Belfast Telegraph

Reform debate 'parked until poll'

Further debate on welfare reform is unlikely to take place until after the General Election, the Northern Ireland Assembly has been told.

Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey said the controversial issue had effectively been parked, despite costing the region around £2 million a week.

He said: "I think we need to face up to the reality.

"It is highly unlikely that we are going to get any further meaningful discussion on this issue of welfare until we have our national election on May 7 to the national parliament."

Mr Storey was speaking during Question Time at the Assembly.

Stormont was plunged into crisis last month when Sinn Fein withdrew its support for welfare reforms, accusing the DUP of acting in bad faith.

Mr Storey added: "The voters of Northern Ireland need to keep in mind that there was one party who pulled the rug from under our feet and left us in a situation where now Northern Ireland is losing £2 million per week in relation to the block grant."

Meanwhile, the minister also claimed there would not be a huge difference in terms of the implementation of welfare reform if a Labour government was returned.

"Having had discussions with the Labour Party just last week when they were in Northern Ireland, I don't get any sense that there would be huge differential between what is the current construct of welfare reform," he added.

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