Benefit Tribunals

Part of Northern Ireland Assembly – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 4:45 pm on 14th February 2012.

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Photo of Jim Wells Jim Wells DUP 4:45 pm, 14th February 2012

Mr Deputy Speaker, let us go back a year to this time in 2011. The then Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety was full of gloom and doom. Some Members may be old enough to remember the satirical comedy programme, ‘Up Pompeii’. One of the star characters was a soothsayer who came in regularly and told Frankie Howerd, “We’re doomed, we’re doomed; woe, woe and thrice woe”. That is exactly what we got from the former Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, who told us a year ago that there would be 4,000 compulsory redundancies, that the health service would be on chapter 11 insolvency, and that there would be massive cuts in services. Nothing could persuade him to say otherwise. We were doomed, and the health service was going to crash into a thousand pieces as a result of what many considered was, in very tight circumstances, a fairly generous settlement for that Department, courtesy of the present Minister of Finance.

Here we are, honourable Members, a year on, and we are not on chapter 11. We have not had 4,000 compulsory redundancies. Indeed, we have not had a single compulsory redundancy among the 70,000 people who work for the health service. Not a single one. The books have been balanced. That is a remarkable achievement, given the increased demands on so many sectors in the health service. It was down to the last £15 million, but that money has been found, and the budget will come in balanced for this year. That is quite a remarkable achievement by the Minister, his team and the Finance Department, who were generous when it came to monitoring round extra money and certain extra capital items. That is good news.

I note that the former Minister is not here to apologise for misleading the House. In fact, he is never here, full stop. He is never here when we are discussing important items —