With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement on details of the agreement reached today between the Conservative and Unionist party and the Democratic Unionist party, under which the DUP will support the Government on a confidence and supply basis.
Having won the most votes and the largest number of seats in the general election on
As Members of this House are well aware and as our manifesto made clear, the Conservative party has never been neutral in expressing its support for the Union. As this agreement states, Her Majesty’s Government remain fully committed to the Belfast agreement and its successors. This means that we will continue to govern in the interests of all parts of the community in Northern Ireland. These confidence and supply arrangements in no way affect our steadfast commitment to the re-establishment of an inclusive Northern Ireland Executive by this Thursday. The Government will do everything in their power, working alongside the Irish Government, to bring the talks process to a successful conclusion in the short time that remains.
Both the Government and the DUP recognise the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland’s history, and the effect this has had on its economy and on people from all parts of the community. The Government are resolute in their determination to deliver for the whole of the United Kingdom. In recognition of our commitment to support growth across all parts of the United Kingdom, we have agreed to provide additional support for the people of Northern Ireland. I hope this part of the agreement will play a positive role in the efforts to re-establish devolved government. Funding would go to a restored Northern Ireland Executive in the same way that the £2.5 billion of financial support and flexibility was made available to that Executive through the 2014 Stormont House agreement and the 2015 “Fresh Start” agreement.
The Government support further co-operation with the Northern Ireland Executive on infrastructure development in Northern Ireland. The UK Government will allocate £200 million a year for two years. The Government and previous Executives have recognised the integral part digital infrastructure plays in opening up new opportunities for growth and connectivity for businesses and consumers. We will therefore contribute £75 million a year for two years to help provide ultrafast broadband for Northern Ireland, just as we have made funding available for this purpose in communities across the United Kingdom.
The UK Government are committed to working with the Executive and others to work towards a comprehensive and ambitious set of city deals across Northern Ireland to boost investment and help to unlock the full potential of Northern Ireland. This is the sort of targeted, positive intervention the UK Government can make across the UK. It builds on the success of existing deals such as those in Glasgow, Cardiff and Swansea. Since 2014, the UK Government have committed to more than £l billion-worth of investment in Scotland and Wales through this programme along with other projects. This is a continuation of our determination to be a Government for the whole of the UK.
To target pockets of severe deprivation so that all can benefit from growth and prosperity, the UK Government will also provide £20 million a year for five years to the Northern Ireland Executive. We will also ensure that all parts of the UK are properly reflected in the future UK shared prosperity fund as we exit the European Union.
As our manifesto made clear, we are also increasing our commitment to investment in public services across the UK. That is why we have pledged a minimum of £8 billion in additional NHS funding in real terms over the next five years; it is also why we have pledged to increase funding in real terms per head in every year. Our spending on the NHS in England is also translated into extra spending in Scotland and Wales through the Barnett formula. How that is spent is, of course, a matter for the Scottish and Welsh Governments.
To address immediate priorities in Northern Ireland, the UK Government will also allocate an additional £50 million per year for two years to enable the Executive to address pressures in health and education. Recognising the priority given by the Executive to securing a modern, sustainable health service in Northern Ireland, the UK Government will allocate £100 million per year for two years to support the Northern Ireland Executive’s priority of health service transformation.
The Government and the Executive also agree on the importance of support for mental health, particularly recognising the historical impact of Northern Ireland’s past on its communities. [Interruption.] I am glad the shadow Foreign Secretary finds mental health in Northern Ireland amusing—I find that slightly surprising. The UK Government will provide £10 million per year for five years to support the Northern Ireland Executive to deliver this measure.
Our general election manifesto made clear that there would be no change in the pensions triple lock before 2020. As part of this agreement, both parties have agreed there will be no change to the triple lock for the duration of this Parliament. We further agreed that there will be no change to the universal nature of the winter fuel payment. The Prime Minister said we would listen to what people said during the election campaign, and this is an example of our doing so.
As the party with the most seats at the general election, the Conservative party had a duty to form a Government. It is right that we talk to other parties to seek to ensure that the Government can provide the confidence the country needs at this crucial time. I commend this statement to the House.
