework at tab 11; and the draft investment strategy at tab 12.

There were a number of questions on the Programme for Government and the PSA framework that the Committee did not have time to ask last week. Those were sent to the Department in writing and the response requested for today’s meeting. However, the response has not yet been received and is not expected until later today. When it is received, copies will be sent to Members. If Members have additional points that they wish to raise on the back of the Department’s response, they should be send directly to the Committee Office by Tuesday 27 November for inclusion in the Committee’s response on the draft Programme for Government.

I turn now to the overarching aim, strategic priorities and cross-cutting themes. The aim of the Programme for Government is:

“to build a peaceful, fair and prosperous society in Northern Ireland, with respect for the rule of law, and where everyone can enjoy a better quality of life, now and in the years to come.”

Is the Committee content with that overall aim? The five priorities are listed. I will not repeat them, but members can read them. Are members content with those priorities? Should they be amended or should additional priorities be included? The two cross-cutting themes are a better future and sustainability. Are members content with those cross-cutting themes?

Mr McCausland:

If you consider the first of the five priorities — a dynamic, innovative economy — in the context of cultural tourism, the Tourist Board and Tourism Ireland’s role is to market. The Tourist Board’s role should also be about product development. However, other than at a high level, it is not.

There is a huge need to grow cultural activities in order to have more to market. The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure can help to ensure that more emphasis is placed on that development and that a more joined-up approach is taken. That would create more for the Tourist Board and Tourism Ireland to sell, and if more people come then more people will sit in the Lyric Theatre’s seats or attend the World Irish Dancing Championships or the World Pipe Band Championships. That point should form part of our thinking.

Mr McCarthy:

Members are aware of how vociferous my leader was during the debate on the draft Programme for Government. The shared future agenda was not even mentioned. Honeyed words are used when referring to a peaceful, fair and prosperous society. The Executive should be following the recommendations in the document, ‘A Shared Future’, but there is no mention of a shared future in the programme. There has been no attempt to find efficiencies by, for example, addressing the cost of division or aiming for parity in arts funding. The Alliance party cannot agree with a lot of the draft Programme for Government.

Mr McCausland:

We are asked to consider whether we are content with the key goal of growing the creative industries sector by up to 15% by 2011. Does that refer to cutting-edge creative industries — I suspect that it probably does — or should we be considering the broader approach that I mentioned? If so, can we make some reference to that? We must find out how much money was generated compared to the amount invested by the council when the World Irish Dancing Championships came to Belfast. The other week, figures were produced for the amount that the World Pipe Band Championships might generate — the benefits would be astronomical.

Mr P Ramsey:

I agree with Nelson, and I note the key goal to increase the creative industries by 15% by 2011. Galway is a fine example of how creative industries can be helped through the promotion of art, multimedia and IT. Therefore, it would do no harm if the Committee, and the Minister too, were to visit Galway to see how new jobs have been created in those sectors. Which Department is to take the lead in the efforts to achieve the targeted 15% increase by 2011? Will it be DETI or DCAL?

Mr McNarry:

We can share in the Executive’s and the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister’s goals as presented in the draft Programme for Government and the draft investment strategy. However, if we do so, that begs the major question facing the Assembly and the Executive, which is that many of those goals are aspirational. We do not have the funds to carry out those policies, and we are starting from a bad wicket. I am not convinced that the available levels of funding will allow such room for improvement. The idea of an innovative economy must raise doubts in our minds, given the number of companies that have folded in recent days. The Programme for Government and the investment strategy are fine and aspirational, with the caveat that the public must not be misled into believing that services will be delivered unless the money is there to do it.

That is a protection that must be built into everything that we say. I assume that we will be making a reference to the remit of this Committee. I agree wholeheartedly with Nelson McCausland’s comments on the goal regarding creative industries. Between now and when we reach the time for the actual Budget, we need to have a clear definition of what the creative industries are, what our responsibilities are, and, as Pat Ramsey said, which Department has the lead on that issue.

The draft Programme for Government refers to cross-cutting issues. However, there is no cross-pollination between the Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure and other Departments, such as the Department of Education and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety. Is it possible for us to share our views on these issues with the Committee for Education and the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety at a later date? We need to hear their views, and we need to know whether they are considering our responsibilities as well as their own on these cross-cutting issues.

Mr P Ramsey:

One of the key priorities in the draft Programme for Government is the promotion of tolerance, inclusion, health and well-being. Can we ascertain which Department will take the lead on that issue? Obviously, the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister will have a role in that. However, people must see that the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure is delivering more on integration in sport and the arts than any other Department. What recognition is being given to the Department for that role?

