Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan: Welfare Reform
One of the key aspects of the Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan on Tuesday 17 November was a new approach to implementing welfare reform in Northern Ireland. This approach involves the UK Government legislating for welfare reform in Northern Ireland and a Bill to be introduced into Westminster as a matter of urgency. These measures are crucial to ensure on going political and financial stability in Northern Ireland.
The Government published both the Northern Ireland (Welfare Reform) Bill and the Welfare Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 2015 in draft on Wednesday 18 November, in advance of a Northern Ireland Assembly debate and consent motion later that day.
The Bill was introduced into the House of Commons on Thursday 19 November and received Royal Assent on Wednesday 25 November.
Northern Ireland (Welfare Reform) Act
The Act is a piece of enabling legislation to allow for the delivery of welfare reform in Northern Ireland. The Act allows the Government to make provisions about welfare in Northern Ireland by Order in Council. The Act does not prevent the Northern Ireland Assembly from making their own legislation on these matters in the future. The power provided for in the Act for Government to make provisions on welfare matters cannot be exercised after December 2016.
A delegated powers memorandum was published to accompany the Bill. This identifies the provisions in the Northern Ireland (Welfare Reform) Bill, now Act, which confer power to make delegated legislation. It explains:
the purpose of the delegated power proposed
why the matter is to be dealt with in delegated legislation
the nature and justification for any parliamentary procedures that are proposed.
Welfare Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 2015
The Order laid before Parliament on 26 November contains more detail about the welfare reforms. This Order is largely similar to the Assembly Welfare Reform Bill that was proposed but not passed earlier this year. It includes steps to give effect to measures already being implemented in Great Britain in the Welfare Reform Act 2012 as well as Northern Ireland-specific measures for sanctions and the ability to introduce additional payments (or ‘top-ups’). The Order and an explanatory memorandum to explain the provisions are available on the Parliament website