Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Fifth Report

Letter from the Secretary of State to the Chairman

Thank you for your letter of 15 November. I was sorry to learn of your concerns about my Department's response to the Committee's Third Report.

As for the substance of the replies given to the enquiries made by the Clerk of your Committee, our responses stated correctly that, following devolution, the publication of information about the expenditure plans for devolved matters was a matter for the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly.

While it is true that during suspension responsibility for the finance of Northern Ireland Departments reverted to me, I did not during suspension have occasion to consider advice from DFP or to take decisions on expenditure relating to devolved matters. During suspension I took the view that I should not take decisions which should properly be for Northern Ireland Ministers to take and which could await their consideration following the restoration of devolution. Further, when the devolved institutions were suspended in February, the Northern Ireland Executive had not had the opportunity to consider the expenditure plans of the N.I. Departments. There was, therefore, no information which I could supply to the Committee relating either to the period of devolution from 2 December 1999 to 11 February 2000 or to the period of suspension. I am sorry that my Department's reply did not explain this with sufficient clarity.

On the question of the form of our responses, I agree that a reply at Ministerial level would have been more appropriate and have taken steps to ensure that this will be our practice in future.

I shall be grateful if you will accept this letter as a substantive response to the Committee's request for further information.

6 December 2000

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