Northern Ireland Assembly
Tuesday 12 December 2000
The Assembly met at 10.30 am (Mr Speaker in the Chair).
Members observed two minutes’ silence.
Members will note that we have a new Clerk at Table today. Dr Heather Lank is a Clerk of the Canadian Parliament and is here to assist in the training of our Clerks. It is traditional when a senior Clerk visits another Parliament on duty, that he or she is invited to assist at Table. I am delighted to have the help of such a distinguished Commonwealth parliamentary colleague. [Applause]
The Minister of Finance and Personnel (Mr Durkan):
With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on behalf of the Executive on the Budget for 2001-02 and the Executive’s public spending plans for 2002-03 and 2003-04.
When I introduced the draft Budget on 17 October I set out the Executive spending plans for 2001-02 as a basis for debate and comment in the Assembly and more widely. Many have taken this opportunity, and I am especially grateful to the Finance and Personnel Committee for the attention that it has given to this issue. The Assembly had a very fruitful and important debate on this subject last month, and Members will also have seen the report of the Finance and Personnel Committee on the Budget. There has also been extensive comment from other Assembly Committees.
We have received several important comments from social partner organisations and other interested parties. We held two seminars on the impact of the Budget proposals on equality of opportunity, which was also the subject of comments from the Equality Commission. I am very grateful to the Commission, and to all who attended the two conferences, for their thoughtful input.
As well as the comments from the Assembly and others, the revision of the Budget has been affected by several developments in the public spending figures. Decisions by the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave rise to some changes in the total available, especially his confirmation that we will receive a Barnett-based share of the latest round of allocations from the Treasury’s capital modernisation fund.
Within our own management of spending, it has been possible to correct an anomaly in the treatment of rate rebates which up to now has had the effect of denying us some of the subsidy to which we were entitled from the social security system. The correction of this anomaly increases our spending power in the departmental expenditure limit as fixed by the Treasury while having no effect on those who need rate rebates. The rules on entitlements remain based on parity of social security legislation with England, Scotland and Wales.
Details of the additional amounts available for allocation as a result of these changes, together with some savings that have emerged in departmental budgets since October, are set out in the Budget document.
In finalising the Budget proposals, the Executive have had regard to the views expressed by the Assembly on a range of issues. The Executive propose that the additional resources available should be used as explained in the Budget document and in the table attached to my statement.
To outline the revised Budget proposals, I will comment on the position for the Executive programme funds and for each Department in turn. I will set out briefly the changes to the allocations now proposed for each Department as compared to those announced in October, as well as a few key points about the indicative figures for 2002-03 and 2003-04.
The Executive have agreed the indicative allocations for 2002-03 and 2003-04. We do not have as much in the forward plans as we would wish, because of the effects of the Barnett formula. We want to achieve a new steer on our spending to deliver our Programme for Government in the best possible way. It is important, therefore to remember that the figures for departmental allocations for the later years are indicative. They understate what will, in the end, be allocated to many functions, because they will be augmented by allocations from the Executive programme funds. They will also be subject to review next year. To emphasise this they are, in line with convention, rounded to the nearest £10 million.
The Executive programme funds are a key element of the Executive’s determined strategy to ensure that spending plans are adjusted from previous patterns and brought into line with the Executive’s strategic priorities as set out in the Programme for Government. They are also designed to promote cross-cutting working, whereby proposals and initiatives can be brought forward for consideration by an appropriate group of Ministers working together. That will help the new structures of Government to promote a better way of working and managing programmes and projects.
The attribution of resources to the funds has now been confirmed and is set out in the Budget document. That includes the increase of £9 million for 2001-02, made possible through planned carry forward from 2000-01 as announced last month. There are also increases for the new directions fund, which I will say more about later. Early in the new year, proposals from Departments for the allocation of those funds will be considered and put to the Assembly in due course. We believe that the special allocations from these funds, managed and approved at Executive level, will make a real difference in applying our Programme for Government in contrast with previous patterns of expenditure. That will be an important demonstration of new political direction, based on direct accountability to the people, through the Assembly.
Because some spending power is being placed in these new funds, it follows that the amounts allocated to Departments, especially for 2002-03 and 2003-04, understate the final spending power that will be available to functions in due course. Thus the spending plans in the revised Budget document will be augmented by successful bids on the five Executive programme funds from Departments. We want to proceed with this as quickly as possible and to consider the allocations from the funds for the next three years so that the spending plans for all Departments are set out as clearly as possible.
