V. RESTRUCTURING OF THE ESTIMATE FOR CLASS
XV, VOTE 2 FOR 2000-01
26. Besides making supplementary provision of £234.5
million for transfers to the Northern Ireland Consolidated Fund,
the Spring Supplementary Estimate for Class XV, Vote 2 (Transfers
to the Northern Ireland Consolidated Fund) also re-organised the
four principal sub-heads of the Estimate, each of which dealt
with a separate category of expenditure, into a single sub-head
with a provision for £7.4 billion of public expenditure.
A similar change was also introduced at the same time in respect
of Scotland, but
not Wales. No reason was given for this change.
27. We therefore asked the Northern Ireland Office
why the change had been made. The explanation was that the Treasury
determined, in agreement with the Northern Ireland Audit Office,
that it was "not practicable to exercise the level of control
over expenditure implicit in a four sub-head arrangement."
No evidence was supplied to support this assertion.
28. Although this is an apparently technical change,
a single subhead for this Vote reduces still further the already
limited amount of information available to the House on sums to
be voted for the benefit of the Northern Ireland Consolidated
Fund. Given that this was an Estimate presented to the House by
a United Kingdom department, we are surprised that the Comptroller
and Auditor General does not also appear to have been consulted
and we have drawn the matter to the attention of the Public Accounts
Committee. In our view, it would have been helpful if the Supplementary
Estimate had drawn attention to this change, and the reasons for
it. More generally, as far as we can see, the House has been given
no substantive information on the reasons for this Spring Supplementary
Estimate. The corresponding Scottish Estimate, on the other hand,
provided a useful summary of its purpose. We commend this model
to the Northern Ireland Office for the future.
42 HC 256 (2000-01), p. 184. Back
256 (2000-01), p. 175. Back
3, p. 28. Back