Northern Ireland Budget (No. 2) Bill

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 6:15 pm on 9th July 2018.

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Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 6:15 pm, 9th July 2018

I am grateful for that clarification, although I may return to that point later in a different context.

Nevertheless, there is still a question of accountability. In the end, accountability is a function of adequate scrutiny—not simply of the budgetary process at this stage, but of the spending that takes place afterwards. I ask both the Secretary of State and the Minister to consider very closely what the role can now be of the Northern Ireland Audit Office. It is one of the few bodies that has legitimacy, but its legitimacy is itself challenged by the lack of a functioning Executive and Northern Ireland Assembly. However, the Audit Office is certainly one of the few bodies that can put information into the public domain and exercise some stewardship of the spending that takes place and value for money, which is so important in any form of Government spending.

Real questions must also be asked about the way in which decisions are made on spending more generally as the political logjam in Northern Ireland—the lack of a power-sharing Assembly—quite frankly turns such decisions bit by bit into some areas of enormous difficulty and some areas of crisis. The hon. Members for Belfast South (Emma Little Pengelly) and for South Antrim (Paul Girvan) have made points about the recent decision concerning the Mallusk incinerator. The Secretary of State herself mentioned the situation, which has now been through the High Court and the Court of Appeal. I must say to her that I accept people were busy on Friday, but considerable work should already have been done on this because it is important to have legal certainty.