Employment Minister Stephen Farry said that extrapolating the results of recent research into zero-hours contracts would give a figure of 28,000 people on these contracts in Northern Ireland, on 6 May 2014. The Minister said the research carried out by the Office for National Statistics showed 583,000 were employed on zero-hours contracts across the UK. Zero-hours contracts do not guarantee a minimum number of hours of employment.
Replying to a question from the Patsy McGlone MLA, The Minister defended the use of private consultants by his department. He said the department and its arms-length bodies had spent £420,000 on consultancy fees in the period May 2011 to December 2013. The minister said this was 0.02% of his department's budget and stated some people could be "somewhat cynical" about the use of consultants but each case should be considered on its merits.
Alex Maskey MLA asked the minister about his recent meeting with the Republic's education minister, Ruairi Quinn.
The Minister outlined steps being considered to address the problem of the recognition of GCE A levels by universities in the Republic. He welcomed the introduction by Dublin City University of the McAleese scholarships aimed at attracting students from Northern Ireland.