Scots and Welsh want cash too as Arlene Foster signs deal with PM

Written by James Millar on 26 June 2017 in Diary
Diary

The ink was barely dry on the deal to keep Theresa May in power before devolved administrations started asking for more money

Scots and Welsh MPs are demanding full details of the government’s deal with the DUP in case it means they are missing out on millions of pounds of cash.

SNP MPs have questioned whether the arrangement, involving over £1 billion of pledges from Theresa May in return for DUP support, is subject to the Barnett formula that is used to dole money out between the constituent parts of the UK.

If it is that could mean a windfall for the administrations in Cardiff and Edinburgh as well as Belfast.

However government sources have insisted that the ‘confidence and supply’ set up that will see the DUP’s 10 MPs vote with the government on financial bills and back Theresa May in any vote of no confidence is a special situation so the Barnett formula won’t apply. The formula has no legal backing anyway and generally works by allocating extra resources to the devolved administrations when extra money is spent in England. The government may claim that since the additional spending is going to Northern Ireland there’s no need or precedent for invoking the formula.

The formula was put together by then chief secretary to the Treasury Joel Barnett when Jim Callaghan was Prime Minister in the late 1970s. It was meant as a temporary solution to funding concerns ensuring different parts of the UK receive extra money if Westminster spends on England-only policies. ‘The Vow’ that followed the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 made reference to keeping the Barnett formula and at the weekend Scottish Secretary David Mundell muddied the waters when he appeared to reassure Scots that it would apply to the deal with the DUP.

The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: “If Northern Ireland is to receive billions more in funding because the DUP are prepared to prop up the Tories, additional funding must come to Scotland as Barnett consequentials - anything less would be a democratic outrage.”

The Labour administration in Cardiff has long argued that the Barnett formula is unfair on Wales and is likely to use the DUP deal to make the case for new money and a new settlement. First minister Carwyn Jones has described the arrangement as “the great power bribe”.

Theresa May and DUP leader Arlene Foster signed an agreement this morning. The Prime Minister described it as a “very, very good” deal. It’s understood that May agreed to drop plans to undo the pensions triple lock and means test winter fuel allowance payments in return for DUP support. She’s also understood to have found an extra £1 billion of funding for Northern Ireland that is earmarked for hospitals, schools and roads.

The PM can now breath easy about the Queen’s Speech vote due on Thursday, with DUP support she has an effective majority of 13 in the Commons. The Northern Irish party has also signed up to support the government on Brexit legislation and national security bills.

 

 

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