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Budget (Northern Ireland Executive)

Volume 597: debated on Wednesday 24 June 2015

9. What steps the Government are taking to ensure that a viable budget can be set by the Northern Ireland Executive. (900433)

The devolved institutions are responsible for setting a viable budget for Northern Ireland. Under the Stormont House agreement, the Government provided £2 billion of additional spending power to help deal with problems which are specific to Northern Ireland, such as addressing the legacy of its past.

While respecting the devolution process and the Stormont House agreement, there is still a £600 million potential black hole in the budget. What steps will the Secretary of State take to bring the parties together to resolve that issue?

I have an almost continuous round of meetings with the Northern Ireland political parties. I have a review meeting on the Stormont House agreement on Thursday, alongside Minister Flanagan from the Irish Republic. I will be doing everything I can to get the process back on the road, but, fundamentally, it is down to Sinn Féin and the SDLP to live up to the commitments they made under the Stormont House agreement.

The Secretary of State will be aware that the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland made great play in London at the weekend of how the vulnerable are hurting. Will she remind our Deputy First Minister that the vulnerable have been hurting while we have had an impasse over the Stormont House agreement, and they will continue to hurt should there not be any progress on the issue?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that taking an irresponsible approach to the public finances means that the people who really suffer are the most vulnerable in our community. That is why difficult decisions are needed in Stormont to ensure that a sustainable Budget is passed and that the Stormont House agreement is back on track.