Benefit Tribunals

Part of Northern Ireland Assembly – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 4:45 pm on 14th February 2012.

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Photo of Jim Wells Jim Wells DUP 4:45 pm, 14th February 2012

So, we have a female version of the former Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, but much younger, I would add. Again, gloom and doom.

I would not for one moment say that it was not an extremely difficult exercise to bring the health budget into line for 2011-12. I sat on the Health Committee throughout that period, and I could see that the Minister and his team were going through every line of the budget to find money that was unspent, money that was being misused, money that could be saved and where efficiencies could be developed without affecting front line care. Through the Committee, I saw some examples of how difficult that is. So, do not get me wrong. What I am saying is that when you use your head and you go through the budget carefully, you can find efficiencies.

Remember, the budget was not cut. The health element of the health and social care budget was ring-fenced and protected and given increased resources. As a result of a lot of hard bargaining around the Executive table, health came out of the Budget negotiations the strongest of the Departments. That is not underestimating how difficult it was even to live within that budget because of increased demand. However, all that nonsense about cuts in health was not true. There was just less of an increase than perhaps some former Ministers —