Northern Ireland

NI welfare reform: Bill passes through House of Lords

First Minister Peter Robinson holds a copy of A Fresh Start: The Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The Stormont agreement included plans to allow Westminster to implement reforms in Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Welfare Reform Bill has passed through the House of Lords.

The bill will now get Royal Assent and become law.

The bill was given accelerated passage through the House of Commons on Monday night despite objections from Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) MPs.

MLAs voted last week to hand powers over the welfare system to Westminster.

That followed a new agreement between the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin, Stormont's two largest parties, and the British and Irish governments.

The deal included a four-year package to soften the blow of the welfare reform and tax credits cuts, with a value of £585m.

'Get it through quickly'

Liberal Democrat Northern Ireland spokesperson Lord Alderdice told the Lords debate that Northern Ireland legislation is often rushed through, and this is "not entirely satisfactory."

However, he said it was best to "get it though quickly" in the case of this bill.

Crossbench peer Lord Rogan said the matter of welfare reform should have been addressed by the Northern Ireland Assembly.

He described the assembly as "dysfunctional" and "incapable of making decisions".

Shadow Northern Ireland spokesperson Lord McAvoy said "without an agreement there was a real risk of the collapse of devolution and the return of home rule".

He said Labour would support the bill.

Government spokesperson Lord Dunlop said the government had worked hard to build consensus among the Northern Ireland parties.

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