With regard to EU programmes the draft Budget showed how the Peace II programme would be added to the mainstream allocations for Departments. These are also shown in today’s revised Budget, though they are indicative allocations which we will need to revisit once the programme has been agreed. The Executive are committed to ensuring that the new programme is truly additional and distinctive, as intended. A factor in settling the detail of the revised Budget is the Executive’s provisions in their spending plans for the actions proposed for the other aspects of the new round of EU structural fund programmes, namely the transitional Objective 1 programme and the community initiatives. Unlike Peace II, these do not provide additional spending power to the region over and above our Barnett-based public spending allocation.
In finalising the Budget for 2001-02, and in setting indicative plans for 2002-03 and 2003-04, the Executive have ensured that there is appropriate provision for the content of these EU programmes. This has meant making special provision of £15 million in 2001-02 and £20 million in each of the two later years. That includes an allowance of some £11 million a year for aspects of the transitional Objective 1 programme which are outside the normal budgets of Departments. There is also £4·5 million in 2001-02, and £9 million a year thereafter for the four community initiatives — INTERREG III, URBAN II, EQUAL and LEADER+. Details of the allocation of these amounts to Departments are shown in the Budget document. These roll forward similar and successful actions from the previous round of EU funding and show that the Executive are determined to ensure that we work fully and effectively with the EU in applying the structural funds as a key contributor to the region’s development. We are very grateful for the special assistance that the EU continues to provide, especially for the Peace II programme, which is such a unique and significant commitment by Europe to our situation.
The proposed allocation for 2001-02 for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is increased by £2 million from that announced in October. The further allocation is to provide for the likely cost of essential functions in relation to animal health together with allowance for EU programmes, in particular the LEADER+ community initiative. The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development receives a substantial increase in spending power in 2001-02, and this is then rolled forward into 2002-03 and 2003-04 in the Executive’s indicative figures.
The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure received a significant boost in expenditure in the draft Budget, especially for the arts. Some further provision has been added to permit further work on the libraries capital programme in both 2001-02 and 2002-03. The Budget also provides for the agreed increase in the provision for the North/South Languages Body, which was announced in November following final recommendations from the North/South Ministerial Council. The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure is to get a substantial increase in 2001-02 with smaller increases in the later years, though, as for all Departments, these may be revised when the allocations from the Executive programme funds have been completed.
The proposals for the Department of Education include an additional £1·3 million in 2001-02 compared to the draft Budget.
The uplift from 2000-01 to 2001-02 will be 7·2%. This demonstrates the Executive’s determination to make appropriate provisions for schools which is a fundamental investment in our future. The Minister of Education will provide further detailed information in due course.
In the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment there is a new provision for the development of the information age initiative, which is a significant aspect of the investment that we must make in the economy. The investment from our own public spending resources will be complemented by the proposals currently under discussion with the European Commission for inclusion in the Peace II programme. Again, there will be scope for funding proposals for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment functions to be considered in the Executive programme funds.
The budget for the Department of Finance and Personnel has been increased from the position proposed in October. This is to include an allowance to cover technical assistance, with the new round of EU structural funds programmes. The indicative figures include a roll forward of these proposals, which also take into account the needs of accommodation services for all Departments in future years.
The largest single programme in our departmental expenditure limit is for the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety. The proposals now presented, which involve the allocation of £7 million more than proposed in October, make provision well above the rate of inflation, with a 7·6% increase over 2000-01. That should help the Health Service to develop and address the needs of our population.
I recognise the significant demands on the Health Service at this time, and it is right that it should receive substantial resources in the spending review. The indicative figures for years two and three of the period provide for further substantial increases. Furthermore, many aspects of health programmes will be eligible to bid on the Executive programme funds; thus there is scope for these allocations to be increased.
In the Department of Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment the main development arises from the Executive’s decisions last week regarding the approach to the student support review, which I will turn to shortly. The departmental figures now include details on the welfare-to-work programmes, which have been transferred to our responsibility following the conclusion of the Spending Review 2000 by the Treasury. The plans also include the continued provision of support for training, which is to be provided by non-governmental organisations and is likely to receive support under the European structural funds transitional Objective 1 programme.
