Got a TV Licence?

You need one to watch live TV on any channel or device, and BBC programmes on iPlayer. It’s the law.

Find out more
I don’t have a TV Licence.

Summary

  1. In the morning's Finance Committee meeting, economic experts and officials from the finance department responded to a report on the economic impact of a change to short-haul air passenger duty.
  2. OFMDFM officials also briefed the committee on Northern Ireland Civil Service recruitment.
  3. In the afternoon, MLAs in the OFMDFM Committee discussed Green MLA Steven Agnew's Children's Services Co-operation Bill.
  4. The committee heard from officials on the outcome of an inquiry into Building a United Community, an initiative to improve community relations and encourage a "more united and shared society".

Live Reporting

By Robin Sheeran and Robert Ainley

All times stated are UK

That's all for today

Mike Nesbitt adjourns the committee.

Join us again here at Stormont tomorrow morning at 10am for live coverage of the Social Development Committee.

Goodbye.

Youth groups

David McIlveen of the DUP asks what TBUC can do to support existing youth groups.

He asks about the possibility of a kind of "curriculum" for children in those groups.

"It's about tolerance, its about respect," he says.

Mrs Farrell sys it is "really important" to have applications for support from existing organisations.

'We're not all the same'

Alex Maskey
BBC

Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey says "we're not all the same, we're different, and there's nothing wrong about that".

"What kind of challenges are we putting into this?" he asks the officials.

Linsey Farrell outlines the process of "co-design" with community groups, which involves "going out with a blank page".

Indicators

Chris Lyttle
BBC

Chris Lyttle of Alliance asks whether community relations have improved in the past two years, since the TBUC strategy was published.

Mrs Farrell talks about the development of "indicators" that "align with TBUC".

Better off?

"In what ways is Northern Ireland better off because of TBUC?" asks the chairman.

Linsey Farrell says "the community has embraced that there is now a framework for action for them to align their work with".

'Disrespected'

Linsey Farrell
BBC
Linsey Farrell

Mike Nesbitt asks why the briefing papers were not supplied to the committee before "eight minutes past nine this morning".

Mrs Farrell says the "the papers were under consideration within the department".

The chairman says his committee is "entirely disrespected on a weekly basis".

Background

Together: Building a United Community is a framework produced by the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister for tackling "sectarianism, racism and other forms of intolerance".

The strategy places responsibilities on all Executive departments to foster "good relations" and "build a shared future".

Among the specific proposals is a target of bringing down all of Northern Ireland's peace walls by 2023.

The ministers also want to establish a "united youth programme", in which 10,000 people aged between 16 and 24 who are not in education, employment or training, would be given a one-year placement with a stipend.

Building a United Community

OFMDFM officials
BBC

Officials are briefing the committee on an inquiry into the Building a United Community (TBUC) strategy.

Linsey Farrell of OFMDFM outlines the findings.

Cheerleading?

David McIlveen
BBC

The DUP's David McIlveen is unconvinced that there is a need for the bill.

"There didn't really seem to be anybody who was cheerleading for this legislation", he says, referring to evidence presented to the committee.

Children's Bill

Steven Agnew
BBC
Steven Agnew, Green Party MLA

Committee members are discussing the

Children's Services Co-operation Bill.

Green MLA Steven Agnew's private member's bill would require Executive departments to co-operate with one another to achieve better outcomes relating to the wellbeing of children and young people.

In the chair

Mike Nesbitt
BBC

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt is chairing the meeting.

Starting soon

This afternoon we have live coverage of a meeting of the Committee for the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister.

On the agenda is a briefing by OFMDFM officials on the inquiry into Building a United Community.

Committee adjourned

Daithi McKay brings the meeting to a close.

Join us after lunch for the OFMDFM Committee, from around 2.15pm when MLAs are discussing Green MLA Steven Agnew's private member's bill, the Children's Services Co-operation Bill and hearing from the department on the Building a United Community initiative.

Losing experience

Leslie Cree asks whether the civil service voluntary exit scheme risks losing experienced staff if there is "a large number of people tramping out at the top end".

"It won't result in a large swathe of people going out at the top end," says Mr Goodfellow, "each department has said to us - here is the optimum number of people at each grade we need to leave. It has been carefully profiled by each department".

