Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Budget 2016-17

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 4:15 pm on 19th January 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mike Nesbitt Mike Nesbitt UUP 4:15 pm, 19th January 2016

Thank you very much. Some 27% of our people are economically inactive. Here is the solution, Mr Ó Muilleoir: it lies in mental health and well-being. We all know that many, many people woke up this morning with no sense of purpose in their life. They will go to bed tonight with no sense of achievement, and they long for that sense of achievement. They long for a more fulfilled life and they long for a job, but they cannot have that because of their poor mental health and well-being. Our per capita rates are among the worst in the world. They are certainly up there in the top three, with the likes of Lebanon and Israel. We have the same problems as everybody else, and we have the legacy issue of mental health and well-being. There is where the Ulster Unionist Party would start: by empowering people to stop them being economically inactive. Why have the Executive not done something about that? Yes, we have ideas.

Between the departmental expenditure limit (DEL) and annually managed expenditure (AME), there is £20 billion. AME is £9 billion, which you do not have discretion over, but it is there. There is £11 billion in the block grant — £11 billion that we need out of London. There was a time when we were net contributors to the Treasury. I am not saying that we will ever get back to that point, but should we not aspire to that? Should we not try to be less dependent on the block grant? Would that not generate jobs, wealth and well-being for our people? I believe that it would.

And on to the debt. Mr Ian McCrea obviously thinks that we should borrow more: I disagree. We currently have to find £60 million per annum just to service the debt. For Mr McCrea's benefit, I point out that the Department of Health's budget for paramedic services is £60 million. That is how big servicing the debt is. Sixty million pounds is twice what the Department of Justice has to spend on creating safer communities.

Let us not, therefore, be dismissive of or complacent about the level of debt.