So more by way of completing the story, here’s the unrushed detail of that row between the Finance Minister and the Communities Minister, the latter of whom…
…said he would press ahead with the payments by bypassing the Executive and bringing legislation directly before the Assembly – potentially on the same day the election is called.
Last night Communities Minister Paul Givan said: “I’m asking the Speaker to reconvene the business committee, so that, urgently, this can be brought before the Assembly on Monday.
“I’ll be appealing to MLAs to vote for these regulations in order to protect individuals, because they should not pay the price for what has been happening here in this Executive, with Sinn Fein’s tactics.”
So to the detail. So it seems Minister Givan got his own Permanent Secretary to consult his legal department on the matter, and got a slightly more cautious advice when compared to the one David reported yesterday from Finance:
It stated that an earlier suggestion by Mr O Muilleoir that existing legislation could be used for bedroom tax relief payments provides “no legal basis for the kind of scheme that is contained in the present draft Regulations”.
“It would be unprecedented to introduce a new welfare scheme estimated to cost around £25m per year solely on the basis of administrative action,” the letter states.
“In light of the above, our legal advice therefore confirms that the only way for you and the Department to introduce a statutory ‘bedroom tax’ mitigation scheme is through the present draft regulation and that the laying of these regulations is the safest legal route in the present circumstances.” [Emphasis added]
That is to say that the route recommended by the Finance Minister’s advice is legal but not necessarily the safest way to set regulation.