ASSEMBLY BUSINESS

Report on the Financial Provisions Bill (NIA Bill 22/11-15)

Committee: Finance and Personnel

Session: 2013/2014

Date: Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Reference: NIA 152/11-15

ISBN: 978-0-339-60506-0

Mandate Report Number: Mandate 2011/15 Tenth Report

Together with the Minutes of Proceedings of the Committee relating to the Report, Minutes of Evidence, and Written Submissions

Powers

The Committee for Finance and Personnel is a Statutory Departmental Committee established in accordance with paragraphs 8 and 9 of the Belfast Agreement, Section 29 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and under Assembly Standing Order 48. The Committee has a scrutiny, policy development and consultation role with respect to the Department of Finance and Personnel and has a role in the initiation of legislation.

The Committee has the power to;

  • consider and advise on Departmental budgets and annual plans in the context of the overall budget allocation;
  • approve relevant secondary legislation and take the Committee Stage of primary legislation;
  • call for persons and papers;
  • initiate inquiries and make reports; and
  • consider and advise on matters brought to the Committee by the Minister of Finance and Personnel. 

Download the full report here.

Executive Summary

The purpose of financial provisions legislation is to deal with routine financial matters, such as minor or non-controversial amendments to governing legislation or to regularise an existing practice. The legislation is normally required at intervals of every two to three years to adjust statutory limits and handle other routine financial issues.

This report sets out the Committee for Finance and Personnel’s co-ordinated scrutiny of the Financial Provisions Bill at Committee Stage, which commenced on 2 July 2013. When introduced to the Assembly, the Bill comprised of nine clauses. Since introduction, however, the Committee has been advised that the Minister of Finance and Personnel intends to table nine proposed amendments at Consideration Stage.

Clauses 1 and 2 relate to provisions relevant to the remit of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD). Clauses 3 and 6 relate to provisions relevant to the remit of the Department of Justice (DoJ). Clause 4 relates to provisions relevant to the remit of the Department for Social Development (DSD) and clause 5 relates to the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO). In addition, the proposed amendments will include new clauses regarding rating legislation, relevant to the remit of the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP).

To inform its deliberations on the Bill, the Committee sought the views of the applicable Assembly committees, issued a public call for evidence and received briefings from DFP officials. Arising from its scrutiny, the Committee raised a number of issues with some of the existing and proposed new clauses, upon which it received clarification and assurance from DFP. The other committees also took evidence from their respective departments where necessary and indicated that they were content with the related provisions of the Bill, having received the necessary information and explanation. In addition, the Examiner of Statutory Rules considered the Delegated Powers Memorandum of the Bill and highlighted issues with the drafting of clauses 3 and 6. These issues will be addressed by way of two amendments to be tabled by the Minister of Finance and Personnel at Consideration Stage.

Having regard to the responses from the other applicable Assembly committees and the clarification and assurances received from DFP, the Committee has agreed all the clauses of the Bill, either as drafted or subject to the proposed amendments, as applicable. While acknowledging the responsiveness of departmental officials in addressing the queries raised during this co-ordinated scrutiny, the Committee has recommended that steps be taken to ensure that, in future, financial provisions bills are developed as fully as possible prior to being introduced to the Assembly. This report is, therefore, intended to inform Assembly Members’ deliberations during the Consideration Stage of the Bill.

Introduction

Background to the Bill

The Financial Provisions Bill was introduced to the Assembly by the then Minister of Finance and Personnel, Sammy Wilson MLA on Monday, 17 June 2013 and received its Second Reading on Monday, 1 July 2013. The Bill was subsequently referred to the Committee for Finance and Personnel for Committee Stage. The Bill (as introduced) has nine clauses. The provisions in each clause are explained in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum.

Clauses 1 and 2 relate to provisions relevant to the remit of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD). Clauses 3 and 6 relate to provisions relevant to the remit of the Department of Justice (DoJ). Clause 4 relates to provisions relevant to the remit of the Department for Social Development (DSD) and clause 5 relates to the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO).

The purpose of financial provisions legislation is to deal with routine financial matters such as minor or non-controversial amendments to governing legislation or to regularise an existing practice. The legislation is normally required at intervals of every two to three years to adjust statutory limits and handle other routine financial issues, and is regarded as “semi-routine”.

