House of Commons Library

Northern Ireland Budget Bill

Published Monday, November 13, 2017

The House of Commons is scheduled to take all stages of the Northern Ireland Budget Bill 2017-19 on 13 November 2017. This Paper looks at the background surrounding the absence of an Executive in Northern Ireland, and at the Bill itself.

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The House of Commons is scheduled to take all stages of the Northern Ireland Budget Bill 2017-19 [Bill 123] on 13 November 2017, the first day after the short recess. The Bill is accompanied by Explanatory Notes, Bill 123-EN.

Northern Ireland has not had an Executive, nor a functioning Assembly, since January 2017. No budget for 2017-18 had been set before the Assembly ceased to function. Under provisions in the Northern Ireland Act 1998 civil servants have been able to spend up to 95% of the budget for 2016-17 during the period since 1 April 2017. They have advised the Secretary of State that November 2017 is the latest point at which a new budget can be set before funds will start to run out.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, has hosted talks for several months between the two main parties, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin, with support from the Irish Government. The parties have reportedly made some progress, but have not been able to resolve their differences, in particular over Sinn Féin’s desire for an Irish language act to give the Irish language official status.

Mr Brokenshire set a deadline of the end of October 2017 as the last point at which an Executive could be formed with a chance of passing a budget in the Northern Ireland Assembly. As this deadline was missed, he announced that he would introduce a budget Bill at Westminster. This Bill would not go beyond the supply already agreed for Northern Ireland in previous estimates. It would not include money associated with the confidence and supply agreement between the Conservative Party and the Democratic Unionist Party.

Mr Brokenshire has spoken of a glide path to increasing intervention by the UK Government. This could take a variety of forms. It is possible that a subsequent move might be made towards direct rule if the political situation does not resolve. Mr Brokenshire argues that the budget Bill does not represent direct rule itself, as it does not impose any UK Government spending priorities.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-8122

Author: Paul Bowers

Topics: Devolution, Northern Ireland Assembly

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