Page last updated at 15:10 GMT, Monday, 19 November 2012

Welfare Reform Bill motion

The Social Development Minister warned that the establishment of an ad hoc committee to examine the equality aspects of the Welfare Reform bill would squander time and money, on 19 November 2012.

Nelson McCausland said the Social Development Committee could explore equality and human rights issues without incurring delays.

He said that if the examination was extended by 30 days it could cost in excess of £13m.

Mr McCausland said proposals for the establishment of an ad hoc committee had nothing to do with matters surrounding the bill.

"This is about a squalid little squabble about the SDLP and Sinn Fein," he told the Assembly.

The minister also added he was "dismayed that human rights feature again".

A Sinn Fein motion questioning whether or not the bill was compatible with human rights failed to pass in October 2012.

Social Development Committee chairman Alex Maskey of Sinn Fein said the motion was not about delaying the bill, but about maximising the scrutiny of the bill and its compliance with human rights legislation.

The TUV's Jim Allister questioned the validity of the motion on the basis of "the wording it has chosen to use".

He said that the motion sought to "refer" the bill to an ad hoc committee.

Mr Allister said that the Assembly's standing orders would not allow for the bill to be scrutinised in two committees, and therefore the motion should have been reworded to acknowledge the need for the social development committee functions to be "transferred".

Speaker Willie Hay said he was content that the motion was valid.

The Welfare Reform Bill, if passed, would bring the changes brought about at Westminster into effect in Northern Ireland.

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 speaker explained that a valid petition of concern had been lodged on the day of the debate, meaning a vote on the motion could not take place until the following day.

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