Need for special committee to deal with Welfare Reform

There can be can be no more backroom deals on the issues which have been brought to crisis point by parties in the Assembly. I am calling for a a special Assembly committee to be urgently convened to deal with Welfare Reform.

SDLP representatives had a very frank meeting with the Secretary of State this afternoon where we made our concerns about this debacle very clear.

Our primary concern has always been mitigating the worst excesses of Tory austerity in Welfare Reform. We tabled scores of amendments before the Assembly to make this legislation work and to make devolution work for people here. It is a matter of profound regret that Sinn Féin stood in opposition to every attempt to salvage the bill and have now playing brinkmanship with the political institutions. They have been inept, out of their depth and they are now losing control.

The SDLP has always been clear- we support the elements of Stormont House that are strong and will seek to improve the elements that are week. We have not wavered from that position. We were right to keep pressing. Sinn Fein must now account for their failure to support all of the amendments we put in during this process which would have provided valuable protections.

We will take every opportunity to interrogate, to seek better policy and secure more resources to resolve this situation. That has always been our position.

I am now calling for a special Assembly committee to be established to interrogate all these issues. There can be no more backroom deals. The public need honesty and certainty, both of which have been in short supply.

No more spin, no more double speak and no more U-Turns. That will be our approach and others should join us.

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