Best practice

Mark Goodfellow
BBC

Mark Goodfellow from the Finance Department talks about the difficulty in proving "causality" in the differing levels of application success between various groups - age, gender, disability, religious or cultural backgrounds, etc.

He says the authors of the report found the NI Civil Service approach "conforms to best practice".

They also produced 11 recommendations to address "adverse impact" in recruitment.

Recruitment equality

Officials prepare to brief the committee
BBC

Finance officials and a representative of NISRA (Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency) are briefing MLAs on equality concerns in Civil Service recruitment.

'Not competing?'

Leslie Cree
BBC

Leslie Cree of the UUP says the Executive is not trying to compete with the Republic of Ireland and are accepting they are "the poor relation".

John Simms disagrees. "That's not the case at all. Dublin is a challenge. It's an opportunity. We get a lot of our via traffic, a lot of our American visitors, for example from Dublin," he says.

'Lost revenue?'

Paul Girvan
BBC

DUP MLA Paul Girvan says Northern Ireland is unique in the UK, as it is the only region where travellers can simply drive across a border to avoid paying APD.

Research should be done, he says, into the revenue lost from people opting to fly out of Dublin instead of Belfast for that reason.

No regional break-down

Mr Simms says the UK tax system does not break down the revenue from APD from each region.

He says it would be difficult to extrapolate the figure for Northern Ireland from the overall total, as the passenger profile here is different - with a greater proportion of budget flights and fewer long-haul journeys.

'Barrier to growth?'

Mairtin O Muilleoir
BBC

Sinn Fein's Mairtin O Muilleoir asks about the development of Belfast International Airport and whether ADP is a barrier to economic growth.

John Simms says the airport has been "pro-active" in increasing the routes offered by airlines, and has had particular success in northern Europe.

Addressing APD, he continues: "as the report says, if we didn't have to pay for the tax, you would have a 12% increase in passenger numbers and an extra £55-60m in the economy".

But, as the the duty goes directly to central government, he says the tax foregone by HM Treasury if it was cut or scrapped would be paid out of the Northern Ireland block grant.

Increased outbound travel

Gareth Hetherington says the analysis by Ulster University suggests cutting APD would encourage greater outbound leisure travel as holiday makers tend to be more "price-sensitive" than business travellers.

"Therefore, the notion that reducing or abolishing APD would create significant numbers of new links or new destinations to business cities is less likely," he says.

'Challenge, or opportunity?'

John Simms
BBC

Enterprise Department official John Simms says the aviation environment is a lot more competitive since the "budget airline boom", which presents a challenge but also an opportunity to persuade airlines to operate routes from Northern Ireland.

There are definite economic advantages to cutting air passenger duty, he says, but "if it comes out of the Northern Ireland block, the cost more or less offsets the benefits".

Costs and benefits

Gareth Hetherington
BBC

Economic expert Gareth Hetherington, from Ulster University's Economic Policy Centre talks about the costs and benefits of devolving APD.

He says that if it was halved, around 230,000 passengers who would normally use Dublin Airport would opt instead for one of Northern Ireland's airports, while abolition would increase that figure to around 330,000.

'Tax cut?'

Tony Simpson
BBC

Tony Simpson from the Finance Department makes an opening statement.

He says a study of the potential impact of cutting air passenger duty (APD) on short haul flights, by Ulster University, concluded there was "not a strong argument for the devolution of ADP".

It would "essentially be funding a tax cut" for people who would travel to or from Northern Ireland regardless, he says, adding that devolving the levy would carry a high cost on the Northern Ireland block grant.

And they're off!

Daithi McKay
BBC

Chairman Daithi McKay of Sinn Fein opens the meeting.

The first item of business is a briefing from economics experts and officials from the Finance Department on air passenger duty.

Any minute now...

The committee meeting is a bit late in starting this morning, but should begin shortly.

Good Morning

Hello and welcome to our coverage of this morning's Finance Committee meeting.

On this beautiful, sunny day MLAs will be hearing about the impact of air passenger duty on short haul flights.

They are also considering rates for online businesses and civil service recruitment.