Like many people, I watched with mixed emotions the events that brought us to the scenario in which a regulation has to be brought before the Assembly without having gone through the proper mechanisms: being brought before the Executive and scrutinised by the Committee. I realise that the Finance Minister and Minister for Communities would rather resort to party politicking and using some of the most vulnerable as an opportunity for one-upmanship. Whilst they were going on social media — Twitter — and 'The View', trying to get one up on each other, I was liaising and dealing with constituents who had major concerns and fears that they would have to choose between heating their home, feeding themselves or paying the bedroom tax.
It is also important to point out and contextualise why we need the bedroom tax. It is because successive DUP Ministers did not — I repeat, did not — build enough social housing to be able to meet the needs of those who wished to downsize. I deal daily with constituents who have attempted to downsize. The housing selection scheme makes no provision for them to do so. Yes, they will perhaps receive underoccupancy points, but they will not receive enough points to compete with waiting lists continually spiralling out of control. It is important to point out that, whilst the DUP tries continually to say that it is protecting the most vulnerable, it has done nothing: it has not built enough social housing over the years. That is fact — it is clear fact. The Minister came to the House and said that he would build 9,600 houses. We hope to see that.
The Ulster Unionist Party firmly supports the regulations because it believes that the most vulnerable should be protected. Whilst the Minister was, again, politicking on social media, we were liaising through other channels. We did not have to go out and politic: we were liaising with Westminster and the Housing Executive to ensure that the most vulnerable would not be impacted by the bedroom tax. We did not go out and politic —