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Budget 2016-17

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 6:15 pm on 19th January 2016.

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Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 6:15 pm, 19th January 2016

Last year, we had the accusation of a fantasy Budget, and, today, we have had a series of fantasy Budgets. I am thankful that it is Mr Storey who is the Finance Minister and not the people who have been up and passing comment on the Budget that is being presented to the House, because what they have been saying is the stuff of fantasy.

The Ulster Unionists and the SDLP in particular today have produced all sorts of figures without any basis. They have been saying, "We will grab a few pounds from SIF". I know that in my constituency we are about to spend around £2 million of SIF money. That will be money well spent because we have engaged with the local community. We are working extensively with the local community on addressing educational underachievement, on tackling the problems in early years and going to the heart of those core problems. Those are problems that will exist in 20 years' time if we do not tackle them now. There are children who are being born now who will be destined for unemployment and all sorts of problems if we do not address those issues. That is what we are doing through SIF funding. That is not money that is wasted. That is not money on pet projects. That is money that is well spent and invested in our future.

I believe that our universities need to be getting more support than is currently the case, and I think that there are issues that need to be addressed. If we blindly look at the circumstances we are putting our universities in at this time without addressing the fundamentals, then we are going to send lots of young people across to England to pay high tuition fees, and we will potentially lose them from Northern Ireland. There is an issue that needs to be challenged and an issue that we all need to get our heads around and address.

I congratulate the Minister on giving additional money to Health. I congratulate him on finding additional money for policing on core front-line services, and I commend the Budget to the House. I commend the Minister and, indeed, his predecessor, for the hard work that they have done in bringing it forward.