COVID-19 Guidance and Financial Support to Industry Sectors

Part of Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:45 pm on 7th July 2020.

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Photo of Liz Kimmins Liz Kimmins Sinn Féin 12:45 pm, 7th July 2020

I had a prepared speech, but a lot of the points have been covered. I do not want to go over old ground when a majority of us are on the same page. It is important to clarify that — to follow on from Mr Muir's comments — we are not asking the Minister to hand out the money. With her responsibility for transport policy, we are asking her to lead on these issues, provide clear guidance and bring proposals to the right people.

I cannot go on without mentioning Mrs Kelly's comments. It is quite unfair to say that the only complaints from taxi drivers are from those in north and west Belfast. That is not the case in my constituency. I ask her to reflect on that later. Why would that be an issue, if it were the case? What was the implication there? I am under the impression that all taxi drivers are entitled to raise their concerns. Whether they are from north Belfast, west Belfast, Newry, Strabane or wherever, they are all entitled to raise their concerns.

Others have mentioned taxi drivers and private bus operators. I want to focus on the hauliers and pick up some of the points about driving instructors. I have engaged locally with hauliers in my constituency, some of whom have vehicles haemorrhaging money — haemorrhaging money. Hundreds of vehicles parked up every week, and no support in place. These are some of the key providers for our economy, and they have been left very much to fend for themselves. I totally appreciate that not all hauliers are in the same position, and they recognise that themselves. That is why we need to look at this and develop a bespoke response to dealing with the issue.

It is important to realise that the Economy Minister has made it very, very clear that it is not up to her to lead any intervention for the road transport industry, as this is considered under the Department for Infrastructure. That is why we are here today as a Committee: because we have responsibility for these sectors. It was important that we came together to raise the concerns because there has been toing and froing for far too long. People are just frustrated; they are fed up and they cannot see a way out of this. We are hitting Brexit right in the face now. We are less than six months away from the deadline, which is another major challenge coming down the road.