Since the Bill was introduced, nine amendments were proposed and will be tabled at Consideration Stage by the Minister of Finance and Personnel. The detail of these amendments can be found in the clause-by-clause scrutiny section on this report. Whilst two of the amendments are revisions to proposed clauses 3 and 6 and three are consequential amendments, four of the amendments introduce new provisions to the Bill regarding rating legislation, relevant to the remit of the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP).

The Committee’s Approach

In June 2011 DFP indicated its intention to prepare a draft Financial Provisions Bill in 2012 but, due to the reprioritising of the Department’s legislative programme, this was delayed.

On 22 May 2013 the Committee noted correspondence from the Department on the proposed provisions in the Bill and agreed to seek initial comments from the relevant Assembly committees in this regard. The Committee was advised that the Bill would be of interest to the following other Assembly committees:

The Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development

The Public Accounts Committee/Audit Committee

The Committee for Justice

The Committee for Social Development

On 5 June 2013 the Committee received a pre-introductory policy briefing from departmental officials on the background to the Bill and the approach which was taken when commissioning other departments on possible inclusions to the Bill. During this briefing the Committee was informed that the Minister of Finance and Personnel intended to bring forward two amendments to the Bill at Consideration Stage both relating to rating legislation. Therefore members agreed to seek clarification on the proposed amendments to the Bill and to write to the Justice, Regional Development and Social Development committees highlighting relevant issues raised during the session. A response from DFP addressing these initial concerns was provided to the Committee and members were generally content with this response. The responses from the relevant committees can be found in Appendix 4 to this report.

At its meeting on 3 July 2013, the Committee noted the Delegated Powers Memorandum, provided by DFP, and it agreed to refer this to the Examiner of Statutory Rules for his consideration. The Examiner of Statutory Rules highlighted issues with the drafting of clauses 3 and 6 and the delegated powers therein. The Department proposes to table two amendments at Consideration Stage to address these issues.

A Call for Evidence was published on 5 July 2013 inviting written evidence on the provisions of the Bill. The Committee received no written evidence as a result of this notice.

On 11 September 2013 the Committee received a briefing from DFP officials on two proposed amendments to rating legislation for inclusion in the Bill. On 18 September 2013 the Committee agreed that, due to the prioritisation of the Public Service Pensions Bill in its work programme, an extension would be sought to the Committee Stage of the Bill until to 13 December 2013.The Assembly agreed to this extension.

During a departmental briefing on 13 November 2013, members considered the draft wording of proposed amendments to the Bill. Members were informed during this session about a further two amendments which would also be tabled at Consideration Stage. On 27 November 2013 the Committee considered the wording of the amendments which would be brought forward by the Minister at Consideration Stage of the Bill.

The Committee carried out a clause-by-clause scrutiny of the Bill on 4 December 2013. During this session, the Committee agreed all the clauses either as drafted or as amended and the Schedule of Repeals. At its meeting on 11 December 2013, the Committee agreed that its report on the Bill would be printed.

The Minutes of Proceedings relating to the Committee’s deliberations on the Bill are included at Appendix 1. Minutes of Evidence in the Official Report are at Appendix 2. Papers and correspondence from DFP can be found at Appendix 3. Written submissions from other relevant committees can be found at the Appendix 4 and other papers can be found at Appendix 5 of this report.

Consideration of Provisions in the Bill

Clauses 1 & 2

The Committee noted that clauses 1 and 2 of the Bill make provision to repeal the Development Loans (Agriculture and Fisheries) Act (NI) 1968 and to amend the Harbours Act (NI) 1970 to allow DARD to pay grant-in-aid to the Fishery Harbour Authority if necessary. As these clauses fall within the remit of DARD, the Committee referred them to the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development for consideration.

To inform its response the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development received a briefing from DARD on the rationale for the inclusion of the provisions (the full briefing paper can be found at Appendix 4).

In relation to the provisions within clause 1, DARD officials highlighted that, due to a lessening demand for loans and the need to reduce Government expenditure, DARD, after consultation with the Ulster Farmers’ Union, ceased accepting loan applications after 30 November 1979. It was noted that, since its inception, a total of £20m has been issued from the Agricultural Loan Fund, however, departmental officials pointed out that there is no principal outstanding and all loans advanced to the Agricultural Loan Fund from the Consolidated Fund have been paid in full. It was stated that this situation indicated the need for the legislation to be repealed.

