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In the absence of an Executive or an Assembly in Northern Ireland, this bill makes provision for the Northern Ireland budget for the year ending 31 March 2020. Initial authority to provide funds for the year 2019/20 was provided by the Northern Ireland Budget (Anticipation and Adjustments) Act 2019. However, these initial amounts are expected to begin to be exhausted from 31 October 2019. The bill is therefore intended to complete the authorisations for the full financial year. No new money will be voted as a result of the bill; instead, it appropriates approximately £5.31 billion already provided for in the Consolidated Fund of Northern Ireland. It also authorises the use of resources by Northern Ireland departments and public bodies of approximately £6.04 billion.

The bill received its first reading in the House of Commons on 29 October 2019 and is due to complete all its remaining stages on 30 October 2019. It is then expected to complete its second reading and all remaining stages in the House of Lords on 31 October 2019. Such fast-tracking is not unusual for Northern Ireland budget bills: the bills which became the Northern Ireland Budget Acts 2017 and 2018 also passed through their stages on a single day in each House.

The Leader of the House of Commons has stated that it is necessary to pass the bill before Parliament is dissolved for a general election, providing a further reason for fast-tracking. As a general election is now expected to be held on 12 December 2019, Parliament will need to dissolve by 6 November 2019 and the bill will need to have received royal assent by the end of 5 November 2019.

The bill has been designated as a ‘money bill’ and therefore the House of Lords may not amend it. Although the Lords will debate the bill at second reading, later stages will go through formally without debate.

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