Budget Bill: Second Stage

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 8:15 pm on 9th February 2016.

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Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP 8:15 pm, 9th February 2016

I welcome the opportunity to take part in the debate this evening. Perhaps interesting is not the word I will use, but we have certainly heard a number of things from a number of different Members. I think that there are two things that we need to bear in mind as we consider this Budget and, indeed, any Budget that comes before us. The first is that we are still heavily dependent on funding from Her Majesty's Treasury. It has already been said that our fiscal deficit is in the region of £9·2 billion. That is over £5,000 per person. Secondly, and as a consequence of that, if we want funding for a particular area or project, we either have to take money away from another area or project or we need to raise revenue. We have heard a lot of criticism of the Budget, but we have heard very little that has been volunteered on areas in which we would cut spending to compensate for increases elsewhere, and we have heard very little about the revenue that others would like to raise. I think it is important that we consider these things as we approach this Budget. We are dependent on the Treasury and the block grant, and that is something that we need to keep in mind.

I very much support the Budget that is in front of us, and I do so for a number of reasons. First, there is the priority that it places on certain issues. I think that the priorities in this Budget reflect those of the people of Northern Ireland. If you go onto the streets and ask people what they think needs protecting and where we should be spending most of our money, I am sure that on nearly every occasion they will tell you that they want to protect health and education. I think it is right that, although we are in a very difficult and constrained environment, we have still been able to offer a degree of protection to those Departments. I think that that is welcome.