Northern Ireland Budget (Anticipation and Adjustments) (No. 2) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:50 pm on 5th March 2019.

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Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 3:50 pm, 5th March 2019

I know the right hon. Gentleman wants to come in, but I want to make some progress, because I am conscious that others want to speak and we want to make sure everyone has a chance to be heard.

Let me go back to the work we are doing today. Like last year, the draft budget sets headline allocations only. It will remain for Northern Ireland permanent secretaries to use the powers of this budget legislation and the draft budget position to take decisions to maintain public services and live within their means. Also like last year, the Bill does not propose any new moneys to be voted on for Northern Ireland. The totals to which it relates are either raised locally or have been subject to previous votes in Parliament, most recently in respect of the Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) (No. 2) Bill, which has passed through this House and is now in the other House. Instead, the Bill looks back to confirm spending totals for 2018-19, to ensure that the Northern Ireland civil service has a secure legal basis for its spending in the past year. Taken as a whole, it represents the minimum necessary intervention to secure public finances at this juncture.

Let me turn briefly to the Bill’s contents, which largely rehearse what I set out to the House in spring last year when I introduced the Northern Ireland Budget (Anticipation and Adjustments) Act 2018. In short, the Bill authorises Northern Ireland Departments and certain other bodies to incur expenditure and use resources for the financial year ending on 31 March 2019—this month.

Clause 1 authorises the issue of £16.8 billion out of the Consolidated Fund of Northern Ireland. The allocation levels for each Northern Ireland Department and the other bodies in receipt of the funds are set out in schedule 1, which also states the purposes for which the funds are to be used.

Clause 2 authorises the use of resources amounting to some £20 billion in the year ending 31 March 2019 by the Northern Ireland Departments and other bodies listed in subsection (3).

Clause 3 sets revised limits on the accruing resources, including both operating and non-operating accruing resources in the current financial year. All are largely as they appeared in the Northern Ireland Budget Act 2018. The revised totals for Departments appear in schedules 1 and 2.

Clause 4 sets out the power for the Northern Ireland civil service to issue out of the Northern Ireland Consolidated Fund some £11.8 billion in cash for the forthcoming financial year. That is the vote-on-account provision that I have already outlined. It is linked to clause 6, which does the same in terms of resources. The value is set at around 70% of the sums available in both regards in the previous financial year. Schedules 3 and 4 operate on the same basis, with each departmental allocation simply set at 70% of the previous year, and clause 5 permits some temporary borrowing powers for cash-management purposes.

As I have already noted, all these sums relate to those that have already been voted for by Parliament, together with revenue generated locally in Northern Ireland. There is no new money in the Bill; there is simply the explicit authority to spend in full the moneys that have already been allocated.