Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Stormont must bite bullet on welfare reform

MIKE Penning, the minister of state at work and pensions, has been putting the case recently for Stormont to get on with passing welfare reform legislation (News, November 13). And he is absolutely right.

There are two very strong reasons why ministers should agree to act immediately. Firstly, we need urgently a system which breaks dependency on benefits, combats poverty and provides fairness for the taxpayer.

Secondly, Westminster currently pays Northern Ireland's welfare bill directly, on the understanding that we share a similar set-up to the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland simply cannot afford the huge amount of money which breaking parity with the rest of the United Kingdom will cost our block grant.

The Government has, yet again, shown great sensitivity to our special circumstances by agreeing to tailor aspects of reform to Northern Ireland.

That means, for example, special provisions where it comes to the spare room subsidy. We simply cannot expect to duck making difficult decisions like this, while the rest of the UK gets on with it.

And, most importantly, we can't be left behind on welfare reform, because it simply isn't acceptable to condemn more generations here to dependency on benefits.

It's time for the Executive to show some maturity and get on with passing this legislation through the Assembly – for everyone in Northern Ireland.

TREVOR RINGLAND

Co-chair, NI Conservatives

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