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Westminster could take over NI welfare powers after Stormont deadlock

NewsBy Jamie McDowell
Theresa Villiers says NI welfare control may be handed back to London
Theresa Villiers says NI welfare control may be handed back to London

Westminster could take over Northern Ireland's welfare powers after Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the Green Party filed a petition of concern, blocking a new Welform Reform Bill.

Today, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said that she could not rule out the possibility of Westminster handling welfare matters in Northern Ireland.

The petition of concern meant that the new bill did not have the necessary cross-community support needed to be approved.

The bill was initially brought forward by the DUP.

Ms Villiers said: "In this situation it means looking at a range of options, some of which are certainly options we wouldn't want to choose in the best of circumstances.

 

"But I think I can't rule out action on this at Westminster, but we're some way away from that as we speak, there is still more that can be done to try and reach a resolution through the devolved institutions." 

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness claimed that welfare powers being taken on by Westminster would have a negative impact on Northern Ireland.

He said: "I'll be meeting Theresa Villiers in the morning and I'll be telling her that [Westminster welfare powers] would be a huge mistake." 

Today the Queen addressed Northern Ireland during her speech in parliament.

She said: “Legislation will be taken forward giving effect to the Stormont House Agreement in Northern Ireland.

“My government will continue to work in cooperation with the devolved administrations on the basis of mutual respect.”

The Police Federation of Northern Ireland have also said that welfare reform will have "dire consequences" for the PSNI in terms of their ability to police the dissident republican threat.

Chairman of the PFNI, Mark Lindsay, spoke at the PFNI conference today.

He said: "Despite heartfelt and, I have no doubt, sincere commitments, our officers are going to find it increasingly difficult to deliver the service that this community has a right to expect."

The DUP argues that without the new Welfare Reform Bill, Northern Ireland will be left with a £600m black hole in the Executive's budget.