Universal Credit: Mitigation

Oral Answers to Questions — Finance – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 18th October 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Justin McNulty Justin McNulty Social Democratic and Labour Party 3:15 pm, 18th October 2021

T2. Mr McNulty asked the Minister of Finance whether he has accepted a bid from his party colleague for £55 million to mitigate the cut to universal credit, given that he will know that more than 100,000 households across the North are being impacted on by the cut. (AQT 1692/17-22)

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

I remind the Member that, when we were dealing with the issue of welfare reductions and putting forward the argument for a welfare mitigation fund, we were on our own among the Executive parties. The other four parties, including the Member's, had agreed to a process of dealing with welfare reform without mitigations. I also remind him that, when the first Budget was put together to put in the mitigation funds for welfare cuts, his party voted against that Budget. I further remind him that the proposition that he has put forward in his party's motion will create another cliff edge on this matter within a short number of months, when people will be faced with exactly the same issue.

I want to see a solution, if the Executive are willing to do it, that not only deals with the issue over the next number of months but, if the Executive want to continue on this programme and not create the cliff edge in accordance with the Member's motion, puts in the three-year Budget a programme to meet thes cost in full. In a number of years, that could go up as far as £200 million a year.

Those are calls that the Executive will have to make. I know that the Member and perhaps his party colleagues are more interested in a headline than a solution, but it is not simply a matter of my making a bid. It is about the Executive deciding whether we have the funds to continue to undo the damage that the Tories are doing to ordinary citizens across Britain and here. Scotland faces the same dilemma, as does Wales. Those are issues that the Executive are going to have to face, not only in this monitoring round but in setting the three-year Budget.

Photo of Justin McNulty Justin McNulty Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Minister for his answer. I remind him that his party handed over welfare to the Tories. I am really disappointed that the Minister and his party refuse to accept responsibility for the situation. First, they blamed the British Government, and now they are accusing the SDLP of being responsible. I am here representing families who have been left with nothing. Will he accept responsibility and reverse the cut?

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

The uplift in universal credit was brought in by the British Government. He knows that, I assume. His party failed to stop its withdrawal in Westminster, although it has lectured us about being where —.

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

If you will allow me to finish my answer —.

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

His party failed to stop —.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Order. The Minister is being asked to answer the question. Please allow him to do so. I also ask the Minister to address the House through the Chair and to keep things in order.

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

I will indeed, a LeasCheann Comhairle.

The Member's party failed to stop the cut in Westminster. It has lectured us about being where it counts, when it counts, but it did not count for the SDLP over in Westminster. It has now tried to impose the problem not on the Executive but on Sinn Féin as a political party. If the Executive, who take the decisions on the issue, want to deal with the issue of the universal credit uplift, they will need to do so on a long-term basis. Otherwise, his proposition will bring the people whom he professes to be here speaking on behalf of back to a cliff edge within a short number of months. It is a call that the Executive are going to have to make. I am happy to provide the Executive with the information and to facilitate the reduction from each Department, if that is the way in which the Executive want to go, but it is a call that they will have to make, and I will be there to support them if that is the call that they want to make.