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Departmental Underspending

Volume 406: debated on Wednesday 11 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to reduce his Department's underspend in 2003–04 from that of 2002–03. [112776]

The Northern Ireland Office takes all steps possible to minimise underspends, though sometimes operational circumstances make these unavoidable. We will not know the extent of any underspend for 2002–03 before the end of June 2003.Because of the commitments the Department faces in the current financial year, we are confident that any underspend will be less than in previous years.Within the 11 Departments of the Northern Ireland administration information on the extent of any underspend for 2002–03 will not be available until late June 2003. However, on the basis of underspends in previous years an action plan to address this issue was set out in a statement to the Assembly on 1 July 2002 by the (then) Minister of Finance and Personnel. This included setting spending plans at a level which exceeded the actual spending power available by building in underspend assumptions, and the revised spending plans for 2003–04 to 2005–06, announced on 11 December 2002, built on that approach. Full details are set out in section two of the Budget Document "Building on Progress: Budget 2003–2006", copies were placed in the Library on 11 December 2002.