Welfare reform delay 'bad' for NI - PM

Published Monday, 08 October 2012
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Prime Minister David Cameron has warned there will be bad consequences for Northern Ireland if the Welfare Reform Bill is delayed by Stormont.

The bill is due to be debated in the Assembly on Tuesday.

Sinn Féin are to bring forward a proposal to delay passing legislation that would see the region's welfare system overhauled in line with changes in the rest of the UK.

Key reform features include a universal credit to cover a range of benefits, housing benefit reforms and a personal independence payment reassessed every three years to replace Disability Living Allowance.

Speaking to UTV at the Tory Party conference in Birmingham, Mr Cameron said that delaying the proposals would have negative consequences for Northern Ireland.

People in Northern Ireland go to work, work hard, pay their taxes, and those taxes have been, where we came to power, supporting people living in London claiming housing benefits on homes that cost them £40-£60,000 a year.

David Cameron

He added: "Now how do people in Northern Ireland feel about that?

"Second point, equally important, there are people who suffer from generational unemployment," he continued.

"The work programme and welfare reform says to those people we will pay work providers serious amounts of money to help us get out of worklessness, out of poverty, and into sustainable work, so for those reasons welfare reform is good for Northern Ireland."

Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey says the Welfare Bill targets the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in society.

He said the measures being brought in by the Tory government are a direct consequence of the Assembly not having the "necessary fiscal powers".

Mr Maskey said: "We will press for fundamental changes to this Bill to ensure the maximum protections for those on benefits and in low-paid employment."

The impact of Sinn Fein's intervention will depend on support from other parties.

The DUP claims that if welfare reform changes are not implemented in the region in the next two years the Stormont executive will face a bill of over £200m.

On Monday Health Minister Edwin Poots warned that to not go ahead with the reform, which is being heralded as the biggest welfare shake-up in more than six decades, would mean millions lost from his department and ultimately would cost lives.

If we don't proceed with welfare reform and stay with parity, we will actually have longer waiting lists for hip operations. We will have longer waiting lists for people requiring heart surgery. We will have people dying as a consequence of that.

Edwin Poots

"Were we to do something completely daft and cost this Assembly in Northern Ireland £220m, that would probably cost us in this department around £100m," he told the assembly.

Speaking at the Tory Party conference in Birmingham, Chancellor George Osborne announced a further £10bn worth of UK-wide welfare cuts on Monday.

He said that the rich would be targeted to reduce the deficit through the "ruthless pursuit of tax evasion".

But he added: "It is wrong that it's possible for someone to be better off on benefits than they would be in work."

Among those likely to lose out from the welfare cuts are under-25s, who look set to be stripped of housing benefit and unemployed parents, who may face reductions in the amounts of support they get for additional children.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg signalled that Tories will face resistance from Liberal Democrats within Government to the welfare cuts.

Meanwhile, Mr Cameron told UTV Northern Ireland has made a good case for corporation tax and that the Government has "good faith" in devolving powers to Northern Ireland.

He said: "There are difficult issues in devolving corporation tax to one part of the UK but I think Northern Ireland has a particularly strong case because of the land border with the Republic which has that low rate of corporation tax that's why we're in these discussions, why we're going through the details, and we're looking very carefully at how to make that work."

© UTV News
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35 Comments
Grainne in Belfast wrote (553 days ago):
As always it looks like we in NI have to bow down to the usual pressure from Downing Street. We have no choice...its not like we get a vote in the prime minister elections now is it? How is that for democracy?
Marty in Singapore wrote (554 days ago):
James in London! Sadly your crumbling empire still holds onto a part of my country, so as long as you remain I will voice my dismay at your goverments incompetence! PS I'm guessing by your thief row comments you have never been to Singapore's changi. They could show the UK a thing or 2.
Rory in Newry wrote (555 days ago):
Brian so you think the DUP and the UNIONISTS were right to back this.because of this crime will be on the increase which nobody wants.why should the poor become poorer in Northern Ireland because of this.we put these people in storment to help society not bring us to our knees.if we the people of Northern Ireland get punished should the morons we put in storment not.only last week the likes of mccauseland and Nesbit got an 11 per cent rise in their pay how's this.im glad the Protestant people who voted these people into storment condemed them for what they have agreed to.it seems Sinn Fein and the sdlp fight for the best interest of the people of this country.brian 1 in 10 people backed the move,ur one the few clowns to follow.
Brian in Strabane wrote (556 days ago):
Suits a lot of people nowadays to say there are no jobs, in the good times too these people didnt want to work because like it or not a large minority of people are simply bone idle and it pays them to lie about all day as they are better off on benefits which is wrong.Should be a time scale on how long these people can abuse the system like that, they should be made to work do training or courses to get their money. Welfare should be a bridge to employment, a temporary helping hand not a way of life. When you see news stories on the tv it always shows people in wheelchairs, blind, elderly, the people who should be targeted are the 21 - 45, hammer down on them.This Welfare Reform is vital, people are only panicking about this as it will mess up their lifestyles, maybe they might have to go out the house for a change to work instead of hanging outside of pubs and betting shops - never though I would agree with a British Tory party Policy.
Sam in Manchester wrote (556 days ago):
Scotland will be gone soon, the end of GB
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