This is a shabby and a reckless deal, which it has taken the Government at least £1 billion pounds to buy, and whose true cost for the future of peace in Northern Ireland could be infinitely higher. The Good Friday agreement is rightly seen across the world as a model for other countries seeking to end conflict, but it is also fragile and relies above all on trust, good faith and the impartiality of the British Government. For the Government to put such an agreement in jeopardy just to prop up this dismal Prime Minister is nothing short of a disgrace. So can I ask the First Secretary what legal advice the Government have received on whether today’s agreement is compatible with their legal obligations under the Good Friday agreement and whether he will publish that advice today?
I will not waste time discussing the so-called policy agreement set out today; after all, it was not the DUP who forced this Government to ditch their plans to hit pensioners’ income—the British people did that on
Secondly, the agreement says there will be a consultation on reducing VAT on tourism in Northern Ireland. Just a year ago, the current Minister of State with responsibility for security told the House the Government had concluded that the costs of such a VAT cut outweighed the benefits and that it was not something the Government were going to consider. So what has made the Government change their mind? In the light of his commitment to be fair to all parts of the United Kingdom, will he extend this consultation to all parts of the UK, seeking to support their tourism and hospitality industries, and if not, why is he not including the likes of Blackpool, Margate or Colwyn Bay?
Thirdly, and most importantly, can the First Secretary tell us this: where is the extra £1 billion announced today going to come from? During the election he was fond of telling interviewers that there was no magic money tree. So what has happened today? Has he found the key to the secret garden, or is the truth that like everything else that this Government say and do, it can all be ditched if it helps them to hang on to power—no matter who the bedfellows, no matter what the manifesto said, no matter where the money comes from, no matter the unfairness for the rest of Britain, and no matter the consequences for peace? That is no way to lead a Government, and it is definitely no way to run a country.
Let me deal with some of the detailed points that the right hon. Lady has made. She seems to think that providing more money for Northern Ireland health and education, and broadband and other parts of infrastructure, in some way makes it less likely that an Executive will be formed. I can assure her that it makes it more likely that an Executive will be formed. She asked about infrastructure help for the rest of the country. I am happy to repeat some of the things I said in my statement and add to them. We are pledged to provide £8 billion of new money for the health service and £4 billion for education, and we have an overall infrastructure fund of £23 billion, so the rest of the country absolutely will share in the advance in infrastructure spending that we have promised.
The right hon. Lady asks, of course, about how we can afford this. We can afford this because we have a strong economy after seven years of Conservative Government. It takes some nerve for a party that had tens of billions of pounds of unfunded commitments at the election to complain about targeted infrastructure spending and spending specifically designed to help some of the most deprived communities in this country. Labour also had a pledge to nationalise half of British industry and said that it was not going to cost any money because although it would borrow the money, it did not count as borrowing because it would pay it back out of the profits of the industry. I have two things to say to the right hon. Lady: first, if you borrow money it is still borrowing; and secondly, after six months of a Labour Government running an industry there would not be any profits to pay back any of the borrowing.
The right hon. Lady is fundamentally wrong that this does not help, in what is a hugely important week for Northern Ireland, to try to make sure that we restore proper devolved democratic government to Northern Ireland. I think that helping the Executive to be set up will be one of the great achievements of this week. What she has missed is that this extra support—this extra money—goes to all communities in Northern Ireland, run by the Northern Ireland Executive, so that people from all political traditions—all communities—will benefit from it. I would have thought, frankly, that she would welcome that.
The good doctor—Dr Julian Lewis.
In the discussions with the Democratic Unionists, did my right hon. Friend make any progress on the question of protection for former service personnel who still face the possibility of prosecution many years after fatal incidents in the period of the troubles?
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that question. The answer is yes. We seek to ensure proper fairness in the issue he raises and other legacy issues. I am sure that the agreement that comes out of our talks with the DUP will help advance a balanced and fair solution to those issues.
This is quite simply a pathetic, grubby little deal demonstrating all the worst excesses of pork barrel politics, designed to prop up a Government without a majority and increasingly without any credibility whatsoever. We now know that £1.5 billion is the price that this country will have to pay to keep this shambolic Government in power. The Government warned of a “coalition of chaos”, but this is much, much worse than that, as the social conservatives in the DUP exact their price from the Government.