The plans for the Department of the Environment remain largely unchanged from those announced in October 2000. There are some additional provisions for the environmental aspects of the European transitional Objective 1 programme, as well as a small increase for administration costs in planning and environmental heritage.
The Programme for Government included a commitment to introduce free travel for the elderly. The spending plans for the Department for Regional Development make provision for this commencing from April 2002. The Executive decided to cover three quarters of the estimated cost, rather than one half, which was the figure in the models discussed up to now with district councils. Such details must be explored further with councils. However, this is an area to which the Executive are committed to making an important change which will benefit many. Also for the Department for Regional Development there is an addition of £2 million for roads maintenance in 2001-02.
The Department for Social Development will receive an additional £2 million for housing aimed at targeting the particular difficulties affecting north Belfast at present. This area is a high priority for the Department for Social Development and the Housing Executive. The plans also provide for continual support for the voluntary sector under the transitional Objective 1 programme, subject to the ongoing negotiations with the European Commission.
Finally, the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister has a budget largely unchanged from October. The additional £0·4 million in 2001-02 will be used to fund key research on equality and policy effectiveness and to expand a number of existing programmes.
In particular, the Executive have agreed to provide for some aspects of the student support review presented by the Minister of Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment, and to ensure that, after further consultation and discussion, there will be scope to make more specific decisions when the time is right.
In considering that, the Executive are focusing their attention on action to help the groups and sectors in greatest need of assistance, and that will address the factors that cause under-representation. The proposals, which Seán Farren will explain in detail later in the week, include action to help those students in higher and further education who are most affected by the restrictions on support for living costs, and for additional higher education places.
The full proposals need further consideration by the Executive and the Assembly, but the Budget provides an additional £5 million in 2001-02, £7 million in 2002-03 and £8 million in 2003-04 for some key aspects of the review, mainly for further education. The Executive concluded that this aspect of tertiary level education is where there had been the greatest neglect of students’ needs in recent years, and that the additional funding presents a major opportunity to make a difference. The Executive agreed to act immediately to provide help for that sector. These increases come on top of the additional £3·4 million for parity-based increases in the student support regime provided in the draft Budget.
The Executive have increased the allocation for the new directions fund by £15 million in 2002-03 and £20 million in 2003-04. Those funds will be earmarked to make it clear that there are resources available to allow a response to some of Seán Farren’s proposals, after they have been considered further by the Executive early in the new year. That will allow further time for evaluation and discussion of the proposals and for a proper response when the processes have been completed.
I stress again that the figures for 2002-03 and 2003-04, as set out in the tables attached to my statement and in the Budget document, are indicative at this stage. Departments can and will use them as a basis for planning. In particular, they will allow capital programmes to move forward, though the Executive will monitor the evolution of the public service agreements and information on actions and targets to ensure that there is a major change in the quality and detail of our analysis of what we are getting for the money used in expenditure programmes.
The Executive considered carefully the points made about the uplift in the regional rate, but concluded that the increases were needed to ensure that we have sufficient resources for our services.
In introducing the draft Budget on 17 October, I said that agreement on the Programme for Government and the Budget represents a very important step in the evolution of our new institutions. Again, we have demonstrated that we can, and do, work together as an Executive, having regard for the full range of responsibilities of all Departments and the services which are provided for all the people in the community. The next step will be a full debate in the Assembly next week, when I will introduce a motion seeking the Assembly’s approval of this revised Budget.
Because of this year’s constrained timetable, it has been necessary to eat into the original Christmas recess to take time to fulfil this central and important function. As I explained earlier in the autumn when this timetable was being settled, it is essential that we reach agreement on the position, so that those responsible for public services will have a clear basis for planning. The Finance and Personnel Committee, in its report on the Budget, urged that in future cycles the presentation of the draft Budget should take place as soon as possible after the summer recess.
I agree that that is the best way to ensure that the Assembly and its Committees have as much time as possible to undertake scrutiny. However, the process can and should begin before the summer recess, when Departments are preparing their input to each Budget cycle.
My other major concern is the overall position for determining public spending levels for the region, given the consequences of the Barnett formula. It is clear, especially as we look at the indicative figures for 2002-03 and 2003-04, that we do not have sufficient resources to take forward all the policy initiatives that the region needs in the context of the unique opportunities provided by devolution and the Good Friday Agreement.
