This could be a very thorny issue for the Assembly and Executive. Nearly all the local parties will hate the coalition’s welfare to work policies. Politically they wouldn’t dare do otherwise. But this pushes them right up against their limitations.
Alex Attwood the SDLP’s Social Development minister has branded as “Thatcherite” the coalition’s plans to cut welfare payments for at least three months if voluntary work is not accepted.
The Scots are also up in arms. But the Scots appear to have no choice other than to go along with what Iain Duncan Smith proposes on Thursday, as welfare – the Work and Pensions department – is not devolved in GB.
Nominally NI has discretion but operates a step by step policy.
Mr Attwood said he hoped the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly “goes nowhere near this idea”.
In practice can the Assembly refuse to follow Westminster’s lead as they will be funded to comply?