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

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 1:00 pm on 16th January 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Stewart Dickson Stewart Dickson Alliance 1:00 pm, 16th January 2017

I want to speak briefly as a former member of the Committee that dealt with a great deal of the work around the introduction of these mitigation measures. I welcome the fact that we have the opportunity to mitigate the bedroom tax. However, for me, as this institution perhaps draws to a close and moves into a very uncertain future, one of the abiding memories will be a plague on both your houses, because the reality is that neither the Minister nor his combative colleague in the Finance Ministry, who have been arguing over this matter on the airwaves, have covered themselves in glory. What they have done is cause a great deal of anxiety and concern among those who faced into having this tax applied to them, because of the disruption and, as others said, the inability of social housing to provide appropriate accommodation.

I very much welcome these mitigation regulations. I welcome them because they need to do what they are required to do, which is to ensure that some of the most vulnerable people in our community have the appropriate benefits and money to live on without any fear of or concern about where this is taking them. However, the regulations come to the House with a very large health warning. They come, yes, with the advice and guidance of civil servants, and I have a great deal of admiration for the work that they have done in bringing them forward. However, they also come with the substantial health warning that they come to the House without the scrutiny of a Committee. As I understand it, and unless the Minister can tell us otherwise, they also come without the scrutiny of the Examiner of Statutory Rules. That is a very risky situation. However, it is also my understanding — this is why we will support the regulations — that, if anything goes awry, and I hope that it does not, with the regulations being brought into force, the responsibility for any fault lies solely and squarely with the Minister.