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Dickson Laments Economy Minister's Lack of Legislative Programme

For the past several weeks, East Antrim Alliance MLA, Stewart Dickson has been becoming increasingly worried about the lack of ambition and inactivity emanating from the Department for the Economy.

Mr Dickson has said: “As Economy Spokesperson for the Alliance Party, I have been raising issues through oral and written questions, both in the Assembly Chamber and in the Economy Committee. These questions relate to the Minister’s troubled administration of Covid support funding, as well as deep rooted issues with the schemes themselves, which have excluded too many and been slow to pay out.”

“For instance, on Thursday 29th April, the student representative body, NUS-USI, held a ‘day of action’ to highlight the multitude of ways students have felt unsupported throughout the pandemic. They are particularly concerned that the Covid Disruption Payments have excluded thousands of worthy students , and in attempting to meet with the Minister, they have been rebuffed time and time again.”

Mr Dickson went on to say that: “This is just one recent example, with other failings including the lack of workers’ rights legislation to be brought to the Assembly, a lack of information on recovery schemes measures, and a certain opaqueness in relation to the timescales of publicly promised initiatives such as the extension of the apprenticeship scheme.

“All of these issues, and more, I have highlighted to the Minister at every opportunity.”

I recently submitted a question to the Department asking what plans the Minister had for legislation. Unsurprisingly - but very worryingly – there is very little substance in the Minister’s programme going forwards. She is in a position to make a real difference to the lives of the people in Northern Ireland, and yet the height of her ambition is introducing a Parental Bereavement and Leave Bill. A very worthy area in need of legislation, but essentially a copy and paste from legislation passed in GB last year. With a year left in this mandate, I am shocked she has no ambition to achieve more for the people of Northern Ireland.”

Minister Dodds has promised subordinate legislation in certain Business areas such as Health and Safety, Insolvency, Company law, Energy, and Further and Higher Education. However, Mr Dickson points out that: “This pales in comparison with the legislative agenda of other government departments and the ambition evident in other political parties. In fact, just this week, the Alliance Party has unveiled our Green New Deal, which shows the level of innovation and integrated thinking that will be needed to bring about sustainable recovery post-Covid.”

Mr Dickson was referring to the Alliance Green New Deal published on Monday which prioritises investment, wellbeing, and the planet, and could create up to 50,000 green jobs across Northern Ireland.

Mr Dickson said: “Our plan emphasises the need to legislate for workers’ rights in the gig economy, a notable area missing from the Minister for the Economy’s near-non-existent legislative agenda.

“The people of Northern Ireland deserve better, and I will continue to advocate for more on their behalf.”

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