Mr McNarry:

There has to be toleration in this Committee of those who wish to oppose some of the issues. Such opposition may cause problems for individual members. However, a voice of opposition has to find a way to be expressed in the Assembly and in Committees that is not deemed negative because of codes of practice in the Executive, or because of a coalition that may or may not exist.

There is a degree of opposition about what is happening on housing. Perhaps I should not use housing as an example in this Committee, but it obviously has a knock-on effect to what happens regarding leisure. I am asking for acknowledgement of that from inside the system. The system does not allow for formal opposition, but it must allow for people to have opposing views and for those views to be recognised and acknowledged.

The Chairperson:

OK.

Mr McNarry:

I am glad that you said OK. Thank you.

The Chairperson:

There is not a lot wrong with what you have said, David. The Committee is not just nodding in assent to everything that is going on. However, sometimes you come across in that way, David.

One of the strategic priorities in the draft Programme for Government is the promotion of tolerance, inclusion and health and well-being. Pat Ramsey has already mentioned that. One of the targets is to host at least 10 countries at training camps for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Are members content with that target, or is it lacking in detail?

Mr McCausland:

If we are talking about promoting tolerance and inclusion; then that target is soft and easy. Tolerance and inclusion, particularly in sport, is not about hosting the Uzbekistan second eleven; it should be about addressing sectarianism in sport. I do not want to offend anyone, but the political nature of the GAA must be addressed at some point.

That issue and sectarianism in general must be dealt with. To tell us that we are bringing a team to Northern Ireland from somewhere else is just ridiculous.

Mr Brolly:

Mr McCausland was present at the GAA’s presentation to the Committee and read its submission. He saw that the work that the GAA has done is over and above that of any other organisation, although credit must be given to the IFA. The GAA is doing massive work to get rid of intolerance and promote inclusion. It is doing practical work here in Belfast, for example.

Mr McCausland:

A practical step would be to change its constitution and take politics out of the organisation.

Mr Brolly:

The GAA is an organisation that —

The Chairperson:

Mr Shannon has the floor on this occasion, Mr Brolly.

Mr Brolly:

I want to make one more point before I finish. Sinn Féin held an historic meeting with the IFA — the first time that my party had ever met that organisation. It was a terrific meeting.

Mr McNarry:

Is that how FIFA’s proposal came about? [Laughter.]

Mr Brolly:

FIFA’s proposal came about before that.

The Chairperson:

I would like Jim Shannon to speak — he will bring clarity and wisdom to the discussion.

Mr Shannon:

It is not often that one gets that chance to get involved in such a conversation. However, that is not why I have raised my hand.

The Chairperson:

One must rise above it, Jim.

Mr Shannon:

The proposal to host the teams of 10 countries has been mentioned. Information is needed on those 10 countries. Perhaps, they are not renowned for their record on human rights, pursuit of gender equality, and so on. We do not know those details. More information on the countries is needed before the Committee can have a clear idea of what should happen.

The Chairperson:

More detail is required.

Mr P Ramsey:

My point is on the same issue. Basically, the targets are aspirations. Training facilities cannot be provided for those teams if there are no centres of excellence. Efforts are being made. However, the approach is more regional than departmental. For example, Derry, with its London connection, is clearly aiming to bring teams over.

Members have referred to marketing and tourism. Will every country that participates in the 2012 Olympics get a marketing package from Northern Ireland to encourage its team to come here and see our quality of life? That is a simple question. Is anybody doing that? I believe that the Northern Ireland Judo Federation hopes to host one or two of the 10 teams that have been referred to; it has certainly been considering doing so. The federation came to Derry in preparation for the Commonwealth Games and therefore knows the quality of life and facilities there. However, I am not aware that any other city is being marketed as well as Derry, which, to be quite honest, is not being marketed that well.

The Chairperson:

Another key goal is to increase the number of children and young people who participate in sport and physical recreation by 2011 to 125,000 and for at least a third of disabled people to participate in sport by 2013. Does anyone have any questions on that?

Mr P Ramsey:

Where is the evidence that that will happen?

Mr Shannon:

Would it not be better for the Department to indicate that it will have reached a certain figure by 2009, and reached another figure by 2010? In other words, the Department would tick the boxes as it meets certain milestones, which would provide an indication of how it eventually managed to achieve its overall target. It is all very well to have aspirations: I want to see figures and a timetable showing how those figures will be achieved. Indeed, I want to know how the Department will judge that those figures have been achieved. Its opinion of achievement may not necessarily match what is happening at ground level. Therefore, there needs to be some indication of how the Department will measure its progress.

