Page last updated at 23:20 GMT, Tuesday, 9 October 2012 00:20 UK

Welfare Reform Bill: Second Stage continued

There is no video for this item of business due to a technical fault.

Social development committee chairman Alex Maskey said the Welfare Reform Bill had "engendered strong opinions among stakeholders", on 9 October 2012.

The Sinn Fein MLA said the committee and the minister had met the Westminster Work and Pensions Minister, Lord Freud, in May 2012.

Lord Freud had agreed that the situation in Northern Ireland was worse in other areas and had agreed to consider "what flexibilities would be appropriate".

Mr Maskey outlined a number of concerns which he said were shared by all committee members.

He said the committee had set aside three days a week for the next few weeks to ensure the bill received proper consideration.

Paula Bradley of the DUP said she believed in a welfare system that was "a hand up, not a handout".

She favoured any amendments to the bill being carried out at committee stage.

The UUP's Michael Copeland said he spoke with a sense of frustration, and that the debate was an indictment of the two main partners in the Executive.

He said he agreed with much that was written in the Sinn Fein amendment but the party must share the blame "for the farce of taking this bill to the house at such a late stage".

"This bill was trapped in the corridors of Stormont Castle for months," he commented.

He said his party would allow the bill to pass its second reading to allow for consideration at the committee.

Mark Durkan of the SDLP would not accept the bill's "demonisation of those on benefits".

He said it was "an insult to the people of the north".

Mr Durkan said his party would support the Sinn Fein amendment.

He called for the setting-up of a committee to consider the equality implications of the bill.

The member for Foyle said it had been reported to him that Sinn Fein would not support an SDLP petition of concern, which would have required cross-community support for the bill.

Judith Cochrane of Alliance said her party would support the bill.

She said the time to make changes was at the committee stage.

Ms Cochrane added that it was "irresponsible to get people's hopes up" about how much could be changed.

Simon Hamilton said Sinn Fein were "grandstanding" and that the debate was a "sham fight".

He said Sinn Fein could easily get together a petition of concern and kill the bill if they wished.

Caitriona Ruane of Sinn Fein said the changes to welfare would hit women hardest.

The Sinn Fein amendment was defeated by 60 votes to 42, and the main motion was passed by the same margin.

You can see the first part of the debate here.


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