We have inherited a backlog of under-investment in infrastructure, and difficulties in funding for health, education, transport and a range of other services that are now being addressed with large amounts of money in England. The Barnett formula means that we cannot match all of the increases available, and that will have an increasingly serious effect as the years go on. As I have said previously, the Executive remain determined to engage with the Treasury on the examination of these issues and to make as much progress as possible.
We also have a clear responsibility to ensure that whatever resources we have are used as effectively as possible. Already the Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee has examined a range of value-for-money issues, and my Department will continue to work with and on behalf of all Departments, and in line with the requirements of the Public Accounts Committee, to promote the best possible use of resources.
We are also working in conjunction with the Economic Policy Unit of the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister to develop better public service agreements, incorporating actions and targets and work on the evaluation of policies and programmes. That will improve how spending is managed and controlled.
I commend these Budget proposals to the Assembly. This has been a time-constrained cycle. However, I believe that we have an outcome that will begin to make a real difference which, especially through the Executive programme funds, will mean that everyone will begin to see the impact of the Executive and the Assembly in the management of our services.
The Chairperson of the Committee for Finance and Personnel (Mr Molloy):
Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. I welcome the statement from the Minister of Finance and Personnel on the revised Budget. It is good that we have another look at the Budget in the ongoing review process. I can only speak on my own behalf, as the Committee has not discussed the revised Budget. The Committee will meet the Minister this evening and will be giving full consideration to the revised Budget.
I have a couple of questions. The first relates to the new money. Is that part of the extra £40 million in the 2000 spending review period? If that is the case, would it not be possible to use that money to keep the increase in the rates in line with inflation?
I welcome the commitment that the money that the Government will put into the European funding will be additional. I would appreciate a clear statement on when these funds will be available for Peace II, as that is an ongoing saga. The community is finding that the gap in funding is increasing and that Peace II is not on the ground.
I thank the Member and the Committee for their work on the draft Budget.
First, the extra resources that we have available to allocate come from several sources, as I explained in my statement.
Some of them are a consequence of the Barnett formula, arising from the allocations announced in the pre-Budget report by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and some arise from the difference in the treatment of rate rebate for owner-occupiers, which gives us some more resources to manage.
The Executive considered the option of using those moneys to achieve a lower increase in the regional rate. However, the Executive were also very conscious of the fact that various departmental Committees were saying that they wanted to see increases in departmental budgets. Departments, and their respective Committees, were indicating that they needed even more resources next year. If we were to make more resources available, then we needed to use the extra moneys that were becoming available between the draft Budget and now. In particular, we have the significant issue of student financial support, on which proposals have come forward in the interim as a result of a review. It was important that the Executive should make provision in respect of all of those issues.
We are continuing to work very hard with the European Commission on the Peace II programme to ensure that we can have the operational programme agreed as soon as possible. All discussions on the community support framework have been completed, although not as early as we would have liked. We are now dealing with the operational programmes, and when they are agreed we must then bring forward the programme complements.
We have already appointed the monitoring committees; some are in shadow format as that is all we are allowed to do at this stage. This is evidence that the Executive are determined to make progress as soon as possible. We are very conscious of the need, the expectation, and the frustration on the ground in relation to the delays in Peace II funding, and the uncertainty as to timing.
The Deputy Chairperson of the Committee for Finance and Personnel (Mr Leslie):
I commend the Minister for bringing this statement to the House a week before the substantive Budget debate. Members will be very thankful for the opportunity to study the figures over the next six days.
In relation to the Department for Social Development, the Minister’s statement allocates an extra £2 million to target housing difficulties in north Belfast. This is very welcome. The House is aware of the considerable difficulties in that area. However, I am very disappointed to see that that amount seems to be all that there will be. The House is aware that the Minister for Social Development continues to insist on increasing rates by 2% above the level of inflation, which will cause great hardship for those who actually pay their rent.
What plans does the Minister have for allocating some money to the other pressing problems in housing, namely fuel poverty, and the need to upgrade basic kitchen and bathroom facilities in Housing Executive homes?
In response to representations made by many people, not least the Social Development Committee and its Chairperson, the Executive have responded, in the revised Budget, with an allocation of £2 million. This is specifically aimed at supporting the Housing Executive’s work in north Belfast.
