“I’m very happy to take your questions.”

Following his speech at the MacGill Summer School on Sunday, where he focussed primarily – and, according to SF leader Gerry Adams, patronisingly – on the issue of policing and Sinn Féin, Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland Peter Hain, has given another speech. This time, in true campaigning style, he was speaking to the gathered NI press corps at Stormont – full speech here[pdf file]... and there are plenty of areas for further questions to be asked. More The BBC pick up on one of those areas. And from the Belfast Telegraph

“Every department is being examined. There are no sacred cows. Nothing is ruled out.”

Finally Just in case you missed it, Peter Hain has issued a second statement based on the same speechFor a Secretary of State apparently pre-occupied by the level of public spending, and its distortion of the local economy, he seems inordinately proud of the increasing levels of public spending since 1997..

As noted in Peter Hain’s statement

By 2008, total government spending here will exceed a record £16 billion, a jump of more than 50 per cent since 1997. Of this, health spending alone will top £3.8 billion by 2008 – up from around £1.7 billion in 1997 to now account for over 40 per cent of our entire Northern Ireland budget. And since 1997, education funding has increased by more than 60 per cent, at a time when pupil numbers have been falling, and will reach £1.7 billion by 2008. This investment, alongside the hard work and dedication of our public sector workers, is helping to boost education results and bring down hospital waiting lists.”[added emphasis]

And despite repeating his concern over the number of schools, from his actual speech[pdf]..

The fact remains however, that we still have too many schools, with resources spread too thinly, to the detriment of teachers and children. The Bain Review, which I announced earlier this year, will examine funding in the context of falling pupil numbers and the introduction of this revised curriculum and, I hope, bring forward radical proposals that will both raise standards and help towards our goal of a Shared Future.[added emphasis]

..he has also highlighted a £380million school building programme which will see an additional 48 new schools built..

We have overseen a similar significant increase in spending on education. Since 1997, education funding has increased
by more than 60%, at a time when pupil numbers have been falling, and will reach £1.7 billion by 2008. And I’ve recently announced a £380million school building programme which will see 48 new schools built.[added emphasis]

One gem in particular is worth noting from his conclusions..

The Assembly has shown already in recent weeks that it has the capacity to bring forward thinking and new ideas to
the table.

Anyone notice that?.. Anyone?

On a more serious point, as noted in the PA report, is the Secretary of State’s apparent willingness to restructure the 11 Departments, with accompanying ministerial posts in an Executive..

In a speech reviewing the work his ministerial team has done on what would normally be devolved issues, the minister said that if it was right to ask local government to slash the number of councils in the region from 26 to seven, then it was also right to focus on the future shape of central government and whether 11 departments were needed to deliver public services in Northern Ireland.

“Following implementation of the review of public administration, a number of departments will simply be unsustainable in their current form,” he said.

The possibility of a re-configuring of the Executive, with an accompanying recalculation of the distribution of ministerial seats, may cause some, more, furrowed brows among the UUP..

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  • Animus

    I wonder how closely the NIO will be scrutinised.

    The bit about NHS waiting lists is just plain false (no more than a 12 month wait). I suppose one of the ways to keep numbers down is by refusing to give an appointment so that people don’t appear on any list. It’s laudable to work to improve this situation, but it’s absolutely false to claim that Northern Ireland is doing well in this area at the present time.

  • Pete Baker

    Animus

    Somehow I get the impression that any predictions of cuts at the NIO will prove to be greatly exaggarated..

    Meanwhile that, allegedly destructive, public subsidy of the local economy just gets bigger and bigger.. in spite of its unsustainability..

    As I said in the post, it looked to me like a set-piece campaign speech aimed at a different audience completely.

    Is there a vacancy yet?

  • Pete Baker

    Just to note the update.. the NIO thought the speech was so good, or so self-contradictory, that they’ve issued two separate statements on the content of the one speech.

    *shakes head*

  • Rubicon

    Pete – 2 seperate press statements – no big deal. The local journo’s may have thought the first a bit long for their column inches.

    I’m more interested in what you’re pointing to re a restored Executive. Is 10 a magic number? Do you remember how 10 was arrived at?

    Deciding the number of executive positions on the basis of short-term political outcomes didn’t help the UUP or SDLP – though it did mean that NI got it’s best minister in the last nomination.

    The UUP/PUP alliance won’t deliver them an extra seat anyway. It was just political incompetence based on under estimating their opposition.

  • Pete Baker

    Rubi

    It was more throwaway comment than anything else on the statements.. but it is worth noting that the second statement is merely an extract from the speech – cut and pasted into a fresh statement.. unlike the first, which is more of an overall summary.. with a different emphasis – and a link to the full speech.

    ANYway..

  • slug

    Pete

    I think that the apparent inconsistency can be resolved by considering the difference between public spending and public investment.

  • slug

    Also he is building new schools to replace old schools, or in new areas that have grown up.

    It will be interesting to see what the Bain review contains.

    Will be fun if its very radical…

  • Pete Baker

    slug

    There are two separate issues certainly.

    But look at the highlighted quote –

    “By 2008, total government spending here will exceed a record £16 billion, a jump of more than 50 per cent since 1997.”

    The public investment planned is £16billion over 10[or 15?] years.. when announced that included significant levels of PFIs.

    Here’s the relevant paragraph from the speech –

    “Investment is growing, not just in the crucial areas of health and education, but across the public sector. I was proud to have unveiled the historic multi-billion pound Investment Strategy – the most significant investment in our infrastructure in decades, with potentially up to £16 billion worth of projects. Not just new hospitals and new schools, but major investment in our roads, water, energy and communications infrastructure.”