In relation to the provisions in clause 2, DARD officials described the background of the Northern Ireland Fishery Authority, which is an NDBP of the Department, and outlined its main sources of revenue which are controlled largely by factors outside the Authority’s influence. In the view of departmental officials, this could mean that there is a risk that annual trading deficits could be incurred. The DARD officials also stated that the Authority has been able to cover its operational costs from revenues to date but that this is becoming more difficult and DARD wishes to be in a position to provide cover should an operating deficit be incurred.

After considering this briefing, the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development concluded that it was content for these provisions to be included in the Bill.

At its meeting on 22 May 2013, as part of its own deliberations, the Committee for Finance and Personnel requested clarification on whether the powers to access Harbour Commissioner reserves would be provided for in the Bill. A response from DFP on 31 May 2013 clarified that this would not be addressed in the Bill and explained the reasons in this regard.

Clauses 3 & 6

The Committee noted that clause 3 will allow DoJ (with the concurrence of DFP) to make provision as to the payment of interest on funds held in court by way of departmental direction. The Court Funds Office (CFO) is responsible for the management of funds held in court on behalf of minors and patients who are deemed incapable of managing their own affairs. CFO applies interest to funds held which are set out in the Court Funds Rules (NI) 1979 and can only be adjusted by way of a new statutory rule which can take from 8 to 12 weeks. Funds are placed in deposit accounts or short-term and long-term investment accounts which earn interest in accordance with Bank of England base rates. CFO applies interest in accordance with the 1979 rules. Differences between base rates and CFO rates can lead to either a surplus or deficit, where the deficit is recovered from the Consolidated Fund. CFO interest rates in England and Wales can be amended by way of a ministerial direction which allows the CFO in that jurisdiction to react more efficiently to changes in Bank of England base rates.

In terms of clause 6, the Committee noted that this will provide a statutory basis for the funding by DoJ of the Northern Ireland Police Fund (NIPF) and the Police Rehabilitation and Retraining Trust (PRRT) and to allow the Department to make regulations regarding the constitution, functions, procedures and financing of the bodies.

The Committee referred consideration of clauses 3 and 6 to the Committee for Justice as the provisions fall within the remit of DoJ. Members noted that the Committee for Justice had also received briefing from DoJ on the rationale for inclusion of these provisions and that Committee had indicated that it was content with the provisions. The full briefing paper provided by DoJ can be found in Appendix 4 to this report.

Having considered the Delegated Powers Memorandum for the Bill, the Examiner of Statutory Rules highlighted issues in the drafting of both these clauses and the delegated powers therein. The Department subsequently indicated its intention to table amendments to address these issues identified and the Committee for Justice indicated that it was supportive of these amendments being brought forward.

As part of its own deliberations, during evidence from DFP officials, the Committee for Finance and Personnel sought clarification on the use of alternative short-term and medium-term investment options for monies held under the Court Fund rules to provide a better return; and whether, given the devolution of justice powers, the CFO should have greater control of the monies it holds. In response, DFP officials stated that the NI block uses the Debt Management Office for all its deposits and that it was not good practice to have large balances of public money sitting out given the vulnerabilities in the banking systems.

Members also enquired whether both the NIPF and PRRT are registered charities. The clarification and further information provided by the Department to address these queries can be found at Appendix 3. The Committee was subsequently content that the issues had been adequately addressed.

Clause 4

Members noted that clause 4 makes provision to amend article 88 of the Housing (NI) Order 1981 which will empower the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) to charge the purchaser of land from NIHE for its administration and transaction costs relating to the sale. For each piece of land sold, NIHE bears administration and transaction costs as it does not have the statutory authority to charge the purchaser for its costs. This clause will therefore enable the recovery of costs.

The Committee considered clause 4 of the Bill in addition to seeking a view from the Committee for Social Development given that the provisions fall within the remit of DSD.

As part of its own deliberations, the Finance and Personnel Committee voiced concern over the disparity of land disposal costs between transaction and administrative costs, in that it may not provide value for money. During an evidence session with DFP officials on 5 June 2013, members were advised that, in 2010-11, NIHE disposed of 108 small pieces of land at an average transaction value of £1,470 against the average administration costs of £2,400. Members were concerned that this does not provide value for money given the disparity of these costs. As such, this concern was referred to the Committee for Social Development which sought briefing from NIHE. Members of this Committee questioned NIHE officials on the reasonableness of the costs incurred, whether such costs include economic appraisal expenses and the provision of value for money.

