|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
This is the latest in a series of orders required at intervals of every two to three years to adjust certain statutory financial limits and to deal with other routine financial matters. It may be helpful to your Lordships if I describe briefly the purposes of the order.
As part of this restructuring, it is proposed to abolish the Northern Ireland civil contingencies fund. The fund exists to make repayable advances to Northern Ireland departments for urgent services in anticipation of Parliament approving the necessary funds in an appropriation order. The fund has a fixed capital of only £750,000, which is not sufficient to meet requests for advances. At present the shortfall is made good by advances from the Northern Ireland consolidated fund. From 1st April 1998, repayable advances to departments will be made directly from the Northern Ireland consolidated fund. The criteria governing such advances, as set out in Article 6 of the draft order, will remain unchanged.
The second item in the draft order is an amendment to the legislation governing trading fund accounts. The Financial Provisions (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 requires certified copies of a trading fund's accounts to be laid before the Northern Ireland Assembly.
This is at variance with current practice relating to the accounts of executive agencies which, in the absence of a Northern Ireland Assembly, are laid before Parliament. The draft order provides that trading fund accounts should also be laid before Parliament. Should a Northern Ireland Assembly be established, it is intended that all relevant financial accounts should be laid before the Assembly.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, the Minister has described the provisions extremely helpfully. In the course of his introduction, he has answered the questions that I had proposed to put to him. In another place we did not regard this as a particular late hour of the night. However, I have to tell both the noble Lord on the Woolsack and the Minister, that since they left another place the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, mucked about with it all, and nowadays this hour is regarded as rather late, even in another place! Either way, we are extremely grateful to the Minister for the way in which he has handled all the Northern Ireland business this evening.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cope, for those words. Perhaps I may deal with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, on the question of the time limit. I am advised that this is required to allow more time for the collection of the relevant information and has no direct implications for the detection of irregularities. The accounts will, however, continue to be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern Ireland, who has agreed that the extension is necessary to enable proper accounts to be prepared.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|