Page last updated at 15:21 GMT, Monday, 20 February 2012

Welfare Reform

MLAs disagreed on the potential impact of the savings contained within Westminster's Welfare Reform Bill on Northern Ireland, on 20 February 2012.

The UK's coalition government has promised to "make work pay" with plans to ensure people in work are better off than the unemployed.

A "universal credit", sanctions for those turning down jobs and a cap on benefits paid to a single family are among the changes outlined.

The SDLP's Mark Durkan proposed a motion calling on the Executive to oppose a wide range of the welfare reforms and to pursue negotiations with the coalition government.

He said he was calling on the "assembly and the Executive to escalate opposition to these draconian reforms".

Mr Durkan said he did not oppose getting people back to work "when and if they are able".

"We do not oppose welfare reform, we oppose unfair welfare reform," he said.

Alex Easton of the DUP proposed an amendment to the SDLP motion which he said would "bring back a little reality and perspective back into the discussion".

He said he agreed the proposed welfare reforms could have a negative impact on vulnerable people in Northern Ireland but believed the welfare state needed to be reformed.

"A welfare system that provides a safety net is something we should be proud of but it can become a lifestyle choice or a benefits trap," he said.

The debate continued after Question Time. The second part can be found here.

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