In response, NIHE officials provided a more up-to-date breakdown of costs showing a smaller disparity in the figures (with a revised average administration cost in the region of £2000) and stated that, of the land sales administration costs, approximately £900 relate to the completion of economic appraisals. The cost of valuation services is approximately £375, legal cost is estimated at £136 and marketing costs are estimated at £550. For a significant number of small land sales, NIHE officials stated that marketing costs will not be applicable as the Housing Executive will not be required to market the sites on the open market but will be permitted to sell the land by private treaty to the adjacent land owner due to its size and marketing potential.

In their evidence, NIHE officials further argued that economic appraisal is necessary irrespective of the disposal method employed and the receipt of the application to purchase the land triggers the completion of the appraisal for the specific site. This cost is an internal/indirect cost which is a required governance tool to determine if the land is surplus. The NIHE officials concluded that it may be legitimate to exclude this cost from the overall cost of the administration of any land disposal. The response from the Committee for Social Development indicated that it was content with the explanation given by NIHE.

Clause 5

Members noted that clause 5 of the Bill makes provision to amend terminology and maintain consistency with the definition of “relevant NHS body” between the Audit and Accountability (NI) Order 2003 and the Health and Social Care (Reform) Act (NI) 2009. The Committee referred the consideration of this clause to both the Public Accounts Committee and the Audit Committee. Both committees received briefing and clarification from the C&AG on the provisions and indicated that they were content with their inclusion. The briefings highlighted that the proposed amendment is revenue neutral as it has no financial implications for NIAO and serves to update references across statutory instruments and to formalise what is already current practice.

Clauses 7, 8 & 9

The Committee noted that clause 7 and the accompanying Schedule lists provisions for the repeal of statutory provisions relating to clauses 1 and 3; while clause 8 deals with the commencement provisions and clause 9 sets out the short title. The Committee had no comment to make on these clauses.

As a result of amendments to the Bill proposed after introduction, the Department informed the Committee of a proposed consequential amendment to clause 8, the schedule of repeals and the Long Title of the Bill.

New proposed clauses on Rating

At the Committee meeting on 13 September 2013 members were briefed on the proposed inclusion of two new provisions in relation to rating legislation. The detail of these new provisions can be found at Appendix 3. The new measures will amend or repeal articles within the Rates (NI) Order 1977 (‘the 1977 Order’).

The first proposed clause will amend article 26 of the 1977 Order clarifying the need for ratepayers to provide an effective date of occupation to Land and Property Services (LPS).

The second proposed clause seeks to extend the current discount that is allowed for the early repayment of rates on occupied dwellings to unoccupied dwellings, amending article 30 of the 1977 Order.

During evidence to the Committee, DFP officials confirmed that these amendments will be tabled by the Minister of Finance and Personnel at Consideration Stage. As part of its deliberations the Committee sought further information, including: whether any particular difficulties are posed by the absence of the new power to require information; and the estimated costs of extending the discount for early repayment of rates to unoccupied dwellings. In response, DFP officials stated that the current provisions were vague and that LPS wanted to put this power beyond any reasonable doubt. On the issue of costs of extending the early repayment discount, the departmental officials stated that the IT costs will ‘run into a few thousand pounds’. The full clarification received from the Department in relation to these queries can be found at Appendix 2.

The Committee was also informed of a further two clause in relation to rating provisions at its meeting on 13 November 2013. The detail of these new provisions can be found at Appendix 3.

In this regard, members were advised that the third proposed clause on rating will amend article 20 of the 1977 Order, to remove the requirement for landlords to produce a tenancy agreement. The fourth proposed clause will remove articles 23 and 24 of the 1977 Order: provisions which, firstly, make tenants liable for rates should a landlord default and, secondly, allow the Department to step in and act as landlord should there be an issue of default. Departmental officials advised the Committee that these articles need to be repealed as they have never been used and have been sitting dormant in the 1977 Order.

Given that it did not receive full information on some of the proposed rating amendments until near the completion of Committee Stage scrutiny, the Committee did not have the opportunity to gauge the views of stakeholders on the proposals, including the removal of the provisions within the 1977 Order. In this regard, however, DFP officials pointed out that both the Landlords’ Association and Housing Rights Service were supportive of the removal of the provisions in the 1977 Order during a recent consultation which examined Rates Liability in the Landlord Sector.

