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 Michelle McIlveen Michelle McIlveen DUP 12:15 pm, 7th July 2020

Sorry, let me continue, please.

They have no idea of when they should return to work, and they are in dire jeopardy of failing, with many job losses. In response, once again, the Minister and her Department have advised the Committee that it should look elsewhere for answers and that the Department has no remit for driving instructors and when they might return to work. That adds to the confusion that driving instruction was not specifically covered in the COVID-19 recovery plan, nor were driving instructors specifically listed in any of the schedules to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020 or in subsequent amendments. There is still no indication of when driving tests can resume; without testing, instruction is pointless. That needs to be addressed immediately.

In response to Committee questions about the coach and bus hire sector, the Minister offered little support other than continuing to take action in relation to its regulatory responsibilities and directing this sector to the general pandemic business support measures.

Other Committee members will give more specifics on the detail of the challenges, but I hope that I have given Members a sense of the abandonment felt by these sectors, which are so integral to the work and responsibilities of the Department for Infrastructure. Unfortunately, by attempting to pass her departmental responsibilities to others, the Minister has failed to be the champion the transport sector has needed during the pandemic.

I am disappointed that an amendment is proposed. Throughout the discussions in Committee, there was a unity of purpose in attempting to seek a solution to the various challenges facing these industries. These employers, breadwinners and vital cogs in our transport infrastructure feel genuine fear of debt and job loss. They are not interested in the politicking in the Chamber. They are looking for someone to lead. I hope that the House can support the motion to call on the Minister for Infrastructure to genuinely listen to the concerns and to be that person.