SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan has voted against the Conservative Charter for Budget Responsibility which would require future Parliaments to implement over £30 billion worth of additional cuts.
He said: “I voted against a charter which has become a device to lock us into austerity.
“It creates a budget premise of a further £30 billion in cuts over the next spending period – including a further £12 billion from welfare spending across the UK.
“This corroborates the suspicion the SDLP has expressed throughout that the Welfare Reform Bill was a staging post rather than the destination for the Tories benefit plans.
“A further £30 billion in cuts will put further pressure on our devolved budget as it will affect the baselines for ‘the block grant’.
“The Budget Charter which was passed by Parliament last March, when I was one of 22 MPs voting against it, introduced what was presented as a new budgetary tool – namely the welfare cap. That tool will be used as a weapon for cuts in the Treasury’s hand and become the way in which they impose lower limits on welfare spending in Northern Ireland.
“Future waves of cuts under the welfare cap would go beyond what has so concerned us here under the British government’s current welfare reform measures, and would also go beyond the capacity of the Executive’s budget to mitigate them in the sort of way provided under the Stormont House Agreement.
“Indeed, any further squeezing of the devolved budget would hit vulnerable people in society hardest and could adversely affect investment and infrastructure – not least in the North West.”