Northern Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has said he will use powers allowing him to extend the deadline for a Stormont election by a year.

He told MPs that an election at this stage would not be "the best course of action" to facilitate the restoration of the Executive.

Legislation being introduced at Westminster will extend the deadline for an election to a restored Stormont Assembly by one year to 18 January 2024.

Mr Heaton-Harris will retain the power to name an election date any time during the period if necessary.

He set out his reasons when he meets Northern Ireland's five main parties for round table talks.

Mr Heaton-Harris is under a legal obligation to call an election, but has used legislation before to push out the deadline.

It is currently mid April, just after the 25th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, and the new bill would allow him to take powers to extend that timeframe

The election is required under law because of the DUP's refusal to restore power-sharing in opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The UK Supreme Court yesterday ruled that the protocol was lawful.

Unionists interpreted the judgment as reinforcing their belief that the constitutional position of Northern Ireland had been undermined.

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has said there would be no basis for the restoration of the Stormont Executive until the protocol was replaced with arrangements which unionists could accept.

Talks between the UK and the EU are continuing in an attempt to find a resolution to the protocol issues.

Mr Heaton-Harris met EU lead negotiator Maroš Šefčovič in Brussels yesterday. Both men said the engagement had been useful.

It remains to be seen whether any EU/UK deal would be accepted by the DUP as a basis on which to restore Stormont.

Today's talks with the Northern Ireland parties took place in the Northern Ireland Office headquarters in the centre of Belfast.

A previous attempt at round table talks last month failed when nationalists withdrew over the exclusion of Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald.

She was expected to be part of the Sinn Féin delegation today.

Civil servants are currently running public services in Northern Ireland in the absence of elected ministers.

They have taken the reins at a time when Stormont is facing a financial overspend running to hundreds of millions of pounds.

In the absence of devolution, the responsibility for setting a budget for the coming financial year lies with the Northern Ireland Secretary.

Leaders told Dáithí's Law could be implemented in sitting

Meanwhile, the Northern Secretary has floated the idea of reforming the Assembly to finalise a piece of organ donation legislation championed by a six-year-old boy.

West Belfast boy Dáithí MacGabhann is waiting for a heart transplant.

What has become known as Dáithí's Law, automatically makes everyone in Northern Ireland a donor unless they specifically opt out.

The bill has been passed by the Assembly, but secondary legislation is needed to specify which organs are covered.

In a letter to the party leaders, Mr Heaton-Harris said they could have the law operational quickly if they recalled the assembly and elected a speaker to pass the final piece of legislation.

The DUP said it supported Dáithí's Law, but there were other avenues to achieve it, including by amending the Northern Secretary's bill postponing the election date so that the organ legislation could be attached.

But Mr Heaton Harris said Assembly approval would be the most straightforward way of seeing it through.

"It remains my priority to see the restoration of fully functioning devolved institutions, operating on a sustainable basis," he said.

"However, if MLAs could simply work together to elect an Assembly Speaker, that would be sufficient to progress these important, life-saving measures."

This evening, the DUP leader said he would table an amendment to the Northern Secretary's election delay bill, so that the organ donation law could be attached to it.

Jeffrey Donaldson said the amendment would give Mr Heaton-Harris the powers to ensure the necessary final pieces of the legislative framework be passed.

"There are clear precedents where such powers have been granted to your predecessors in similar legislation and i would therefore expect the Northern Ireland Office to facilitate this."