Housing Benefit (Welfare Supplementary Payment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2017

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:30 pm on 16th January 2017.

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Photo of Nichola Mallon Nichola Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party 12:30 pm, 16th January 2017

We are here to debate regulations for which, in all honesty, there is lack of the detail and time that is deserved, given the importance of the issue. This has been handled shambolically. Listening to the tone of debate, it was clear that, very sadly, the Minister has opted to use his contribution more as a pre-election pitch than to deal with the issues in front of us. That I find deeply disappointing.

Let us be clear: we would not be in this position if, as the SDLP had argued, mitigation of the bedroom tax was not put into legislation. We feared that this mishandling might happen and that it might fall victim to party politicking, either in the Chamber or across the water. That is why we signed a petition of concern. We had hoped, and we were told at the time, that others were going to put forward a petition of concern for exactly the same reasons. That verbal commitment was never followed up by substantial action, and so we find ourselves in this position.

Fresh Start was heralded with much fanfare. In fact, the mitigation of the bedroom tax was specifically singled out as a shining example of how the Executive were delivering for some of our most vulnerable citizens. I have to say that I have listened to statements and watched incidences unfold over several weeks and months. The political brinkmanship that has been played with our most vulnerable over the mitigation of the bedroom tax is something that I find profoundly obscene, and I do not use that term lightly.