Naomi Long said: “Nothing we proposed will delay fuel payments by one second, as we support the general direction of the Bill, with the exception of Clause two. We do, however, have duty to protect democracy and the accountability of government. We placed amendments to stop interference in other departments from OFMDFM.
“We would be willing to trade some Ministerial autonomy for collective decision-making, but OFMDFM’s proposals and amendments do not deliver the collectivity we need. We have no objection to OFMDFM’s amendments but they simply don’t deal with the fundamental concerns we have over this power diversion.
“We recognise need for financial assistance as contained in Clause one. On Clause two, there are valid concerns on poverty and social exclusion; however, we would also want to see intervention on other OFMDFM themes like sustainability, equality and a shared future. Why do they not want these themes to be addressed in the same way as poverty and social exclusion?
“If appropriate changes are not accepted by OFMDFM, it will look like they are trying to use the fuel poverty payments as a Trojan horse to gain unfair extra powers.
“There’s no way that Peter Robinson or Martin McGuinness would have tolerated this type of move when the UUP and SDLP occupied the First and Deputy First Minister’s Office. Why should it then be allowed when they are in power?”