The Chairperson:

There must be measurable targets.

Mr K Robinson:

If one considers the target of getting 125,000 children and young people involved in physical activity, it begs the question as to what they have been doing during their school careers and why they have not engaged in such activity as part of the curriculum.

The Chairperson:

There has been underinvestment in sport in the primary-school sector in particular.

Mr K Robinson:

The Department is picking up the tab for another Department, which should have provided that as a core facility, more or less.

Mr McNarry:

This morning, on Radio 5 Live, a parent reported that her son is not allowed to take a ball to school. He has to get a training ball from the school and is allowed just one hour each week to play with it. The reasons for that are bureaucracy and lack of facilities.

I agree that the targets are wonderful aspirations. However, does Northern Ireland have the facilities to host 10 teams? Does it have the facilities to cater for 125,000 children and young people? Crucially, does it have the facilities to cope with the additional needs of a third of disabled people?

We need to go back to what Jim Shannon said about targets for 2009. However, in order to do that, we will need trainers, coaches and facilities in place. Where is the money coming from?

The Chairperson:

Can we have a final comment from you, Mr Ramsey?

Mr P Ramsey:

It is clear from the evidence we have received that no money will be available for capital projects and communities in the next three years for sport. How can targets be achieved when no money is being spent on creating the necessary infrastructure?

The Chairperson:

Edgar Jardine and Mick Cory, who are senior officials in the Department and are known to us all, can attend the meeting. They are fully versed on the Northern Ireland Events Company. Is the Committee content that it understands that the Minister is otherwise engaged and that it will deal instead with Edgar Jardine and Mick Cory? They will be here in about 30 minutes.

Members indicated assent.

The Chairperson:

There is no reference to the role of inland fishing in the key priority to protect and enhance our environment and natural resources. A member may seek to have that included.

Mr K Robinson:

I wish to see inland fishing included. It is a vital tourist industry asset that must be developed and protected. It is sitting there, and all we have to do so use a wee bit of nous to take it forward.

Mr Shannon:

Absolutely. We had a presentation a few weeks ago from ADSEA, which referred to a project with the potential to generate £6 million for tourism and the possibility of 250 jobs. That is one example, and there are others throughout the Province. Fishing is a growing sport in the United Kingdom. Many people from Northern Ireland go to the Republic to take advantage of the fishing facilities there. We have equally good facilities here and they should be utilised.

Inland fishing has the potential for growth, potential for the economy and the potential for creating jobs. We should put down a marker on that.

Mr McCarthy:

This would be an ideal opportunity to introduce an independent environmental protection agency.

Mr McNarry:

We should send that request to the Committee for the Environment.

Mr McCarthy:

We want to protect and enhance our environment.

Mr McNarry:

I do not disagree with you, Kieran.

The Chairperson:

One of the targets is to invest £110 million in our sports facilities by 2011, thereby ensuring a lasting legacy from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Mr P Ramsey:

We need to qualify that £110 million.

Mr McNarry:

This is soft stuff. I agree that it is a target. However, the politics involved have not been resolved. If the Committee is being asked if it is content with the target of £110 million, the answer would be yes. However, if we are being asked about how the money would be used, we would have to say that we have not reached any conclusions. The Committee must equivocate on this one.

Mr P Ramsey:

The figures are not clear, and that is the problem. The figure of £110 million has been mentioned. However, how much of it will be lottery money; how much of it will be community sports money, and how much of it will be from the safer stadium work? If the Department were investing money in modernisation programmes for the GAA and rugby, one would imagine that those sports would want to see capital investment to ensure the delivery of those programmes. There must be a geographical balance in the distribution of the capital money across Northern Ireland.

Mr Shannon:

The £110 million is a grand sum of money and it lightens our hearts. However, how will it be spent? Will it be spread geographically, and, if so, how will that happen? Although targets have been mentioned, the Committee should be given some idea of what projects the money will be spent on and whether it will cover a lot of sports or something more specific. There is the opportunity to do something really good with the £110 million.

Mr Brolly:

It could be spent on the stadium.

Mr Shannon:

The stadium is not going to happen, and you know it.

Mr P Ramsey:

Chairperson, may we have some clarification on whether the £110 million contains previously ring-fenced money?

