Official Report (Hansard)

Session: 2008/2009

Date: 25 September 2008

Review of Budget Logistics

25 September 2008

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:

Mr Barry McElduff (Chairperson)
Mr Francie Brolly
The Lord Browne
Mr Kieran McCarthy
Mr Raymond McCartney
Mr Nelson McCausland
Mr David McNarry
Mr Pat Ramsey
Mr Ken Robinson
Mr Jim Shannon

The Chairperson (Mr McElduff):

The Committee for Finance and Personnel is holding an inquiry into the role of the Assembly in scrutinising the Budget. The inquiry will run concurrently with the ongoing review of the Executive’s Budget process, which is being undertaken by the Department of Finance and Personnel. The Committee for Finance and Personnel has requested all Committees’ views on the strengths and weaknesses of the 2007 Budget process, which allocated resources for 2008-11. That Committee has provided us with a set of questions that members will find at tab 11, appendix C of their packs. The Clerk has written a draft response for members’ consideration, which can be found at tab 13 of members’ packs.

The draft response is based on the Budget discussions in November 2007 and on the response that the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure submitted to the Committee for Finance and Personnel at that time. I seek the views of members, and draw their attention to questions 9, 10 and 11 of the draft response at tab 13. Members may have additional comments or amendments that they wish to make to the draft response.

This discussion is being covered by Hansard, and the Committee Clerk will incorporate any additional points that are made today into a further draft response for approval at next week’s meeting. Do members have any additional commentary, or are they satisfied that the Committee Clerk has covered everything in the draft response?

Mr Shannon:

What questions are we discussing?

The Chairperson:

Questions 9, 10 and 11.

The Committee Clerk:

I advise members that questions 9, 10 and 11 are not issues that the Committee has previously discussed, so this is the chance for members to make their views known. Question 9 concerns how the Budget is dealt with in the plenary sessions. It asks:

“what is the Committee’s opinion on the frequency, nature and amount of plenary debate — how could this be improved?”

The Chairperson:

Question 10 refers to high-level impact assessments. Are members content with that?

Mr McNarry:

Committee members or private Members should consider proposing Budget issues for debate. We are slightly confined by the Minister’s handling of ministerial statements and Budget comments, but not enough Members are engaging or promoting debates on Budget issues, or other issues that are dealt with by this Committee or others.

The Chairperson:

Do members have any other comments?

I am always curious about the high-level impact assessment, and why it stops short of a full equality impact assessment. What is the difference? That is a question that is sometimes not answered.

The two points that were raised will be added to the Committee’s response. Are members content with the draft response?

Members indicated assent.

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