Part of Oral Answers to Questions – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:00 pm on 17th February 2014.

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Photo of Simon Hamilton Simon Hamilton DUP 2:00 pm, 17th February 2014

I thank the Member for his very pertinent question.  He is absolutely right.  It is not the first time in the past week and I am sure that it will not be the last time today that Members opposite will press me to make finance available for all sorts of projects in their constituencies or across Northern Ireland.  However, the final leg of a resolution to the issue of equal pay for staff working in the justice family, if we can devise a solution, will be the need to find some money to pay for it. 

I know where there is £15 million that could not only be used to fund this issue but could be given to colleagues in the Executive like the Health Minister, to relieve the pressures that the health service faces, or the Minister of Education, to relieve pressures in the education budget.  Right across the system, all Ministers face pressures; they speak to me regularly and bring issues to the House.  Members know that departmental budgets are under pressure, but £15 million is being squandered and handed back to Westminster this year.  That will rise to £105 million next year, and a total of £1 billion over the next five years.  That is money that we can ill afford to lose, yet it is being handed back and not being put to any good use.