COVID-19 Guidance and Financial Support to Industry Sectors

Part of Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:15 pm on 7th July 2020.

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Photo of Cathal Boylan Cathal Boylan Sinn Féin 12:15 pm, 7th July 2020

Ba mhaith liom labhairt ar son an rúin seo. I am in favour of and welcome the motion.

This is like everything else: the Member will take an intervention from Members from other parties but will not take one from mine.

The Member said that people should step up in a pandemic, and that is exactly what this is about. A lot of other Ministers across the board did not have the vires to do things but stepped up and came up with plans and ideas. The Member is engaging in a rearguard action to protect her Minister. This was discussed in Committee. A lot of Members who, funnily enough, will maybe support your amendment were content in the Committee system to speak out and were happy with some of the responses that we got. Still and all, today, when they get up to speak, they go against what they said in Committee. Mr Beggs supported Mr Murphy in Committee when he talked on this Floor about bringing forward proposals to the Executive — he mentioned the Committee — and other Members said other things, and they were content for that to happen.

The whole point of it was this: we were saying to the Minister, "Bring forward proposals, and we, as a Committee, will support you". We are not the ones who were ding-donging across Ministers. The Minister sits there with a database of taxi licences and all the licences across the board, but all that we were saying at the time was, "Put that on a bit of paper. Bring it to the Executive, and then we shall discuss it". The industry out there looks to the Infrastructure Minister; they do not look to the Economy or Finance Ministers or to the Executive. I appreciate what Mr Allister says about a certain package of money, but, if you talk to taxi drivers or bus operators, you will find that they look towards the Minister for Infrastructure as their Minister. All the Committee was saying to the Minister was this: "Bring forward a proposal. We will support you in working with other Ministers on a package".

I agree with Mrs Kelly that there are some people who have been —.

[Interruption.]

I apologise, Mr Principal Deputy Speaker. I agree that some sectors of the industry were facilitated in some of the schemes, but I asked the Finance Minister about this, and he said that proposals were not brought forward and that, if they were, the Executive would discuss them and make a decision. I asked the Infrastructure Minister to work with the Economy Minister to bring forward proposals, but they were ding-donging between them about whose responsibility it was. I have received two letters from the Economy Minister saying that the remit lies in DFI. That is not what the motion is about. The motion says that the majority on the Committee would support proposals being brought to the Executive, and that is still our position on it.

I had a whole speech prepared, but Members have already brought up a number of the issues. Mrs Kelly said that only certain sectors of the taxi industry got it hard, but I know people in my constituency got and are getting it very hard and applied for some scheme but did not get anything. The real discussion point in all this is that we are in a pandemic, and all that we are saying is that, if people are really going to step up, let them step up. I want to bring one thing to the Minister's attention, because Mrs Kelly was praising her glories. The Minister found the time for the airports — I need to find it in my notes — and to work on them. In her own words:

"While my powers are limited on airports, working with colleagues and the Department for Transport, I have been able to secure this unique payment to support the airports at this difficult time. It is this type of collaborative working that will get us through this crisis and our recovery from it."

I could not agree more, Minister. Sorry, I should speak through you, Mr Principal Deputy Speaker. All that we say is that the Minister should bring proposals and use the data on the database. It may be the case that working with data across Departments is needed — I cannot say that it is not a cross-cutting measure — and I do not disagree with that. The Minister should bring proposals. We in the Committee will support her, and it will be an Executive decision. That is what the motion is about. Mrs Kelly to say that past motions from Committees have been unanimously agreed, but the majority of people agreed this motion. Unfortunately, Mrs Kelly was not there for the discussions on it. I will support the motion and go against the amendment.