There isn’t much I can say on the Welfare Reform Bill that has not already been said by Steven Agnew…
“My Party is unable to support this Bill as it stands as it is part of a wider economic strategy which we fundamentally oppose.
“We are a party formed on the principle of social justice and these so called ‘reforms’ do not deliver that for the vast majority.
“This Bill is an attack on the poor and vulnerable who are now being expected to pay for the economic mistakes of the rich.
“It is also an attack on women as it will remove fiscal responsibility from them and this takes away their freedoms, their choices and their control.
“It also demonizes people who are on benefits – the vast majority of which are legitimately in receipt of this money which is literally a lifeline for them.
“Local politicians should be fighting and defending the rights of the most vulnerable in Northern Ireland rather than putting their efforts into trying to secure tax cuts for big businesses and multinational corporations.
“The Health Minister claims that not supporting this Bill will require £200m taken from other services which will lead to “lives lost”.
“Given that his party and the wider Executive are pursuing a cut in corporation tax which will cost around £400m – how many lives will be lost then?
“Why is it that we have Ministers fighting with the Treasury for a cut in taxes for big businesses when they are not prepared to take the fight to Treasury to protect the most vulnerable in our society?
“We believe the Executive has been irresponsible in its failure to make the tough choices about tax and spend decisions.
“The Executive has frozen the regional rate, maintains a cap on rates for homes worth more than £400,000, has failed to introduce water charges and is seeking to reduce corporation tax, air passenger duty and VAT on certain items.
“Millions of pounds of the Northern Ireland budget have also been earmarked for road building projects which will be of minor benefit to the majority and re-allocating this money to those in most need in society might not necessarily be a bad thing.
“The Executive has been irresponsible in that it has introduced this Bill so close to the legislative deadline with little time for scrutiny because of disagreements as the Executive level.
“This Bill has the potential to deliver very serious detrimental impacts on the most vulnerable in society and it is for that very reason it should not be simply rushed through.”