Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Peter Robinson benefits threat is further proof of failings at Stormont

So, what message does it send that Stormont's biggest party might prefer it if some of the Executive's powers were handed back to London?

Yet Peter Robinson went somewhat further yesterday – in suggesting the responsibility for the welfare system should never have been devolved to the Assembly in the first place.

Once again the impression is of Stormont telling London: "We can't cope. Things aren't really working. Please step in and bail us out."

In making such dire warnings the DUP leader is well aware that the prospect of surrendering control over welfare to Westminster would be anathema to Sinn Fein. The scale of DUP alarm on the issue seems to grow day by day, giving rise to charges of choreography.

Mr Robinson said: "It can be as simple as saying to the Government: 'This Government is not competent to take difficult decisions because two of the parties in the five-party coalition are not prepared to take difficult decisions. Therefore, you have to take this off us. We no longer want to have devolved to us these issues'."

There would be no chance of agreement in the Assembly or around the Executive table to ask London to take responsibility back. And so that would leave it to Westminster to override Stormont – which also appears extremely unlikely.

If Westminster were to take powers back, it would only likely come on to the agenda if the impasse here meant benefits handouts were in real jeopardy.

And as the province's computer system falls out of line with its British counterpart, where some changes are already under way, that cannot be entirely ruled out.

No wonder David Cameron's door appears to be increasingly closed to our ministers, especially as crunch decisions on corporation tax loom.

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