Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland budget: MPs criticise Karen Bradley

Karen Bradley Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption With Stormont still in crisis it was up to Karen Bradley to announce details of the budget

The Northern Ireland secretary has been criticised by some MPs for not giving Parliament enough time to scrutinise budget legislation for the region.

Karen Bradley said the suspension of Stormont meant that the Northern Ireland Budget Bill had to be pushed through Westminster quickly.

She told MPs it was "not a step that we wanted to take".

But she added that it needed to be fast tracked so that civil servants in Belfast could authorise spending.

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MPs and the independent MP Lady Sylvia Hermon criticised her for not allowing sufficient time for the bill to be examined.

Northern Ireland has been without a functioning executive since January 2017.

Despite a series of talks the parties have not been able to agree a way forward to re-establish the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Stormont executive.

Image caption Emma Little Pengelly complained that MPs did not have enough time to examine the bill

Speaking in the House of Commons the DUP MP Emma Little Pengelly said there was not enough time to properly scrutinise any of the budget detail that Mrs Bradley was presenting.

Her party colleague Gavin Robinson was also critical of the timescale and the way the budget bill was being presented to Parliament.

He said it was "not satisfactory" that a longer and more detailed scrutiny process was not in place.

The East Belfast MP added that politicians in Westminster should have been given a greater opportunity to examine the figures that would be available to departments in Northern Ireland.

He argued that there was "no need for the bill to be fast-tracked".

'Bare minimum for too long'

The North Down MP Lady Hermon also pressed Mrs Bradley on what monies were being set aside in Northern Ireland in preparation for Brexit.

The independent politician also said she was disappointed that the budget did not include compensation for victims of historical institutional abuse.

Mrs Bradley accepted it was "unsatisfactory" that the budget bill was being brought to Parliament in the absence of devolution.

She said she would "do everything" she could to try to bring the Stormont parties together to try and restore the assembly and the executive.

Image copyright Reuters

The DUP MP Jim Shannon used his speech to talk about the lack of devolution.

"The people of Northern Ireland have had the bare minimum for too long," said the Strangford representative.

In his contribution the shadow Northern Ireland secretary Tony Lloyd criticised the government's efforts to try to restore devolution.

He said Prime Minister Theresa May had "not engaged consistently".

The Labour MP added that the government needed to step up its efforts, telling the house that "we have got to see ambition".

'MPs in invidious position'

But Mr Lloyd's criticism was not shared by others.

Andrew Murrison, the chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, said Mrs Bradley had "worked tirelessly" to try to restore devolution.

He said Mr Lloyd's remarks about her were "a little harsh".

However, the Conservative MP said that he shared some of the concerns MPs had about the way the budget bill was being scrutinised.

"I fear scrutiny is not being done," he added, saying that MPs had been put in an "invidious position".

Gavin Newlands, the Scottish National Party's (SNP) Northern Ireland spokesman, said it should be the last Northern Ireland budget bill to be debated at Westminster.

He said the budget should have been discussed "300 miles away" in Belfast.

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