South Down MP Margaret Ritchie (SDLP) has today called on what she described as the unworkable ‘universal credit’ programme to be abandoned.
Speaking in the House of Commons during Question Time, Ms Ritchie told the Minister of State for Northern Ireland Andrew Robathan that the programme which was designed to shake up the benefits system, was “falling apart”.
Ms Ritchie said: “The government’s welfare reform proposals, including the CAP, will hit hardest of all in Northern Ireland, and will cause a severe cost of living crisis on those already struggling most.
“It is my contention the Universal Credit project is unworkable, and is falling apart.
“Mr Robathan did not agree with me and, indeed, went on to say he looks forward to the Northern Ireland Assembly making progress on the welfare reform bill so people can look forward to greater prosperity.
“However, the SDLP has always argued that if we continue with the Welfare Reform Bill in its current form people in Northern Ireland will most definitely not enjoy greater prosperity. That is why the SDLP has consistently argued that welfare reform proposals are unworkable and unfair, and that we must negotiate harder. At an Assembly level, our spokesperson for Social Development, Dolores Kelly and other party colleagues will keep up the fight.”
Ms Ritchie questioned the Minister saying: “The Minister will know that the government’s welfare reform proposals including the CAP will hit hardest of all in Northern Ireland and will cause a severe cost of living crisis on those already struggling most. It is my contention that the Universal Credit project is unworkable and is falling apart. Does the minister agree that this unworkable Universal Credit project is falling apart and should be abandoned.
Minister of State for Northern Ireland replied: “If I might say gently to the Honourable Lady – well, no I don’t agree – I think nor do the majority of people in the whole of the UK including Northern Ireland agree that we should go on with the hugely increasing burden of benefits on tax payers that we have seen. What we look forward to is the Northern Ireland Assembly making progress on the welfare reform bill in Northern Ireland; if she might say to her colleagues in Northern Ireland Assembly that we should have some progress, and I think the economy and people of Northern Ireland would look forward to greater prosperity.”