Clause-by-Clause Consideration of the Bill

Having reviewed the written and oral evidence received on the Bill, the Committee deliberated on the clauses and schedule to the Bill at its meeting on 27 November 2013 and undertook its formal clause-by-clause scrutiny of the Bill at its meeting on 4 December 2013 as follows:

Clause 1 – Repeal of the Development Loans (Agriculture and Fisheries) Act (Northern Ireland) 1968

Agreed: that the Committee is content with clause 1 as drafted, mindful that the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development does not have any concerns with the provisions in this clause.

Clause 2 – Grants payable to certain harbour authorities in relation to expenses

Agreed: that the Committee is content with clause 2 as drafted, mindful that the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development does not have any concerns with the provisions in this clause.

New Clause – Rating of owners instead of occupiers in certain cases

Agreed: that the Committee is content with the new proposed new clause, to be tabled by the Minister of Finance and Personnel at Consideration Stage, as follows:

After clause 2 insert -

‘Rating of owners instead of occupiers in certain cases

2A. In Article 20 of the Rates (Northern Ireland) Order 1977 (rating of owners instead of occupiers in certain cases) -

(a) in paragraph (1) -

(i) in sub-paragraph (a), after “hereditament” insert “(where the hereditament does not have a net annual value and a capital value)”;

(ii) in sub-paragraph (b) for “£55,000” substitute“£150,000”;

(iii) in sub-paragraph (c), for head (ii) substitute -

“(ii) its net annual value does not exceed £1,590;”

(b) in paragraph (1A), for the words from “both conditions” to the end of that paragraph substitute “the conditions in sub-paragraphs (b) and (c) (ii) of paragraph (1) must be satisfied, but the condition set out in sub-paragraph (c)

(i) of that paragraph does not apply in relation to such a hereditament.”’

New Clause – Repeal of articles 23 and 24 of the Rates (Northern Ireland) Order 1977

Agreed: that the Committee is content with the proposed new clause, to be tabled by the Minister of Finance and Personnel at Consideration Stage, as follows:

After clause 2 insert -

‘Repeal of Articles 23 and 24 of the Rates (Northern Ireland) Order 1977

2B. Articles 23 (liability of occupier for rates unpaid by owner) and 24 (recovery of rates from tenants and lodgers) of the Rates (Northern Ireland) Order 1977 are repealed.’

New Clause – Power of Department of Finance and Personnel to require information for rating purposes

Agreed: that the Committee is content with the proposed new clause, to be tabled by the Minister of Finance and Personnel at Consideration Stage, as follows:

After clause 2 insert -

‘Power of Department of Finance and Personnel to require information

2A. - (1) Article 26 of the Rates (Northern Ireland) Order 1977 (power of Department to require information as to ownership, etc.) is amended as follows.

(2) In paragraph (1) -

(a) at the end of sub-paragraph (a) insert “and the date on which he acquired that interest”;

(b) after sub-paragraph (c) insert -

“(cc) the date on which he began to occupy the hereditament;”.

(3) After paragraph (1) insert -

“(1A) The Department may, for the purposes of this Order, serve a notice on the owner of any hereditament requiring him to state to the Department in writing, within a period and in the manner specified in the notice -

(a) the date on which he acquired ownership of the hereditament; and

(b) the date, if any, on which he began to occupy the hereditament.”.

(4) In paragraph (2B)(a) after “(1)” insert “,(1A)”.’

New Clause – Discount on rates on dwellings

Agreed: that the Committee is content with the proposed new clause, to be tabled by the Minister of Finance and Personnel at Consideration Stage, as follows:

After clause 2 insert -

‘Discount on rates on dwellings

2B. - (1) Article 30 of the Rates (Northern Ireland) Order 1977 (discount on rates on dwellings) is amended as follows.

(2) After paragraph (2) insert -

“(2ZA) An allowance shall be granted in accordance with paragraph (2ZC) to any person entitled to possession of a hereditament to which paragraph (2ZB) applies who pays the net amount due on account of a rate in respect of that hereditament in a single sum before such date as the Department may notify to him.

