Draft Budget

Oral Answers to Questions — Finance and Personnel – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:45 pm on 14 October 2002.

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Photo of Patricia Lewsley Patricia Lewsley Social Democratic and Labour Party 3:45, 14 October 2002

6. asked the Minister of Finance and Personnel to outline (a) any consultation which has taken place on the draft Budget and (b) the timetable for the presentation of a revised Budget to the Assembly.

(AQO 303/02)

Photo of Sean Farren Sean Farren Social Democratic and Labour Party

As I said earlier, the draft Budget was introduced on 24 September, which marks the start of the formal consultation period. The Executive’s intention has been to engage fully with the Assembly and other groups on the content of the draft Budget and the draft Programme for Government, which it supports. We will do that in an integrated way, consulting on those documents together. Both documents have been made widely available to social partners, business, trade unions and the voluntary and community sector. In addition, a series of workshops and seminars has been arranged to enable as many people as possible to put forward their views, and I am assured that those workshops and seminars will be held notwithstanding the suspension.

During October and early November we would have taken evidence from other Committees on the draft Budget, which would have been followed by a "take note" debate on the subject. Any proposed changes would then have been incorporated into a revised Budget to be presented, if we were here, in early December, and, miracle of miracles, we might be. A detailed timetable for the presentation of our revised Budget is contained in the draft Budget document. I trust that the Ministers who will take over responsibility for our respective Departments will take note of the level of agreement reached on the proposals in the draft Budget, and I have a high degree of expectation that we can await the implementation of the Budget in accordance with the desires of the representatives of the people of Northern Ireland.

Photo of Patricia Lewsley Patricia Lewsley Social Democratic and Labour Party

What specific steps does the Minister hope will take place to ensure that outside interests have a chance to participate fully in the consultation?

Photo of Sean Farren Sean Farren Social Democratic and Labour Party

I trust that the range of interests which I mentioned in my previous response will be consulted. The Member, and all Members of the House, will be satisfied that an adequate opportunity has been provided across all sectors for a response to and an input into the draft Budget. I cannot, with any certainty, predict what the Ministers taking over will decide. Nonetheless, they will come back to the broad proposals in the Budget and make their final determination, taking those views into account.