This deal is not subject to the normal allocation of funds across the UK, and it will be delivered at the expense of all the other nations of the UK. Only 24 hours ago the Secretary of State for Scotland was categorically assuring us that Scotland would be in line for full Barnett consequentials as a result of the DUP deal. Either he was inadvertently misleading the Scots people, or he is so completely out of the loop that he has no idea what is going on, because we now know that Scotland will get nothing—zero, zilch—out of this deal.
What representations has the First Secretary received from the Scotland Office or from any of the new Scottish Members of Parliament who laughably said that they would stand up for Scotland? If the Barnett formula is to be bypassed, what is Scotland going to get out of this? Why has the Barnett formula been bypassed by this deal? This is a huge test for the new Scottish Tory Members of Parliament. They can either stand up for Scotland and Scotland’s funding interests, or stand behind this chaotic Government and their new best friends.
The hon. Gentleman is so far wide of the mark that it is almost laughable. He says that this comes from the block grant and specifically says that it is outside the Barnett formula. Let me give him some facts about what is happening in Scotland: a city deal for Glasgow, outside the Barnett formula, of £500 million; a city deal for Aberdeen, outside the Barnett formula, of £125 million; and a city deal for Inverness, outside the Barnett formula, of £53 million. Would he like me to go on? There is £5 million for the V&A in Dundee, outside the Barnett formula, £5 million for the Glasgow School of Art and £5 million for the Helensburgh waterfront. Huge amounts of money are going to Scotland from outside as well as inside the Barnett formula. If the Scottish National party does not recognise that, I suggest that its Members go back to their constituencies and find out what is happening in Scotland.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement, but sadly some have used it to suggest, rather opportunistically, that this means that the Government have changed their policies on equality matters, particularly equal marriage and access to abortion. Perhaps he could use this opportunity to update the House on those issues.
I am extremely happy to reassure my right hon. Friend and, indeed, colleagues on both sides of the House that this deal has no impact on those sorts of issues, particularly equal marriage. The agreement covers financial deals, Brexit legislation, security legislation and the Queen’s Speech. My right hon. Friend will no doubt have seen in the Queen’s Speech the Government’s recommitment to equality across all grounds, and that commitment is as strong today as it ever has been.
Further to that point, will the Government now use this to deal with the huge anomaly whereby Northern Ireland women are expected to be charged for abortions in NHS hospitals in Great Britain? Does the First Secretary agree that that is hugely unfair on women from Northern Ireland who travel to England, Scotland or Wales for an abortion, and that it is unjust for women’s rights?
I appreciate the strength of the right hon. Lady’s convictions. The issue comes under the heading of a health matter and is therefore devolved to Northern Ireland. It is for people in Northern Ireland to decide such issues. It is the logic of devolution that such issues should be decided in the devolved authorities, just as health matters are decided by the Scottish and Welsh Governments. Given that we all, I assume, hope that Northern Ireland should have a devolved Executive, it is for the people of Northern Ireland to decide these matters.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement and his personal commitment to ensuring that the imbalances and inequalities that exist in all parts of the United Kingdom are tackled effectively by this Government. Will he say a bit more about how the UK prosperity fund will be used to raise economic output in the poorest parts of the United Kingdom? I encourage him to keep an open mind to some of the ideas that his Welsh colleagues might have for further investment.
I am very happy that my right hon. Friend brings up the UK prosperity fund, which we will introduce once Brexit has been completed. Its purpose is precisely to help disadvantaged communities across the whole of the United Kingdom. It is meant to replace the money that has gone to some of our deprived communities through European institutions. I know, for instance, that communities in Cornwall have benefited in that way. Absolutely, communities in Wales, as well as in Scotland, Northern Ireland and other parts of England, such as the north-east, may well benefit from the UK prosperity fund. I am always open to creative ideas from any part of the UK about how best to spend that sort of money.
Let me explain to the Minister why there is concern on this side of the House about these women from Northern Ireland. This is not a devolved matter; it is about when they come to our shores as UK taxpayers and their ability to use UK services. I note that the official agreement says that the Government and the DUP are committed
“to providing health services which meet the needs of everyone, no matter who they are or where they live.”
