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Northern Ireland: Devolution

Volume 684: debated on Monday 24 July 2006

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Peter Hain) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

On 15 May, Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly were recalled to participate in a process to secure the full restoration of the institutions in Northern Ireland on or before 24 November. The Assembly rose on 7 July for Summer Recess and will reconvene on 4 September.

Following their discussions with the Northern Ireland political parties in Parliament Buildings, Stormont, on 29 June, the Prime Minister and Taoiseach issued a statement that again reiterated their commitment to the November deadline and called for all sides to commit to a period of genuine and frank political engagement on the outstanding issues in the months ahead.

A work plan was also published alongside the statement in order to assist the parties in their work between now and the November deadline. Both the statement and the work plan have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The plan allows for the Committee on the Preparation for Government to continue its valuable work during the Summer Recess, and I have recently provided for the creation of subgroups within the committee to deal with the issues of devolution of justice and policing, changes to the institutions and the economic challenges facing Northern Ireland.

I have made it clear previously that, in the event that devolved government is not restored on or before 24 November, all MLAs' salaries and allowances will be cancelled with immediate effect. I have repeatedly stressed that it remains the Government's firm hope that devolution can and will be restored by that deadline, but I wish to ensure that MLAs have the fullest of opportunities to arrange their affairs in advance. My officials have therefore written to all MLAs explaining the implications of the termination of allowances for MLAs in respect of their responsibilities as employers of their staff and for their constituency offices. A copy of this letter has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.