Paterson welcomes draft budget
Published 15/12/2010 | 12:52
Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson has welcomed the draft budget agreed by the Stormont Executive, which he said involved a "substantial allocation" to the police service.
Mr Paterson assured MPs that if Northern Ireland's security situation deteriorated, the UK Government would be prepared to consider "going to the contingency reserve for extra funds".
At Commons question time, Mr Paterson faced concerns from MPs that public spending cuts would affect frontline policing in the region, where the threat level is currently "severe".
Labour's Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) asked: "Will you understand the very real public concern not just in Northern Ireland but elsewhere in the UK about any cuts in frontline policing in Northern Ireland and the impact they would have on security and on public safety?"
Mr Paterson replied: "I'm fully aware of the concern that the small number of terrorists presents and that is why this Government has made a fair settlement on the Executive.
"And that is why I'm very pleased today that the Executive agreed a draft budget with a substantial allocation to the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland).
"We have made it absolutely clear that should the security position deteriorate, we will be open to further discussions with the Executive, as was agreed by the previous government."
Labour's Gregg McClymont (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch E) and Tory former minister Laurence Robertson also pressed the Government on whether it would meet a request from the PSNI for extra funds.
Mr Paterson said: "We are quite clear that should the security position deteriorate and should a good case be made by the Justice Minister (David Ford) and the Chief Constable (Matt Baggott) - one of whom I spoke to this morning, the other I spoke to yesterday morning - we will be prepared to consider going to the contingency reserve for extra funds in order to bear down on the terrorist threat."
The Stormont Executive has approved a budget plan aimed at absorbing £4 billion of spending cuts in Northern Ireland, following marathon late-night talks at Stormont Castle between the parties in the region's mandatory power-sharing coalition. The two main parties - the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein - and the Alliance Party voted for the plan, while the Ulster Unionists and SDLP abstained.