In relation to future monitoring rounds, the Executive will, as they have done in previous monitoring rounds, pay due regard to the needs and programmes of all Departments. We will be making allocations in the December monitoring round, and we want to make the provision that would be appropriate for a monitoring round at that stage of the year.
The question regarding rent increase cannot be dealt with in the context of a monitoring round. The spending plans for the Department for Social Development presume a rent increase of GDP plus 2%. If we worked on another basis, then there would be £7·8 million less for the Housing Executive programme.
These issues raised by the Member, and similar points made by other Members, will be considered alongside all the other pressures and proposals to be taken into account in the December monitoring round.
I also welcome the Minister’s Budget statement, which contains many elements that we can all support. However, on behalf of the Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee, I ask the Minister if he understands our disappointment at the absence of any undertaking to buy out the salmon fishery nets licences on our coastline. Does he recognise that for slightly over £1 million, these licences could be bought out and that this would be a major step towards the recovery of our wild salmon stocks? This problem has been well identified by experts, but will it be given a sympathetic hearing when further adjustments are made to the Budget? The situation is so bad that, within perhaps 12 months, some of our premier wild-stock salmon rivers could be making a nil return.
Will Members, and indeed the Minister, be as concise as possible with their questions and answers so that every Member who wishes to ask a question can do so. This is not an opportunity to make statement; it is an opportunity to press questions. Speeches can be made during next week’s debate.
Mr ONeill has indicated what is not in the Budget, but we also need to remember what is in the Budget. Resources of £0·7 million have been provided for inland waterways and fisheries in 2001, with indicative allocations of the same amount for the following year, and £0·8 million thereafter.
I accept his point, and I understand that his case is supported by many experts. I do not pretend to be an expert. He asked if this issue can be considered when further adjustments are made to the Budget, but this is the revised Budget, as approved and agreed by the Executive. Therefore, neither the Executive nor I can make any further revisions. As I indicated in a previous answer, other specific proposals and pressures may be addressed in the December monitoring.
Mr P Robinson:
I am sure that the House will agree with the Minister that there has been a legacy of underfunding, particularly for infrastructure. The House will want to support the Minister in anything that he can do to bring about a revision of the Barnett formula so that the situation in Northern Ireland is dealt with more equitably. However, I regret that in his revised Budget statement he still holds on to the intention to increase the regional rate by 8%. I thought that there had been fairly widespread criticism of this decision in the House and that the Minister had been advised to review the matter.
If Mr Durkan is looking for some suggestions about how he might save an equivalent amount of money and cover that shortfall, I would direct his attention towards the Civic Forum and the unnecessary "North/Southery". The public will find it difficult to understand this rise in the regional rate, which is considerably higher than the rate of inflation.
I raise my second issue so that he will know how to deploy his troops next week —
May I press the Member to put his questions. I urge all Members to ask questions rather than make statements.
Mr P Robinson:
And in doing that I have taken significantly less time than have other Members before me.
I want particularly to draw the Minister’s attention to the Executive programme funds. I want him to try to convince the House of their benefit, for money is being held back that could be put into projects immediately. These funds must have the same criteria applied to them which apply to departmental projects.
Finally, the Minister’s figures do not indicate very clearly what the roads expenditure will be for the following two years. Figures were shown to the Regional Development Committee which indicated that in years two and three the amount available for capital funding in year one would be cut. Will the Minister indicate whether he intends to cut the roads funding in years two and three?
There are quite a number of questions there, and I am not sure that I will manage to answer all of them.
First of all, Members cannot have it both ways with regard to the regional rate increase. They cannot come in here and vote for motions that call for more expenditure — for instance, motions asking for the speedy implementation of recommendations from the Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment Committee — and then insist that we cannot have the resources as an Executive to try to respond to the review on student support.
The Member has mentioned the amount of money allocated for the Civic Forum this year: that sum is £300,000.
I must repeat a point I have already made in the House in relation to North/South spending. The money that is being earmarked for North/South implementation bodies does not all represent new spending. Much of that money represents work that has already been done — but not by North/South implementation bodies. Many of the people employed on North/South work were already doing similar work. They are similar now doing that work as part of an implementation body, rather than on any other basis. That is fact. It is not all new work. It is not all new spending.
