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Emergency law to collect rates in Northern Ireland published as talks deadline set

By Claire Williamson

New emergency legislation has been published by Secretary of State James Brokenshire to clear the way for the collection of rates in Northern Ireland amid the ongoing crisis at Stormont.

Mr Brokenshire introduced the legislation as well as providing an extension to the period in which a new Executive could be formed.

Published on Friday morning, the Bill will provide for the setting of a Northern Ireland Regional Rate, enabling household bills to be issued in their usual cycle of ten monthly payments.

The rate for 2017-2018 will be increased in line with inflation.

It would also remove the present legal barrier to the formation of an Executive, enabling any deal reached between the parties in the coming weeks to be implemented.

The emergency legislation is to be presented to Westminster on Friday. It will be debated on Monday and is expected to become law before parliament dissolves in May.

Northern Ireland's political parties are set to resume negotiations aimed at forming a power sharing government.

The parties missed the deadline in forming a government within the six weeks after the election.

Mr Brokenshire has set a new date of June 29 for a deal to be made - the fourth such deadline.

The date extends the talks process and allows for negotiations after the General Election on June 8.

Mr Brokenshire said: “Since the Northern Ireland Assembly election on 2 March our focus has been on re-establishing inclusive, devolved government.

“The forthcoming UK General Election does not change that. This Bill will therefore enable an Executive to be formed in the coming days should an agreement be reached.

"However, if an agreement is not possible before the General Election, it is right that we provide flexibility for an incoming Government to act in the best interests of Northern Ireland and the space for the parties to conclude a deal.

“This Bill gives the parties the legal authority to convene the assembly, appoint ministers and get on with the resumption of devolved government at any point up to 29 June. This is what the people of Northern Ireland voted for on 2 March, and should remain the focus in the weeks ahead.”

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