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I thank the Chairman for his interest in the work of the cross-sector advisory forum. The minutes of the forum meeting will be made available to the Committee, and it can judge for itself what role it might wish to have in interrogating the deputy First Minister and me or any of the other Ministers. We will be happy to keep the Committee informed of the work of the forum and its subgroups.
The Member referred to the forum’s current membership. At the last Executive meeting, the deputy First Minister and I made it clear to our Executive colleagues that we wanted them all to participate in the work of the forum. During the forum’s first meeting, it became fairly clear that the Minister responsible for skills would play an important part in the further considerations of the forum. However, during that meeting, there was a growing belief that the way to move forward is to create subgroups that can deal with various sectoral interests and bring reports to the whole forum. Again, that will give each Minister a role to play in relation to the various interests that exist, which might include skills and training issues, agriculture issues, or other departmental matters.
The Chancellor will make a statement on Wednesday. Until he makes that statement and until we have assessed it by reading the small print, it is difficult for anybody to know exactly what impact it will have on Northern Ireland. However, if the Prime Minister intends to go back on his word that we will receive a CSR settlement that is entirely ours and will allow us, as a fledgling devolved Administration, to plan ahead for three years, or if he goes back on his indication that any savings that are made by this devolved Administration will stay here and he decides, based on the Barnett formula, to draw money away from Northern Ireland, we will be required to look at the Budget, and there will be Budget consequences. If, as the whispers from the Treasury suggest, about £150 million will come out of the Northern Ireland Budget, that will have an impact on spending.