O’Toole: Finance Minister has serious questions to answer on rates bill

finance matthew o'toole Rates

SDLP Finance Spokesperson Matthew O’Toole has said Sinn Féin Minister Conor Murphy has a number of serious questions to answer around the non-domestic rates valuations bill.

SDLP MLAs voted against giving the bill accelerated passage in the Assembly on Tuesday.

Mr O’Toole said it was only right and proper that the bill goes through the proper channels and the Finance Committee is given the opportunity to scrutinise it.

South Belfast MLA Mr O’Toole said:

“The SDLP were unable to back giving this bill accelerated passage today as Minister Murphy still has a number of serious questions to answer around its potential impact. While we accept similar legislation is progressing in parts of Britain, none of them have received accelerated passage and are currently undergoing thorough scrutiny and the same must be the case here. I would also ask why this bill is only coming before us now when the British government started proceeding with similar legislation in March 2021.

“The fact that an alleged whistleblower has come forward and made a number of claims relating to this legislation underlines the importance of ensuring that we dedicate the proper time to going through it and ensuring we emerge with a robust and thorough bill. Minister Murphy must clear this matter up and tell us if he knew there was a problem around rates, what has he done to address it and what impact will it have on our budget.

“The Minister has made serious claims relating to the financial consequences of reviewing the value of non-domestic properties impacted by Covid-19. Given the serious damage done to these institutions by the RHI scandal and the erosion of public confidence in Stormont as a result, we cannot allow legislation like this to go through on the nod. I am surprised that the Minister responsible for implementing many of the RHI Inquiry reviews would seek to progress legislation in this way in the first place.

“The SDLP is prepared to give this legislation the scrutiny it deserves, even if that means additional sittings of the Finance Committee or the Assembly because we are serious about good governance. We would welcome a similar approach from Sinn Féin and those in the Alliance Party who voted in favour of ramming this through with zero scrutiny.”

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