(2ZB) This paragraph applies to a hereditament in the capital value list in respect of which rates are chargeable under Article 25A where the hereditament is a hereditament which -

(a) is not in use; and

(b) is a hereditament which the Department considers will, when next in use, be a dwelling-house or, though not a dwelling-house, will be used partly for the purposes of a private dwelling; and

(c) is not the subject of an agreement under Article 21.

(2ZC) The allowance shall be by way of a discount of 4% on the amount payable on account of the rate as is computed by reference to the rateable capital value of the hereditament.”.

(3) In paragraph (2A) after “(2)” insert “or (2ZC)”.’

Clause 3 – Provision as to payment of interest on funds in court

Agreed: that the Committee is content with clause 3, mindful that the Committee for Justice does not have any concerns and subject to the amendment, to be tabled by the Minister of Finance and Personnel at Consideration Stage, as follows:

‘leave out “make provision as” and insert “give directions in relation” at Clause 3, line 13’

Clause 4 – Power of Northern Ireland Housing Executive to recover certain costs

Agreed: that the Committee is content with clause 4 as drafted, mindful that the Committee for Social Development has not expressed any concerns with the provisions in this clause.

Clause 5 – Accounts and audit: health and social care bodies

Agreed: that the Committee is content with clause 5 as drafted, mindful that both the Public Accounts Committee and Audit Committee do not have any concerns with the provisions in this clause.

Clause 6 - Expenditure on bodies providing services for the police etc.

Agreed: that the Committee is content with clause 6, mindful that the Committee for Justice does not have any concerns and subject to the amendment, to be tabled by the Minister of Finance and Personnel at Consideration Stage, as follows:

‘“after “Regulations” insert “subject to negative resolution” at Clause 6, line 6’

Clause 7 – Repeals

Agreed: that the Committee is content with clause 7 as drafted.

Clause 8 – Commencement

Agreed: that the Committee is content with clause 8, subject to the amendment, to be tabled by the Minister of Finance and Personnel at Consideration Stage, as follows:

‘“Leave out “Section 5 comes” and insert “Sections 2A, 2B, 2C, 2D and 5 come” at Clause 8, line 21’

Schedule: Repeals

Agreed: that the Committee is content with the schedule of repeals, subject to the amendment, to be tabled by the Minister of Finance and Personnel at Consideration Stage, as follows:

‘At end insert – “The Rates (Northern Ireland) Order 1977 Articles 23 and 24” at Schedule, line 15’

Clause 9 – Short title

Agreed: that the Committee is content with clause 9 as drafted.

Long Title of the Bill – ‘A Bill to Repeal the Development Loans (Agriculture and Fisheries) Act (Northern Ireland) 1968; to enable the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to pay grants to certain harbour authorities; to make provision in relation to the payment of interest on funds in court; to make provision enabling the Northern Ireland Housing Executive to recover certain costs; to make provision for the disclosure of data obtained by the Comptroller and Auditor General for data matching purposes; to enable the Department of Justice to make payments to certain bodies providing services for the police, etc.; and for purposes connected with those matters.’

Agreed: that the Committee is content with the Long Title of the Bill, subject to the amendment, to be tabled by the Minister of Finance and Personnel at Consideration Stage, as follows:

‘In the long title after “authorities;” insert “to amend the Rates (Northern Ireland) Order 1977”’

Conclusions and Recommendations

The Committee acknowledges the input from the other applicable Assembly committees to this co-ordinated scrutiny of the Financial Provisions Bill and the responsiveness of officials from DFP and the other respective departments in providing clarification on the issues raised by members. Also, the Committee welcomes the early notification received from DFP in relation to some of the proposed amendments to be tabled at Consideration Stage and the provision of the wording of all the proposed amendments in advance of clause-by-clause scrutiny. In facilitating the scrutiny of the Bill, this engagement has resulted in the Committee concluding that it is content with the proposed departmental amendments and with the clauses of the Bill as drafted/amended.

In terms of the notification of some of the proposed amendments on rating legislation, however, the Committee would point out that it did not have sufficient time to seek evidence from other interested stakeholders on the merits of including these provisions. Members recognise that financial provisions bills, by their nature, may be regarded as convenient ‘catch all’ legislative tools for which it is not uncommon for departments to bring forward additions/amendments at a late stage. That said, the Committee would recommend that DFP takes steps to ensure that, in future, financial provisions bills are developed as fully as possible before introduction to the Assembly.

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