Benefit Tribunals

Part of Northern Ireland Assembly – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:45 pm on 14th February 2012.

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Photo of Alban Maginness Alban Maginness Social Democratic and Labour Party 3:45 pm, 14th February 2012

I was simply answering the Member’s question, which relates very directly to budgets. My point is that it is very difficult to see the distinction between a Budget that comes directly from Westminster and a Budget that comes from the Assembly but is virtually dictated by Westminster. I get the Member’s point. I believe that there is some marginal difference.

Mr Deputy Speaker, you may rule me out of order for making my next point. Indeed, the Minister wants you to rule me out of order. He rejected the point that my good friend Margaret Ritchie made yesterday, which was this: give us more flexibility in respect of fiscal policy and give us the instruments to deal with the situation here. I think that that is a reasonable proposition, but the Minister rejected it and asked which taxes we would raise to do it. The fact is that we are looking for tax-varying powers rather than a straightforward tax rise. The point is this: if we were able to use taxes in a much more creative way here in Northern Ireland, we could do much better, because we could control our own destiny, as it were. I will move on, because I know that the Deputy Speaker is becoming a little bit impatient with me, and I do not want to incur his wrath.

There are other pressures that the Minister has not taken into consideration properly, one of which is welfare cuts. The Minister said yesterday that he felt that welfare reform may, in fact, increase the amount of money that people in Northern Ireland receive. I find that very hard to believe. I think that people here will be disadvantaged disproportionately, which will place another pressure on our people and on our economy. If we get less money in welfare benefits, the local economy will be affected. The corner shop, the supermarket and the local garage will be affected. Everybody will be affected; individuals, families and children.