This Bill is intended to allow time and space for political parties to agree a return to power-sharing government in Northern Ireland. The main areas covered by this Bill are:
- to set a five-month period during which an Executive may be formed without further primary legislation or an Assembly election.
- to give “clarity and certainty” to senior civil servants in Northern Ireland departments over taking decisions in the absence of ministers.
- to allow UK Government ministers to make key public appointments in the absence of Northern Ireland Assembly ministers
The Bill can be extended for a further five months to August 26. However, the extension is only intended to be applied if there is a genuine prospect of agreement.
There has been no functioning Northern Ireland Executive since January 2017, when the then deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland resigned, which also resulted in the First Minister ceasing to hold office. All other Northern Ireland Ministers ceased to hold office when an extraordinary Assembly election was held in March 2017. Since then, Parliament has intervened when necessary to ensure the continuity of public services in Northern Ireland. Examples include providing authority for expenditure for Northern Ireland departments and other bodies through the Budget Acts.
The principal aim and function of this Bill is to facilitate a period where the Executive can be formed and talks can take place. This Bill is part of a package of measures aimed at restoring the devolved power-sharing Executive and Assembly and ensuring the continued delivery of public services in Northern Ireland.
This is a Government Bill introduced by Karen Bradley, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
This Bill is scheduled to have all of its stages completed in one day in Parliament, so it can be regarded as a formality. It serves as a mechanism to kick-start power sharing talks in Northern Ireland again. The Bill itself is not controversial, the complexity will arise from the power-sharing negotiations themselves.
How to get involved
You can contact your MP.
If I don’t act, will it go through?
This Bill will almost certainly go through.