I pointed those figures out previously when outlining the allocation of £11 million for North/South implementation bodies. This issue has been dealt with before.
Secondly, in relation to the Executive programme funds, the Executive have made a clear decision that they want to use those funds to make sure that the Executive’s priorities as laid down in the Programme for Government are properly discharged by Departments and through interdepartmental co-operation. In my statement, I indicated that we hope to take decisions on the programme funds early in the new year. We hope that those decisions will carry through for three years, lending them more certainty and shape through reliable planning than would some of the more conventional departmental allocation methods favoured by the Member.
In his deliberations on the revised Budget, was the Minister aware of the recent family expenditure survey which showed that gross weekly income in Northern Ireland was £102 per week less than in the UK as a whole? If so, why does he insist on pulling more people into the poverty trap by imposing an 8% increase in the regional rate? Why has he ignored the pleas of councils, Members of the House, other organisations and Committees in insisting on mimicking that which was previously carried out by former Tory overlords? Why does he penalise those who are less well off by insisting on inflation-plus hikes in rent and rates?
I thank the Member for the now familiar points which he has just made. I must now make the familiar reply.
Yes, I was aware of the family expenditure survey. Yes, the Executive have also been aware of it. That is why the Programme for Government is trying to ensure that all Departments set about targeting social need more effectively than before. Therefore, it is wholly inappropriate to talk about people mimicking Tory overlords. In the Programme for Government we have measures that are aimed at targeting social need and the needs of the less well off. I would contrast that approach with that of the Member’s party. Not so long ago it was voting for the Executive to commit themselves to even more expenditure. The party voted for us to engage in substantively significant expenditure over and above what was in the draft Budget. However, a couple of weeks later it was saying that we should not have the resources to meet the draft Budget plus the additional items, not least for student support.
We need this regional rate increase if we are to fund all the services to the levels we have indicated. The less well off are protected by the housing benefit scheme and rate rebates. I accept that some people will still be caught just above benefit levels, and I have already indicated that we want to address that in the overall rating policy review. We must make serious plans, not send out sound bites. As the Minister of Finance and Personnel, I, on behalf of the Executive, must present a comprehensive Budget that adds up and works out. Fortunately, the Member does not have to do so.
The Minister may recall that I asked during his previous Budget statement if he could tell us what he meant by a reclassification of the welfare-to-work expenditure. In other words, how much of this money is new and how much of it is due to the reclassification of that expenditure, which we all know to be substantial? In light of that, the Minister may be aware of some concerns. He will have received a communication — during his last statement he said he had not, but between then and now he undoubtedly has — from people working in the community who say that they will have to make substantial redundancies or else go to the wall if funding is not set aside between Peace I and Peace II.
On the latter point, I am aware of the needs in relation to Peace II and the needs of groups on the ground. I indicated in my response to Mr Molloy that we are aware of their expectations, needs and frustrations. In monitoring rounds this year, both last month and in the summer, we moved to provide gap funding out of departmental budgets to try to meet those needs. We are keeping that matter under review because we understand and appreciate that the particular funding difficulties faced by bodies vary according to the programme or sector involved. For some it is not so much a funding gap between Peace I and Peace II, as a funding warp in relation to Peace II.
I indicated during my previous statement that the welfare-to-work figures now appear in departmental budget lines. As I have explained in the House twice before, welfare-to-work money is treated differently because it now forms part of the departmental expenditure limit. Previously, it was annually-managed expenditure and thus ring-fenced. We had no discretion on its use. The amount we get for welfare-to-work is now included in the departmental expenditure limit and is under our overall control. The amount allocated to Northern Ireland has been reduced because of the reduction in unemployment.
Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. I would like to make a couple of points. First, I would like to thank the Minister for his statement this morning. We welcome the way in which he has underlined the inadequate level of funding that we had for many years under previous Administrations and the need for a revision of the Barnett formula.
I acknowledge the difficulties faced by the Executive and the Minister in dealing with the competing demands. It is also interesting to listen to people with no responsibilities for meeting any of those demands, including the Ministers who do not even go to Executive meetings to argue for their own Departments. They will be able to make some kind of popular statement —
The Member should ask his question.
I would like to ask the Minister two questions, although I appreciate that he may not have the answer to hand for one of them. I would like each Department to provide evidence that there is a Budget allocation for targeting social need —
Mr P Robinson:
What is your question?