The delivery of a £400 energy payment to householders in Northern Ireland is more difficult without a Stormont Executive, it has been suggested.
Discussions involving Stormont ministers and the London government have been ongoing for months about how to deliver the payment in the region.
But there are currently no ministers in post at Stormont following the passing of a deadline for the Northern Ireland parties to form a new executive.
Speaking in Belfast, Sinn Fein’s Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill queried why the £400 had not been paid to people yet, describing the situation as “not acceptable”.
Northern Ireland Office Minister Steve Baker was pressed on the payment in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
He said the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) would make a statement on support in Northern Ireland.
He told MPs that households in Northern Ireland would benefit from the energy price guarantee, the energy bill support scheme, a £400 payment to all households, the alternative fuel payment, a £100 payment to households not using gas in Northern Ireland and the energy bill relief scheme.
“I regret that today I cannot give an exact date, but we look forward to BEIS making a statement,” he said.
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson asked Mr Baker for assurances that he would continue efforts to ensure the payment was made as soon as possible.
Mr Baker responded, saying: “We certainly will continue those efforts together.”
He went on to suggest the process would be easier if the Stormont Executive was functioning.
“I understand the reasons he is not in the executive and that is why we wish to press forward on the protocol — that matters would be somewhat easier if a functioning executive were in place,” he said.
Pressed further by other MPs later, Mr Baker said these schemes needed to be delivered by officials, adding: “That effort has been hampered substantially by the absence of a functioning executive.
“We should all acknowledge that without an executive, these things are more difficult to deliver.
“As I said earlier, we are well aware of the imperatives, and once again I urge all parties to re-form the executive so that we can give people the prompt help that they deserve.”