Budget Bill: Second Stage

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 6:45 pm on 9th February 2016.

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Photo of Ian McCrea Ian McCrea DUP 6:45 pm, 9th February 2016

I am saying that it is fair enough for the SDLP to believe and state that that is why it believes that this is a bad Budget. No one is even suggesting that not having a longer period to scrutinise Budgets is the best way forward. The reality is that we are debating the Budget today, and there is no point in a party, just because it wants to be seen to be opposing the Budget, whining that it has not had the opportunity to properly scrutinise it. It really is time for the SDLP to either put up or shut up on those matters.

I have a number of issues from a constituency perspective. Whilst I have mentioned some of them in previous debates, it is important to again put on record the £130 million that the Budget provides for the Minister for Regional Development to deliver the Randalstown to Castledawson dualling. That project is long overdue. Whilst there are some difficulties with land — and I know that work is ongoing in dealing with the landowners — it is, all in all, a long overdue project, and hopefully it will deal with the large volume of traffic that travels that way on a daily basis, especially in the morning. For many years, the residents who live along that road have had difficulties. Whilst other Members and colleagues of mine will demand that the rest of the road up to Dungiven is delivered, I think that the announcement made is very good and very welcome. That is on top of the around £35 million that was allocated previously for the Magherafelt bypass, the work on which is ongoing. These are certainly good news stories for my constituency.

Yesterday, the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party continued on his hobby horse of attacking the social investment fund. I was delighted that the Minister was able to outline that £58 million had been committed for social investment fund projects. A total of £1·4 million of that is in my constituency, and has been committed, and I have spoken to those who are working through the process and are trying, at this stage, to get contractors put in place. Anyone whom I have spoken to about this has said that this is a good news story and that they are certainly glad to see it coming.

I certainly will not take the negativity from Mr Nesbitt about the social investment fund, and I have no apology to make for ensuring that, when it was being discussed, I made representations to the First Minister. I am glad that the Executive have agreed to widen it. This is a good news story not just for my constituency but for the whole of Northern Ireland. Those who continually snipe from the sidelines should remember the impact that it will have on our communities.

The Department of Education's minor works project has been a good scheme to allow schools to benefit from minor capital works funding. In my constituency, a number of schools have benefited, so I hope that that funding will continue. Mind you, I have a list of schools that probably need new builds. I had the Chair of the Education Committee in my constituency recently to see some of the needs. I hope that more capital money is put into the education budget.

With corporation tax, it is great to see that the Chair of the Finance and Personnel Committee is now coming over to this way of thinking and referring to the fair deal. I said to one of my colleagues that he could change his name back to David and maybe join, but we will maybe not go that far.


Nonetheless, it is a good news story for Northern Ireland. As APS to the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, I know full well the efforts that have been put into delivering corporation tax and the debates on trying to get a date and set the rate. Many are calling it a game-changer, but what we have in reality are the levers for Invest NI to travel across the world selling Northern Ireland as a place that is open for business.

Those who oppose the Budget will, no doubt, take credit for being part of an Executive that have delivered those financial levers. I, for one, make no apology for supporting the Budget. The Minister has done an excellent job in the short time that he has been in post to bring forward the Budget — as did his predecessor. This is a good Budget and something that the House should support.