Northern Ireland Budget Bill - Second Reading (and remaining stages)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:39 am on 31st October 2019.

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Photo of Lord Duncan of Springbank Lord Duncan of Springbank Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office), Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 11:39 am, 31st October 2019

I believe that the victims of historical abuse are watching us right now, not just in this House but in the other place. The noble Lord is correct in assessing what their view would be if that Bill fails to pass through both Houses. I will return to this during discussions in Committee on the historical institutional abuse Bill, to bring further matters to his and the House’s attention. If I may return now to the Bill before us, I shall talk briefly on its contents.

The Bill authorises Northern Ireland departments and certain other bodies to incur expenditure and use resources for the financial year ending 31 March 2020. Clause 1 authorises the Northern Ireland Department of Finance to issue £5.3 billion out of the Northern Ireland Consolidated Fund. The sums of money granted to Northern Ireland departments and other bodies are set out in Schedule 1, which also sets out the purposes for which the funds may be used. The allocations in this budget reflect where the key pressures lie in Northern Ireland, building on discussions we have had with the Northern Ireland Civil Service, the main parties in Northern Ireland and other stakeholders. Where possible, they reflect the previous Executive’s priorities.

Clause 2 authorises the temporary borrowing by the Northern Ireland Department of Finance of around £2.6 billion, to safeguard against the possibility of a temporary deficiency in the Northern Ireland Consolidated Fund. If used, this money will be repaid by 31 March 2020. Clause 3 authorises Northern Ireland departments and other specified public bodies to use resources amounting to some £6 billion in the year ending 31 March 2020 for the purposes specified in Schedule 2. Clause 4 sets limits on the accruing resources, including both operating and non-operating accruing resources, which may be used in the current financial year. Since this Bill would normally be taken through the Assembly, Clause 5 includes a series of adaptations that ensure that, once approved by both Houses, it will be treated as though it were an Assembly budget Act.

Alongside the Bill, the Government have laid a Command Paper; a set of main estimates for the Northern Ireland departments and bodies covered by the budget Bill. These estimates, which have been prepared by the Northern Ireland Department of Finance, set out the breakdown of resource allocation in much greater detail. I commend the Bill to the House.