Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Fifth Report


The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has agreed to the following Report:—



1. Our Order of Reference from the House requires us inter alia to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Northern Ireland Office. While most of our inquiries are related to policy issues, we also maintain a watching brief on other matters, and seek information from the Northern Ireland Office where necessary on Main and Supplementary Estimates, and on other financial matters.

2. In common with other departmental select committees, we have been kept informed of progress in the introduction of resource accounting and budgeting (RAB).[2] The switch, across Government, from cash based accounts and Supply Estimates to a resource based system, for which statutory provision was made in the Government Resources and Accounts Act 2000, has been a major exercise. We took evidence from the Northern Ireland Office on progress to date in June 2000, when the process had reached an advanced stage.

3. We have also looked at a number of general questions related to Northern Ireland public expenditure. Historically, there were two specific Votes relating to Northern Ireland expenditure and accounted for by the Northern Ireland Office:

      (a)  Class XV, Vote 1, which related to expenditure by the Northern Ireland Office on administration, law, order, protective and miscellaneous services; and

      (b)  Class XV, Vote 2, Transfers to the Northern Consolidated Fund. This Vote provided the bulk of the funds for expenditure by the Northern Ireland Departments and provides for transfers to those Departments of funds from European Institutions.

With effect from the financial year 2001-02, under the resource-based system, a single Northern Ireland Office Estimate is produced, with the expenditure previously included in Vote 2 being the subject of a specific Request for Resources.[3]

4. In the context of provision for expenditure by the Northern Ireland Departments, we have also looked briefly at how this is determined and at the extent of the information available to the House. The evidence session referred to in paragraph 2 also covered this matter, and provision for expenditure in support of the Northern Ireland Departments in 2000-01. In view of its relevance to the financial relationship between the Northern Ireland Office and the Northern Ireland Administration, we have also taken the opportunity to publish with the evidence a memorandum submitted by the Northern Ireland Office on the role of the Secretary of State following devolution.[4]

5. We consider each of these matters in further detail below.

2  For a summary of the principal differences between cash based Estimates and resource based Estimates, see Q 3. Back

3  See the Central Government Supply Estimates 2001- 02 (HC 348 (2000-01)), p. 84-85. Back

4  Ev. p. 7. Back

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