HOUSE OF COMMONS
Third Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
DRAFT AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE) (NORTHERN IRELAND) ORDER 1987
Thursday 29 January 1987
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The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Chairman: Mr. Albert McQuarrie
Bell, Mr. Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Burt, Mr. Alistair (Bury, North)
Cockeram, Mr. Eric (Ludlow)
Durant, Mr. Tony (Reading, West)
Hawkins, Mr. Christopher (High Peak)
Higgins, Mr. Terence (Worthing)
Maynard, Miss Joan (Sheffield, Brightside)
Neale, Mr. Gerrard (Cornwall, North)
Parry, Mr. Robert (Liverpool, Riverside)
Pike, Mr. Peter (Burnley)
Porter, Mr. Barry (Wirral, South)
Roberts, Mr. Allan (Bootle)
Sackville, Mr. Tom (Bolton, West)
Skinner, Mr. Dennis (Bolsover)
Temple-Morris, Mr. Peter (Leominster)
Twinn, Dr. Ian (Edmonton)
Viggers, Mr. Peter (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland)
Mr. J. R. Rose, Committee Clerk2 3 Third Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
[MR ALBERT MCQUARRIE in the Chair]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Viggers): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the draft Agriculture and Fisheries (Financial Assistance) (Northern Ireland) Order 1987. The purpose of the order, a draft of which was laid before the House on 13 January, is straightforward. It will effect the transfer of accounting responsibility for certain agricultural and fisheries expenditure from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to the Department of Agriculture in Northern Ireland. At present the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is responsible for expenditure within Northern Ireland under certain schemes, although they are largely administered by the Department of Agriculture in Northern Ireland on an agency basis. In the interest of improved financial management and control and in accordance with the principles of the financial management initiative, the Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland will become fully accountable for its actions in administering the schemes in Northern Ireland, thus putting Northern Ireland on a similar footing to the treatment of parallel expenditure in Scotland and Wales. The transfer of financial responsibility can only be effected by re-enactment in respect of Northern Ireland of the relevant provision contained in the UK Acts. Where appropriate, the Northern Ireland element of the provisions within these Acts will be repealed. The order does not amend existing legislation, and it is not surprising, therefore, that it evoked little comment during the consultation period. I commend the order to the Committee.
Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough): I welcome the brevity and the conciseness with which the Minister has 4 described the order to the Committee. Whilst I do not object to the order, I want to put one or two questions to him. First, does the order affect the Northern Ireland budget? Will there be a drain on the resources of the Northern Ireland agriculture budget or is the order simply an accounting measure which will have no impact on it? At present these expenses are probably covered by the Department of Agriculture through our own budgets; will they now be a charge on the Northern Irish budget? Secondly, we are glad that the schemes are to come into line with those operating in Scotland and Wales. Whilst the Labour party has a concept and view of an Ireland united through peaceful means and consent, until such time as that is brought about, the laws and regulations affecting the mainland should be harmonised as closely as possible with those in Northern Ireland.
Mr. Viggers: The discussions between the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Department of Agriculture in Northern Ireland have been on the basis that the effect of the transfer of responsibility proposed in the order will be neutral in financial terms. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the effect on the agriculture budget in Northern Ireland is intended to be neutral. I hope that he accepts that assurance.
Mr. Bell: I am grateful to the Minister for that assurance. We have no objection to the draft order.
Mr. Viggers: On a point of order, Mr. McQuarrie. It remains only for me to thank you for your urbane chairmanship and my hon. Friends and colleagues for attending the Committee. Whilst the order may not be controversial, it is significant in financial management terms and I am grateful for the attendance of hon. Members.
Question put and agreed to.
Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft Agriculture and Fisheries (Financial Assistance) (Northern Ireland) Order 1987.
Committee rose at twenty-six minutes to Eleven o'clock.
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE
McQuarrie, Mr. Albert (Chairman)