Letter from the Secretary of State to
Thank you for your letter of 18 December. Let me
repeat at the outset the regret expressed in Peter Mandelson's
letter of 6 December that my Department's earlier response to
the Committee's Third Report had caused you some concerns.
On the substance, however, I do not believe that
I can add much to what Peter has already said. I note the comments
in your penultimate paragraph on the timing of advice to me on
the Committee's recommendation. While I accept your general point
that this could, strictly speaking, have come forward more quickly,
Peter's letter of 6 December explained that during the period
of suspension, he wished to avoid taking decisions which should
properly be for the Northern Ireland Executive. This was the reason
for the delay in preparing the advice provided to Peter by the
Department of Finance and Personnel.
Turning to my statutory responsibility to secure
Northern Ireland's share of public expenditure, this responsibility
is exercised in line with HM Treasury's 'Statement of Funding
Policy: Funding the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for
Wales and Northern Ireland Assembly' (March 1999). As that Statement
makes clear, the Northern Ireland Executive is "fully accountable
for the proper control and management of its public expenditure
allocation and for securing economy, efficiency and value for
money" through scrutiny by the Assembly.
As far as its future plans are concerned, you will
be aware that the Executive published in draft in October both
its Public Expenditure Plans for 2001/02 to 2003/04 and its Programme
for Government. Finalised Public Expenditure Plans were published
in December and I believe that the finalised Programme for Government
will follow within the next few weeks. Accounts in the appropriate
form covering this year's expenditure will, I understand, be laid
before the Assembly in due course.
5 January 2001