The Chairperson:

I want to refer members to the targets for the delivery of modern, high quality and efficient public services. I shall presume that we are content with the target for the establishment of a library authority by 2009?

Members indicated assent.

Mr McCarthy:

Will it happen?

The Chairperson:

We shall move on to the draft public service agreements (PSAs). The Department has signed up to eight PSAs. We will go through each of them and obtain members’ views. Under PSA 4, the Department is listed as having a role in supporting the development of rural businesses. Are members content that the actions required of the Department to carry out that role are clear and defined?

Mr McCausland:

I am not clear as to what the actions are. The objective of PSA 4 is to support the development of rural businesses. The actions required under PSA 4, objective 1, are to:

“Deliver business development measures through the NI Rural Development Programme 2007-13, the Fisheries Programme and the DARD education programme.”

Where does the Department of Culture, Art and Leisure fit into that? What is it going to do and what is it going to deliver?

Mr Shannon:

It is going to milk cows, I think.

The Chairperson:

Are we saying that the Department’s role is unclear?

Mr McCausland:

Yes.

The Chairperson:

We are awaiting answers to questions of that nature that were posed last week.

Mr McCausland:

Are the answers going to be emailed to us this afternoon? If they are posted out, we might not get them until Monday. If we are dealing with these matters at the beginning of next week it will be difficult to gather one’s thoughts.

The Chairperson:

The answers will be forwarded to members today; if they are received today.

Mr McCausland:

Perhaps they could be scanned and emailed.

The Chairperson:

OK.

Mr P Ramsey:

We will need them before the debate on Monday.

Mr McNarry:

Are these matters being considered by the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development also?

The Chairperson:

I imagine so.

Mr McNarry:

Can we find out what their response is?

Mr K Robinson:

I want to return to your comments about inland fishing, Chairperson. The fisheries programme is included under the actions required in PSA 4, but there is no mention of it in the related targets.

The Chairperson:

That is a good point.

Are members content with the target set out in PSA 5?

Mr McCausland:

The target set for the Department in PSA 5 is to:

“Deliver £229 million capital investment by 31 March 2011 in the Northern Ireland Culture, Arts and Leisure infrastructure through a programme of arts, sports, museums, libraries and PRONI capital projects.”

All that we are actually doing is putting money into buildings. That might mean, for example, handing money over for the purpose of setting up a new museum. The Department should take the initiative and be innovative and creative on tourism. I made the point earlier that there is no “joined-upness” between the two Departments.

The Chairperson:

If there are no other comments on PSA 5 we shall move on. PSA 6 relates to children and family.

Mr McNarry:

PSA 6 directs the Department to “Re-establish the Ministerial Sub-Committee on Children”. Do we have any idea when that subcommittee should be re-established, what its remit should be, when it should report, and who should sit on it?

The Chairperson:

The other target is:

“By 2011 to have 125,000 children participating in sport and physical recreation.”

Mr P Ramsey:

The Department previously administered money for children and young people through the creative learning project, which I mentioned last week. It funded the Nerve Centre and its Belfast counterpart. Can we determine how much money is in the draft departmental budget to deliver a strategy for children and young people?

The Chairperson:

We can certainly ask for that.

Mr McCausland:

The role of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure is to improve the outcomes and life chances of young people by encouraging them to participate in sport and physical recreation. Why are we not encouraging children to participate in arts and culture?

The Chairperson:

That issue will be included in our response.

Mr McNarry:

Shall we promote that issue on Monday? Are the Clerks aware of that?

The Chairperson:

Yes, and we should definitely highlight it on Monday.

Mr McCausland:

Many young people play in bands and take part in Irish dancing, highland dancing and other things.

The Chairperson:

PSA 8 relates to promoting health and addressing health inequalities. One of its targets is to halt the decline in adult participation in sport and physical recreation by 2011. Are members content? The target is quite negative in the way in which it has been framed.

Mr P Ramsey:

How much money has been allocated in the departmental budget to deliver that target?

Mr McNarry:

How much money has been allocated in the health budget to deliver that target? That is the big issue. There is a dual role here. Presumably, halting the decline in adult participation in sport and physical recreation also relates to obesity and mental health.

Mr Shannon:

I would like to go back to PSA 5, which relates to tourism. I suspect that the Department will try to build a relationship with local councils to try to increase the numbers of tourists visiting the Province. PSA 5 also mentions sustainable competitiveness and entrepreneurship of the tourism industry. Those are grand statements. What strategy will the Department adopt, and how will that intertwine with local councils, local organisations, the Tourist Board, sporting organisations and other bodies? We have used the word “aspirational” many times, but I would like to see a bit more meat on the bones.

