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UUP could cause the welfare bill to fall

By Liam Clarke

The UUP could throw the Executive into crisis today if it decides to oppose the extension of the controversial Welfare Reform Bill to Northern Ireland.

Because the SDLP and Sinn Fein also oppose the plan, the bill would fall — and Finance Minister Sammy Wilson has already warned of a multi-million black hole that would appear in Northern Ireland’s budget.

The option will be put to a meeting of the party’s 13 remaining MLAs.

The welfare reform debate has huge implications for Northern Ireland and could necessitate cuts in other areas or the introduction of local taxes if not passed.

Last October the Bill passed its first hurdle at the Assembly by 60 votes to 42 but it will come before MLAs again after attempts to secure changes to meet Northern Ireland’s special circumstances.

If the 13 UUP MLAs changed sides the bill would fall. A UUP source said that a final decision was unlikely today.

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