The Northern Ireland (Interim Arrangements) Bill would make provisions about governance and public finances in Northern Ireland in the ongoing absence of fully functioning devolved institutions. Northern Ireland has been without a fully functioning executive since February 2022 following the collapse of power-sharing over the Democratic Unionist Party’s objections to the Northern Ireland Protocol. A Northern Ireland Assembly election took place in May 2022. The statutory period for forming a new executive after the election passed with no executive being formed. 

In response to this situation, the UK Parliament has already passed several pieces of legislation. These have extended until 18 January 2024 the time allowed for forming an executive before a new election must be held, clarified the arrangements for certain public functions to continue in the absence of an executive and set a budget for Northern Ireland. 

An existing provision in one of these acts clarifying that senior Northern Ireland civil servants can exercise departmental functions in the public interest in the absence of Northern Ireland ministers is set to expire on 5 June 2023. The bill would extend this arrangement until the next executive is formed. 

The bill would also give the secretary of state for Northern Ireland powers to direct Northern Ireland departments to provide advice or consult on options to raise revenue or deliver sustainable public finances in the ongoing absence of Northern Ireland ministers. There are concerns about the sustainability of Northern Ireland’s public finances, highlighted by a shortfall of £297mn to be repaid to the Treasury to cover spending in the 2022/23 financial year. 

The bill would also require certain accounts, reports and other financial documents to be laid before the UK Parliament when the Northern Ireland Assembly is not functioning. The bill contains four substantive clauses. 

The government has asked Parliament to fast-track the passage of the bill. It completed all its stages in the House of Commons on 10 May 2023. It was not amended and passed both second reading and third reading without division. The House of Lords is due to consider the bill at second reading on 18 May 2023, with the remaining stages scheduled for 23 May 2023. 

The government has published explanatory notes and a delegated powers memorandum alongside the bill.


Related posts

  • The UK economy in the 1980s

    This briefing is the fourth of a series on the post-war history of the UK economy. The series proceeds decade-by-decade from the 1950s onwards, providing an overview of the key macroeconomic developments of each decade. This briefing looks at the 1980s. The decline in the profitability of industry, which began in the 1960s, was reversed in this decade; however, the share of national income received by workers fell to a post-war low.

    The UK economy in the 1980s
  • Contribution of sport to society and the economy

    This briefing considers the benefits of sport and physical activity ahead of a House of Lords debate on the subject on 16 May 2024. The government and sports sector stakeholders agree that sport has many benefits for individuals and communities, as well as for the economy more broadly. The government published a new strategy for the sports sector in August 2023. The ambition of the strategy was commended; however, sports charities and the opposition suggested that more was required from the government to deliver on it.

    Contribution of sport to society and the economy
  • Child poverty: Statistics, causes and the UK’s policy response

    The government has estimated that 4.3 million children, or 30% of all children in the UK, were living in relative low-income households after housing costs in 2022/23. This represents an increase on the previous year. The government has said unexpectedly high inflation, driven by the war in Ukraine and supply chain challenges, contributed to the rise. It argues that falling inflation, rising real wages and uprated benefits will help low-income households in the year ahead.

    Child poverty: Statistics, causes and the UK’s policy response