Mr McNarry:

That sounds like a party manifesto. I will not name the party — I would not do that.

The Chairperson:

PSA 9 relates to promoting access to culture, arts and leisure. This is a substantial PSA for the Department, and has many targets.

Mr P Ramsey:

There are many targets, but how much money will the Department have to deliver them? Are there community targets? Are there targets to deliver the new library service? Who will deliver them? Who will have the money to deliver them?

Mr K Robinson:

It is interesting to note that the sale of permits in the public angling estate will be increased. Therefore, if someone turns up and finds out that we have inland fisheries, they will be charged for using them.

Mr D Bradley:

The action associated with PSA 9, objective 3, is to deliver a reformed, modernised, effective and accountable library service. During our discussions with the Department, we raised concerns about the lack of local accountability. We must find out how it intends to achieve that accountability in the library service, because I do not think that it has been outlined clearly to the Committee.

The Chairperson:

PSA 10 refers to helping our children and young people to achieve through education. The Department is listed as having responsibility for implementing a literacy and numeracy strategy and a school improvement policy. Are members content with that target?

Mr McNarry:

What is the Department’s role?

Mr K Robinson:

Is it “One, two, three, go?”

Mr P Ramsey:

The reference is only to children and young people. One in four adults in Northern Ireland has literacy and numeracy problems. What is the Department intending to do about that?

The Chairperson:

David McNarry is asking what the Department’s responsibility is in the matter.

Mr McNarry:

This is about a school improvement policy.

Mr P Ramsey:

Would it relate to the library provision?

Mr McNarry:

I do not know. I picked up on the word responsibility, which is the definition of a role. The Department is to have a responsibility in this, but I would like to know what that responsibility is.

Mr Shannon:

PSA 10, objective 4 is:

“To maximise high-quality Irish-medium provision for those children whose parents wish it.”

What is the Department’s role in that? The associated action refers to a thriving Irish-medium sector. Is there such a thing? My question is why we have we been asked for our comments on that?

The Chairperson:

We are being asked about the specific elements that affect the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.

Mr Shannon:

Would that be in connection with libraries?

The Chairperson:

It would be in connection with anything that is Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure oriented.

Mr Brolly:

The only target of interest to us is on museums, which is:

“To attract at least 98,000 visitors per annum to organised educational visits at National Museums by 2009.”

Mr McNarry:

It is new to me that the Department has a responsibility in this PSA. Three Departments: the Department of Education; OFMDFM, and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety share the responsibility for objective 1. Three Departments: the Department of Education; the Department for Employment and Learning, and the Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure are responsible for objective 2, and the Department of Education is responsible for objectives 3 and 4. I do not know what the scope is, or what those Departments will be doing. The Committee should know those things before it can say that it is content.

Mr D Bradley:

Perhaps there should be specific mention of the literacy and numeracy strategy and the role of the library service in the targets.

The Chairperson:

I refer Members to PSA 12 on page, which relates to housing, urban regeneration and community development. DCAL is listed as having a responsibility in promoting town and city centres. Are members content with that target?

Mr P Ramsey:

Does that mean that we will work with DSD to ensure that any housing development has a playground and sporting provision? What is the Committee’s role?

The Chairperson:

Why do you think DCAL would have a role in those areas, Pat?

Mr P Ramsey:

DCAL has a role to play in providing and encouraging the use of any recreational facilities. The Committee should deliberate more on that matter to ensure that any housing, social or otherwise, has such facilities. We have seen the failures of the past and the social problems that were created by lack of provision of the necessary services or infrastructure in housing areas.

The Chairperson:

That is a legitimate point and question.

I refer members to PSA 22, which relates to protecting our environment and reducing our carbon footprint. Again, DCAL is listed as having a responsibility for improving the quality of the water environment.

Mr McCarthy:

There is no mention of an independent environmental protection agency. The Executive seem to be shying away from that agency, despite the fact that the Assembly voted for it.

Mr P Ramsey:

Well, you have asked for it, so there you go.

The Chairperson:

We can rely on you, Kieran, to keep reminding us about that.

I will move on to the draft investment strategy, which is at tab 12 of the Committee’s papers. We will be talking about the alignment of the investment strategy with the Programme for Government. I refer members to page 2 of the investment strategy. The cross-cutting objectives of the investment strategy are economic, societal and environmental. Are members content that those objectives are aligned with the Programme for Government’s aim of building a fair and prosperous society?

