Over the period from 1989-90 to 1998-99, expenditure on the Northern Ireland block, excluding social security payments, has increased by 2·2% in real terms. This is equivalent to real annual average growth of 0·2%. This figure also excludes expenditure on law, order and protective services.
With regard to the last point, if the figure I gave earlier had included social security payments, the increase would have been not 2·2% in real terms but 15·8%. There have clearly been continuing increases in social security expenditure. The deeper question of the subvention has also been raised, among others, by members of the Finance and Personnel Committee, in particular Mr Leslie.
Not all the information is available to us on all the revenue generated and all the taxable income that flows from Northern Ireland into the United Kingdom Exchequer. However, many observers would have some agreement with the point the Member makes. Clearly, based on the fact that there has been economic growth and greater buoyancy in the economy here, one might assume this would also translate into higher tax yields. However, there are no definitive figures on that point at this stage, much to the dissatisfaction of members of the Finance and Personnel Committee.
Does the Minister agree, since there is always likely to be some stringency with respect to the total size and growth of the Northern Ireland block, that it is imperative for the Executive, as soon as possible, to start a review of administration in order to cut the costs of running the Government, taking in quangos, boards, agencies, and perhaps even the size, competencies and numbers of district councils, in order that money can be directed to highly productive and, indeed, social welfare ends as opposed to simply running Government?
We want to make public expenditure more efficient. We want to make sure that we are running effective public services. We want to make sure that as far as possible the money to fund public services goes into services for the people rather than into structures and systems. We want to make sure that as much public money as possible goes into real services rather than be absorbed by the Government.
These are not straightforward issues, and we must make sure that the systems and structures are adequate to support services and reflect the needs of services properly. Wiping away various structures and systems may not protect or promote the quality of those services. We have to consider this in a hard-headed and thoughtful way.