NI Secretary pressed to introduce legislation to give civil servants more power

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has been urged to introduce emergency legislation to give senior civil servants more power to run Stormont departments.

Alliance leader Naomi Long said the Bill should also cut MLA salaries as the stalemate at Stormont rumbles on.

Ms Long was speaking after the Northern Ireland Assembly again failed to elect a new speaker.

The DUP refused to support the election of a new speaker as part of a campaign of opposition to Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol.

The failure to resurrect the powersharing government means that Stormont ministers will leave their posts at midnight.

Ulster powersharing
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris (PA)

Mr Heaton-Harris is expected to call a fresh Assembly election on Friday.

Ms Long said that a fresh election is not the solution to resolving the issues.

“The solution to the problem is this: emergency legislation in Westminster to suspend these institutions until the negotiations with the EU and the UK Government can reach conclusion, potentially within weeks,” Ms Long said.

“He (Secretary of State) should in that Bill include powers to cut MLA salaries. It is unconscionable that we are continued to be paid for a job that we are prevented from doing while other people are suffering whilst working hard.

“He should include power for permanent secretaries to take over the running of their department within enhanced ability to be able to make decisions that are necessary and he should include a budget for Northern Ireland so we can start to get control of our public finances and protect our absolutely essential public services.”