Mr McNarry:

I want to raise an objection and ask a question. This strategy used to be called the investment strategy for Northern Ireland (ISNI); now it is just called the investment strategy (IS). For some reason the words “Northern Ireland” have been dropped. I object to that, and I would like the Executive to tell me why they have done that. I find it offensive.

The Chairperson:

What if there was a difference of opinion on that among Committee members? Should that become a Committee position or an individual position?

Mr McNarry:

I am only establishing my entitlement to raise an issue and ask a question.

The Chairperson:

Do you want the Committee to do anything about it?

Mr McNarry:

Well, I do not know why the Executive have dropped the words “Northern Ireland” from the title. Until I know that, I cannot comment on it. I am sure that Committee members would not deny me the right to ask the question.

The Chairperson:

Will you pursue that as an individual, David?

Mr McNarry:

I am not doing it in the debate. I am just raising that legitimate point to the Committee. The Committee is being asked to talk about “IS”, but I would rather talk about “ISNI”.

Mr Shannon:

ISNI sounds very Ulster Scots — isnae, cannae, will ye and did ye.

Mr Brolly:

Mr Chairman, I respect the fact that that is for internal debate. Adding the “NI” seems superfluous. Everyone knows that that is where we are talking about.

Mr McNarry:

That is a declaration that you are making, Francie. It is very welcome.

The Chairperson:

Presumably, David, you are not rejecting the money that Brian Cowen is putting into infrastructure in the north-west. That is me being very provocative.

Mr McNarry:

I have noticed that he is putting in money there, and he is being biased because he neglects the rest of Northern Ireland, where unionists are in the majority. I am sure that you are glad that you asked me that question.

The Chairperson:

Delighted.

Mr D Bradley:

Considering the Committee’s title, should we be arguing for a reference to culture in those three cross-cutting objectives, or for the addition of a fourth objective?

The Chairperson:

You have brought us back to our core purpose, Dominic. Thank you for that. Go raibh maith agat as sin.

Let us move on to consider investment pillars 2008-11. I refer Members to pages 6 and 14 of the investment strategy. Under the “skills” investment pillar, DCAL has been allocated £31 million for libraries over the next three years. The goal is the:

“modernisation of libraries in our cities and key towns”.

The key milestone is:

“a new Belfast Central Library by 2015.”

The Chairperson:

That will please Wallace or perhaps he would like it brought forward.

Mr McNarry:

We should repeat Pat’s view on a number of those issues: we do not know. We do not even know if there is a business plan for the single authority. This is the organisation that has a chief executive appointing people to a body that is not even established. I cannot be content with that. It is unfinished business. The Department is dragging its feet on this, and by 2009, it will have to move quickly.

The Chairperson:

I refer members to pages 6 and 20 of the investment strategy. Under the “social” investment pillar, DCAL has been allocated £201 million for culture, arts and sport for the next three years. The goal is:

“elite facilities for sport, linking with the London Olympics in 2012”,

and the key milestone is:

“completion of a new 50m swimming pool in time for the Olympics in 2012.”

Are Members content with that amount of money? Is it a sufficient capital investment in culture, arts and sport? Are they content with the key goal and key milestone?

Mr P Ramsey:

Once again, we need a complete breakdown of where the money is to be spent.

The Chairperson:

We will ask for more detail and a further breakdown.

Mr McNarry:

We have asked for information on elite facilities. The Department has changed its mind on that; it has reduced provision of elite facilities. We discussed that at the last meeting. Will that information be forthcoming?

The Chairperson:

Are you making a point, or asking a question?

Mr McNarry:

We have made the point; but it is not addressed here. We were not content with that, and we had a significant discussion on the position of elite facilities.

The Chairperson:

We will reflect that in our response.

Mr McCarthy:

I agree with that. I understand that a statement was made committing money to that; but in a recent reply that was not the case. We are talking about £53 million. I support what David says.

Mr P Ramsey:

Under one of the headings that we looked at earlier, it referred to £812 million of capital. Now we are referring to £201 million.

The Chairperson:

We must conclude this discussion quickly. I refer members to pages 27 and 28 of the investment strategy. Are members content that arrangements are adequate for delivery of the strategy? Have members any comments to make on the issue? Are members content that the information provided is adequate?

Some Members:

No.

Mr P Ramsey:

The question we should ask is: are other Departments dependent upon the sale of land to deliver their programmes?

The Chairperson:

That is the question, and it is recorded and noted. I would like to thank members for their help in working through that.

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