Emergency legislation on the Northern Ireland budget is passing through the Commons today to allow the civil service to continue its de facto running of the devolved assembly amid political vacuum.
James Brokenshire, Northern Ireland secretary, insisted that his decision to pass the bill in Westminster was “not direct rule”, and a budget needed to be in place by the end of the month to prevent the civil service running out of money.
He also said that there had been “some progress” towards restoration of a power-sharing arrangement between Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party, but a resolution had not yet been found.
Civil servants took control of public spending in Northern Ireland in March, after elections to the Stormont Assembly returned Sinn Féin and the DUP as the two largest parties but they failed to reach a power-sharing deal.
Sinn Féin had pulled out of its deal with the DUP in January in protest over the mishandling of a renewable heating initiative.
Brokenshire previously stated that he would have to intervene from Westminster if the parties had not agreed a deal by early November, because of the legal spending limits covering the current arrangements.
He told Ireland’s public service broadcaster RTÉ last week that while the two parties had “regrettably” not yet found a resolution, he was determined to see the executive restored.
He added: "I'm having to move forward with the introduction of a Budget Bill at Westminster that will simply codify what the Northern Ireland civil service have been doing, to enable them to continue with their work and most importantly not run out of money, which could be the case if we didn't take this step and didn't have this in position by the end of the month.
"This is not direct rule. This is not about the UK government seeking to interpose its will, but rather a measure to ensure that there is a legal framework to enable the civil service to carry on doing what they have been doing for the best part of this year.”