The absence of vital institutions of the Good Friday Agreement is of grave concern for the Government, as it is for the British Government.
I have been working intensively with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in recent weeks in the talks at Stormont to support the leaders of the political parties in finding an agreement that will get all of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement up and running again.
Absent the power-sharing Executive and Assembly to agree and pass a budget for Northern Ireland, the UK Government has introduced legislation to provide authority for expenditure in Northern Ireland, including through the Bill referred to. This is further compelling evidence of the urgent need to get the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland in place again. Budgetary and other decisions in relation to the delivery of public services and the full range of devolved policy issues need to be made by the power-sharing Executive and Assembly, elected by and accountable to all of the people of Northern Ireland.
While the specifics of a budget for Northern Ireland are not for the Government to engage on, I have had extensive discussions with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on the difficulties raised by the continuing absence of the devolved institutions and on how both Governments can continue to work together and do everything possible to secure an agreement that will get all institutions of the Agreement working again.
All five political parties have engaged constructively with that objective in the talks at Stormont over the last number of weeks. Progress has been made across a range of important issues. However, some key outstanding issues remain and finding final agreement on these issues will require genuine and courageous dialogue between the party leaders. The two largest parties have a particular responsibility to reach an accommodation to secure the formation of a new power-sharing Executive.
The two Governments have called on the parties to continue to participate in this dialogue with each other towards a sustainable accommodation for all. The Governments and the leads of the Working Groups will also continue to engage with all the parties in discussions on the outstanding issues. The Governments will have to make an assessment before long on whether it is possible to move quickly in this period to final agreement.
The Government will continue to do everything in its power, in accordance with its responsibilities as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, to secure the effective operation of all of its institutions.