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Cross-Sector Advisory Forum

Part of Ministerial Statement – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:15 pm on 20th April 2009.

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Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP 12:15 pm, 20th April 2009

It is necessary for me to go back and try again. Members use terms without thinking exactly what they mean. The Programme for Government already has the economy of Northern Ireland as its top priority. There is no need to change the priorities in the Programme for Government. From time to time, there will be a need to finesse the Budget. When I was Finance Minister, I indicated during the Budget debate that we were quite happy to do that. Indeed, we do it four times a year in the monitoring rounds. In particular, last December, we recognised that we had to hold a special monitoring round to deal with the crisis. The Finance Minister is working on the statement that he will make in relation to the next monitoring round. From time to time the Budget will be redefined, as necessary. However, to do that, we must free up funding to make allocations. Such funding can come only from two sources: underspend within Departments on capital or resources or reprioritisation by the Executive.

Is there any Member who believes that there should be a reduction in the Department that his or her Minister heads? Not a single hand has gone up. Faced with that, there is a — [Interruption]. There is only one problem: the Alliance Party has no Minister. [Laughter].

We cannot spend money that we have not got. Each Member must take a hard decision, but they cannot say that money must come out of Government Departments that their Ministers are not a part of. The situation requires the Government as a whole to deal with the issues, and it requires money to be freed up from all Government Departments.