The Barnett Formula - Select Committee on the Barnett Formula Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 840 - 844)


Mr Patrick McCartan and Mr Victor Hewitt

  Q840  Chairman: Why did you not?

  Mr Hewitt: Why did we not privatise water?

  Q841  Chairman: Yes.

  Mr Hewitt: There was no appetite for it whatsoever in Northern Ireland.

  Q842  Lord Sewel: That would have solved your Health Service problems, would it not? The services that the devolved parliaments and assemblies provide tend to be those services that can be seen as very sensitive to variation of need. If you look in terms of using the demographics, age structure of the population, ideas of deprivation and cost of service provision, although there is a big question mark there because you do not want to put an incentive for inefficiency, those three sorts of dimensions, and I appreciate there are all the subjective judgments on weights and which particular measures you would use, I see as being much more related to explaining and justifying expenditure rather than a pure population driven approach.

  Mr Hewitt: If we look at the services which are provided through the Executive, the big battalions of spending are health and education. Essentially they are demographically driven. There should not be a huge variation in the unit cost of providing education for a primary schoolchild as opposed to a secondary schoolchild throughout the UK. There will be factors, such as sparsity, small schools in rural areas and so forth, that can be added into the mix, but basically it is a population driven factor. When you start to bring in many of these other things you tred into the policy dimension: should our curriculum differ from curricula elsewhere, and that is a policy decision to be taken; should the pay of teachers here be different from the pay of teachers elsewhere, again a policy decision. Once you break away from what they call the objective factors you start to undermine the whole idea of a needs assessment.

  Q843  Lord Sewel: Talking to Mr McCartan about health, I only know Scotland and the Scottish health figures are appalling.

  Mr McCartan: In terms of availability of treatments and services people here do expect the same standards from the National Health Service and same amount of care. We have problems because of financial constraints mainly in terms of the waiting lists and all of those other indicators that are largely caused by the under-funding that we have. The perception in the mind of every citizen is they are entitled to NHS services and care at the same level irrespective of what part of the United Kingdom. It is up to delivery organisations, like trusts, to try and provide that. That is increasingly difficult in the current methods of funding because expectation is rising so fast and we have the diseconomies of scale and the Barnett Formula squeeze.

  Q844  Chairman: I fear we have run out of time. Thank you very much indeed for coming and for a fascinating discussion. I have learnt things that I did not know. We will now go away and digest them.

  Mr McCartan: On behalf of the Confederation, can I say thank you for the work that you are doing and the attention you are giving to something that is of such vital interest to us.

  Chairman: Thank you.

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