Our Positive Plan for Northern Ireland
The NI Conservatives are a fresh, pro-Union, centre-right party, which is proudly and distinctively Northern Irish, but remains a full part of the UK Conservative Party. Within our 'Positive Plan' we intend to propose an alternative to the failure of the Stormont parties, which will reward, not punish, the hard working families of Northern Ireland.
Making Stormont Work
Holding Stormont Accountable
The political norm of Stormont has for too long been reliance upon a position in Government. Those who should have taken up the mantle of Opposition to a failing Stormont argue that the structures aren't in place or that they can at least make one Department work.
The Conservative Party disagrees.
We want the people of Northern Ireland to be able to hold its executive to account. We've welcomed the limited measures introduced under John McCallister's Opposition Act, but believe it requires more radical reform. The Conservative Party will support all measures to strengthen the Opposition, whilst ensuring elected representatives hold the executive to account. We will not make excuses to avoid performing our democratic duty.
The Petition of Concern
The Petition of Concern is abused by the political parties in Stormont, enabling them to overrule democratic decisions which do not discriminate against either community. Whilst the Conservative Party does not support the removal of the mechanism, which is vital for ensuring stability within Stormont, it does believe it requires reform to work effectively.
When a Petition of Concern is lodged by the Assembly, it should be reviewed by an independent body to determine whether the bills falls within the remit originally intended for the mechanism. If the independent body believes that the Petition of Concern has been abused, the block will fall and the legislation shall move onto the next stage.
The abuse of a mechanism designed to protect communities indicates a lack of respect for the democratic will of the people of Northern Ireland. The Conservative Party pledge to work tirelessly to ensure this is not possible within the coming Assembly.
Justice – keeping Northern Ireland safe
The Northern Ireland Conservatives are strong supporters of the police and prison services. We’ll never be half-hearted when it comes to defending the rule of law. In Stormont the party would champion prison and probation services which manage offenders properly and provide them with the best possible chance to be rehabilitated.
Life means life. If convicted of killing a police or prison officer whilst carrying out their duties the Conservative party believes automatic life sentences are required. We will make no apology for those who carry out these heinous crimes.
Defend Free Speech. The Conservative Party believe one of the core principles of the United Kingdom to be the right to free speech. We will therefore lobby to reform defamation law in Northern Ireland to bring it into line with the rest of the United Kingdom.
Crackdown on Extortion. The Conservative Party believe that extortion should be treated as seriously as rape and murder in the eyes of the law. We intend to send a message that there is no place in Northern Ireland for such activity.
A shared future is a prosperous future
The divisions within society which are stirred up by Stormont cost the taxpayer on a daily basis. The Conservative Party stands for hard working families, who do nothing to create tension within their communities. We want to deliver a harmonious future, tackle sectarianism and deal with Northern Ireland’s troubled past.
The Party intends to:
- Support the rule of law as the bedrock of policy towards parades
- Require the Union Flag to be flown on designated days on government buildings and council headquarters, in line with the rest of the United Kingdom
- Actively combat division in housing and education
- Encourage dialogue between communities around peace walls with the aim of bringing them down
- Ensure ‘truth and reconciliation centre’ reflects the full account of the Troubles
- Draft a ‘statement of wrongs’ on the past, which places blame for the Troubles on all groups and individuals whom acted outside of the law
Making the Economy Work
The economy – the tools to succeed
The Northern Ireland Conservative Party are unashamedly pro-business. We understand that enterprise and entrepreneurship are the engines of a successful economy. In the aspiration of building a flourishing private sector, and reducing dependency upon the state, the people of Northern Ireland need only be provided the tools to succeed.
Our emphasis is on creating jobs, jobs and more jobs. Prosperity for all is at the heart of what we do. We welcome the specific economic measures for Northern Ireland pushed forward by the Prime Minister and we’re committed to cutting waste in the Executive.
The Party intends to:
- Lower Corporation Tax to 10% to attract inward investment and jobs
- Abolish air passenger duty for short haul flights from Northern Ireland
- Create enterprise zones, which offer incentives to export, 'Research and Development' help and rates relief
- Reform the public sector, using competition to provide better services for the best value for money
- Promote the teaching of STEM subjects to a greater numbers of pupils, giving our young people the tools to succeed and our industry the skills it requires
Standing up for working people and combating dependency
The Conservatives will combat the benefits culture which is unfair on hard-working people and perpetuates poverty. We support the principle that it should never pay more to remain on benefits than to be in work.
