Northern Ireland news

Bill is no substitute for devolved government, DUP warns

DUP MP Gavin Robinson said the Bill was 'no substitute for devolved government'. Picture by Pacemaker

THE DUP has warned the bill designed to assist senior civil servants who have been left to take decisions in Northern Ireland is "no substitute for devolved government".

Secretary of State Karen Bradley introduced the NI (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Bill to the House of Commons yesterday.

DUP MP Gavin Robinson said it was a "limited measure" and "in no way, a substitute for democratically elected representatives making decisions in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland".

"There are a number of outstanding issues which we shall seek clarity on during the passage of this legislation through parliament," he said.

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Alliance leader Naomi Long described it as "a sticking plaster on a broken leg".

"The Civil Service taking decisions is not in any way equivalent to politicians driving change through committees, departments, the Assembly and the Executive," she said.

"While this legislation will effectively allow civil servants to take decisions of an urgent nature, there remain decisions which may not be urgent but are of strategic importance."

Green Party MLA Stephen Agnew accused Mrs Bradley of "absolving herself of the big decisions".

"Effectively, she's taking those big decisions out of her in tray and shuffling them across to unelected civil servants," he said.

"The secretary of state can and should appoint an independent talks mediator to kick-start a return to devolution."

Trade union Unite welcomed the legislation and said it should open the door to movement on healthcare workers' pay.

Unite regional officer Kevin McAdam said it "offers some hope that the logjam on NHS pay can be broken".

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