Budget Bill: Second Stage

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 6:15 pm on 9th February 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mervyn Storey Mervyn Storey DUP 6:15 pm, 9th February 2016

I beg to move

That the Second Stage of the Budget Bill [NIA 77/11-16] be agreed.

Accelerated passage of the Bill through the Assembly is needed in order to ensure Royal Assent before the end of March. That is necessary to obtain legal authority for the Departments and other public bodies to spend the cash and use the resources included in the Bill in 2015-16 and to ensure a smooth continuation of public services into 2016-17. Preparation of the detailed Estimates and the related Budget Bill under consideration today was a challenging undertaking, given the timetable involved. The Bill and the Estimates made must reflect the latest financial monitoring position, which concluded in January, yet the Bill requires Royal Assent prior to the end of this financial year. I am therefore grateful that the Committee for Finance and Personnel has confirmed, in line with Standing Order 42, that it is satisfied that there has been appropriate consultation with it on the public expenditure proposals contained in the Bill and that it is content that the Bill may proceed by accelerated passage. I welcome and appreciate the assistance of the Committee on the matter.

I shall now briefly outline the purpose of the legislation before us today and draw attention to the Bill's main provisions. The debate follows the Bill's First Stage yesterday, which followed the debate and approval of the two associated Supply resolutions. The Bill's purpose is to give legislative effect to the 2015-16 spring Supplementary Estimates and the 2016-17 Vote on Account. Copies of the Budget Bill and its explanatory and financial memorandum should have been made available to Members today. I do not intend to repeat the detail provided to Members at First Stage. In fact, Standing Order 32 stipulates that the debate should concern itself with the narrow content of the Bill, a point that I hope Members will remember during this evening's proceedings.

For the benefit of Members, and in accordance with Standing Order 32, I will summarise the main features of the Bill. Its purpose is to authorise the issue of £15,770,704,000 from the Northern Ireland Consolidated Fund in 2015-16. The amounts for each Department are detailed in schedule 1 to the Bill. That is £359 million more than was authorised in the June Main Estimates. That cash is drawn down on a daily basis, as needed, from the Northern Ireland Consolidated Fund, which is managed by my Department on behalf of the Executive. The Bill also authorises the use of resources totalling £17,135,765,000 by Departments and certain other public bodies. That is some £389 million more than was authorised in the June Main Estimates. Those amounts are detailed by Department in schedule 2 to the Bill.

In addition, the Bill revises the 2015-16 limit on the amount of accruing resources that may be directed by DFP to be used by Departments. That limit includes operating and non-operating accruing resources — in other words, current and capital receipts — and amounts to £2,628,155,000. A breakdown by Department is shown in schedule 2 to the Bill. Under section 8 of the Government Resources and Accounts Act (Northern Ireland) 2001, a direction on the actual use of the accruing resources will be provided by way of a DFP minute, which will be laid before the Assembly in March following the Bill's Royal Assent.

Therefore, not only does the Bill authorise the use of resources but it authorises accruing resources, bringing the total resources for use by Departments and other public bodies to almost £19·8 billion. The amounts now requested for 2015-16 supersede the Vote on Account in the Budget Act (Northern Ireland) 2015, which was passed this time last year, and the Main Estimates provision in the Budget (No. 2) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015, which was passed by the Assembly in June 2015.

The Bill also authorises the 2016-17 Vote on Account for cash of almost £7,899,052,000 and resources of £8,680,276,000. That is to allow cash and resources to flow to public services in the early months of 2016-17 until the Main Estimates and the related Budget Bill are approved in June this year. The cash and resources are to be appropriated and used for the services and purposes set out in column 1 of schedules 3 and 4.

Clause 5 authorises temporary borrowing by the Department of Finance and Personnel at a ceiling of £3,949,526,000 for 2016-17. That is a normal safeguard for any temporary deficiency arising in the Consolidated Fund. I stress that clause 5 does not provide for the issue of any additional cash out of the Consolidated Fund or convey any additional spending power. Instead, it enables my Department to run an efficient cash management regime.

Finally, the Budget Bill authorises the Public Prosecution Service to use an additional £6,032,000 in 2013-14, by way of an Excess Vote. This issue has arisen due to a fair employment tribunal ruling against the Public Prosecution Service on an equal pay and indirect discrimination case. The necessity to make provision for these costs at year end then breached the Public Prosecution Service annually managed expenditure budget for 2013-14. The Public Accounts Committee recommended that the Assembly provide the additional resources through an Excess Vote.

At this stage, there is little more that I can usefully add on the Budget Bill. I look forward to the debate and will endeavour to respond to as many issues raised by Members as possible.