NDNA: Financial Commitments

Oral Answers to Questions — Finance – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 25th February 2020.

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Photo of Gerry Carroll Gerry Carroll People Before Profit Alliance 2:30 pm, 25th February 2020

T8. Mr Carroll asked the Minister of Finance, given that openness and transparency are key to the remit of the Department of Finance and that the Executive parties have consistently stated that the British Government have reneged on the spending arrangements promised to them to get them involved in the New Decade, New Approach agreement, to detail exactly what the financial commitments were, particularly as the lack of transparency is somewhat concerning. (AQT 148/17-22)

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

There is no lack of transparency around what the commitments were. Rather, the lack of transparency is around the British Government meeting the cost of those commitments. In the Second Stage debate earlier, Members talked about wish lists. Bear in mind that all five parties on the Executive came to the process together, through a structured piece of work done with senior civil servants in the Department of Finance and senior officials in the NIO. Together we came up with a list that, we were told, was certainly achievable. The British Government were reluctant to provide figures, and they then abruptly called an end to the negotiation. That has caused uncertainty. Since I have come into post, I have done an exercise costing the proposals that they committed to. It is their document. I intend to engage with the Treasury this week again about securing the necessary finance to meet the commitments made.

Photo of Gerry Carroll Gerry Carroll People Before Profit Alliance

It is concerning that there are commitments in New Decade, New Approach that have not been adequately budgeted for. There is talk of funding gaps of several hundreds of millions of pounds. Will the Minister commit to doing all that he can to ensure that the British Government live up to their commitments?

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

That is what I have been doing, and that is why the exercise was undertaken in the first instance. We were told by the NIO that the negotiation was over. We were told, "That is your money, and that is it." We did not accept that. I undertook an exercise to cost the commitments made across the Departments. Some of them were for cross-departmental work, so it took some time to get the costs together. I went over and engaged with Treasury on that basis. It was a fairly positive engagement. I intend to go back this week to continue that discussion and to have discussions in Whitehall generally. I have certainly not given up on pursuing that finance, and I am glad that I have the support of all my Executive colleagues in doing so. I hope that we will have something to show for it.

We delivered politically through the commitments that the five parties made under New Decade, New Approach. We could not now simply approach that agreement politically and say, "We signed up to it, but we did not mean any of it", so the British Government cannot disengage financially from the commitments that they made.