The Party intends to:
- Demand housing associations provide a better mix of social homes in the right quantity
- Implement the Government’s welfare reforms as agreed within the 'Fresh Start' Deal
Protecting rural communities and prioritising our food industry
The Conservatives Party will protect rural communities and support farmers and fishermen, enabling them to sustain Northern Ireland’s abundant natural resources. We recognise how important the agri-food Sector is to our economy. Food is something we do well in Northern Ireland and the industry deserves to be backed properly.
The Party intends to:
- Maintain the EU’s single farm payment
- Create a new logo to ensure food from Northern Ireland is instantly recognisable and concentrate on adding value to food products
- Work with the fishing industry to create marine protection areas which will take their interests into account
Cutting energy costs
The Conservative Party believes Northern Ireland should explore every avenue on how to cut energy costs for business. These costs place a serious strain upon industries across Northern Ireland, impacting upon our economies ability to flourish.
- It is vital we integrate our energy grids with the United Kingdom and beyond as rapidly as possible if we are to force down prices
- The failure of the Northern Ireland Executive to facilitate the proposed new north – south interconnector is yet another example of Stormont not delivering
Northern Ireland must also abandon the unrealistic target to generate 40% of our electricity through renewable sources by 2020. There are serious doubts about relying upon wind power to build a greener economy.
The Party intends to include Hydro-electricity, tidal energy, anaerobic digestion and geo-thermal in the renewal mix.
Make Northern Ireland Work
Sharing a variety of pathways to success
If Northern Ireland desires a society which equips young people with the skills of tomorrow, not the prejudices of today, the current strategy of segregating children from the age of five is not logical. The Conservatives desire a society where our children are learning together, within schools known for their academic standing.
Integrated Education. We support measures to ensure that local schools reflect the composition of their communities. The next generation deserve to share their experiences.
Support all pathways. The Conservatives recognise that some schools will concentrate on academic curricula, whilst others will have a vocational emphasis. Neither should be punished for offering an alternative pathway, aimed at the unique needs of the child.
Defend our Grammar and support University. We want a further and higher education system that is on a par with anything else on offer in these islands – we don’t want a second rate insular system which may be what we end up with if the current parties remain in office.
Tackle Under achieving schools. This will not only provide our children with a good start for life, but will also act as a boost to our local economy.
To achieve this the party intends to:
- Place a renewed focus on eliminating literacy and numeracy underachievement at primary level so that fewer young people enter secondary school already disadvantaged
- Provide financial incentives to transform existing schools into integrated schools and aim to have full integration in place by 2025
- Adopt what is best in national policies in relation to changes in GCSE and A ’level, and adapt as appropriate to Northern Ireland, whilst ensuring students aren't disadvantaged when applying to mainland Universities
- Promote a labour force with the relevant mix of graduate and non-graduate qualifications to compete in a global environment, and to work towards increasing the number of young people studying STEM subjects and computer coding (programming) subjects
- Urgently take measures to re-engage young people ‘Not in Education, Employment or Training’ (NEETs) as confident and fulfilled members of the workforce
Health – flexible and patient focussed
The NHS is rightly regarded as one of the United Kingdom's crowning achievements, but it is falling behind in Northern Ireland. Whilst there has only been a modest reduction of funding in real terms, the executive has led our health service into chaos. The Conservatives believe it requires urgent reform to return it to an efficient, patient-led service which is free at the point of use.
The Party intends to:
- Oppose the introduction of prescription charges in Northern Ireland. The NHS should remain free to all at the point of use
- Lobby for the implementation of the Donaldson Report in full by the Executive. The report has been used as a political football for too long
- To implement the 'Transforming your Care' agenda, allowing for care to be delivered away from hospitals and closer to people's homes
- To empower the community pharmacists, enabling them to deliver care to patients within the community, as an alternative to general practice
- Ensure all new NICE approved medicines are available within three months of approval – as is the case in England and Wales. Access to medicines should be considered as important a principle as making them cost free
- Services in Northern Ireland should be regionalised under a single umbrella Trust, rather than the six that currently operate. As a result these services should be regionalised and centres of excellence located at different hospitals throughout the province
Social development, culture, arts and leisure
The Northern Ireland Conservatives understand that sport and culture play a vital role in a happy society. We want to see a multitude of cultures in this part of the United Kingdom encouraged and enjoyed in an atmosphere of tolerance, generosity and respect.
The Party intends to:
- Increase PE in primary schools.
- Devise a sporting anthem for Northern Ireland, to complement the National Anthem.
Under a period of austerity funds must be prioritised for health and education, but we would not support a strategy which abandons the modern artists in Northern Ireland.