It does not seem like that when it comes to these women. Will the Minister confirm whether the question of their access to abortion in England, or the fact that Northern Irish laws on abortion have been found to violate the UK’s human rights responsibilities, were discussed as part of the negotiations? Did the Government make any commitment to the DUP about when this matter comes to the House? Are Northern Irish women simply expected to pay the price of what feels like a forced marriage?
I am happy to assure the hon. Lady and the House that the agreement is what is set out. There are no private or side agreements attached to it—it is completely open. Again, I appreciate the strength of feeling she brings to this matter. It is clearly a political discussion she may wish to bring about in Northern Ireland when we have a devolved Executive there.
My hon. Friend makes the good point that foreign direct investment is extremely helpful to the Northern Ireland economy, as it is to the UK economy as a whole. It is absolutely the case that we wish to better utilise our embassies and high commissions around the world not just to boost exports, which is traditionally regarded as one of their important roles, but to help foreign direct investment, particularly into those parts of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, that would most benefit from it.
I thank the First Secretary for advance sight of his statement. My first thought on seeing it was that the Government had scraped the bottom of the pork barrel in reaching an agreement, but I suspect he will learn in the months to come that there is probably no bottom to that particular barrel.
The Government cannot be blind to the fact that this agreement places in jeopardy their role under the Good Friday agreement. That agreement can be secured only if the Government commit to transparency—not just today, but at every step of the way for as long as this agreement lasts. Will we get that transparency?
I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this agreement hinders the formation of a new Executive and, therefore, the implementation of the Good Friday agreement. I think that this agreement will help the full implementation of the Good Friday agreement. Since the confidence and supply agreement entails support from the Democratic Unionist party for the key areas of the Government’s programme in this House, the transparency will come when he observes people going through the Division Lobbies in a public way, as they traditionally do.
In welcoming the additional votes that the DUP brings, may I criticise the Government for not being bold enough? As Labour Front Benchers move to the Back Benches, and its Back Benchers move to the Front Bench, a lot of Labour Members are left disaffected, as a number of them do not identify themselves as Leninists or Marxists—and many not even as socialists. Could we send out a warm offer to those discontented Opposition Members to vote with us in the Lobby to deliver this Queen’s Speech?
My hon. Friend makes a shrewd point. I would indeed extend that invitation. To be entirely serious, there will be large parts of the Queen’s Speech—for instance on economic regeneration and issues such as mental health—on which I genuinely hope that we will get support from all parts of the House. There are many issues to which partisan politics will not necessarily apply, some of which are included in the Bills in the Queen’s Speech, and I look forward to men and women of good will from all parts of the House supporting those Bills.
May I warmly welcome the First Secretary of State’s statement? This is a good agreement for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and it is a good agreement for all the people of Northern Ireland. All the money that has been outlined, particularly that for mental health and hard-to-reach areas, is for every section of the community in Northern Ireland. This is a deal that delivers for all the people of Northern Ireland.
We commit to transparency—we are very open to that. Some day, I like to think we might publish all the correspondence and conversations we had in 2010 with Labour Front Benchers, and in 2015 with Labour Front Benchers and indeed also the Scottish National party, because some of the faux outrage we have heard is hypocrisy of the highest order.
We look forward to working with the Government over the next five years to deliver a strengthened Union of the United Kingdom, to deliver Brexit, to deliver prosperity to all parts of the United Kingdom and, most of all, to protect and defend our country at home and abroad.
I, of course, welcome completely my right hon. Friend’s words. He and I have spent more time together over the past few weeks than has been our wont in the past, and I assure him that it has been a life-enhancing experience at all times. I very much welcome the support of him and his colleagues so that we can, as he says, strengthen the Union and the economy in all parts of the country, get a Brexit deal that works for the whole country, and provide a confident Government for the next five years.
May I welcome what my right hon. Friend has set out? The most important thing that he mentioned in his statement was getting the devolved institutions back up and running. If this deal, together with the money that was promised under the previous agreements, can help that, it is to be welcomed. That will strengthen the United Kingdom and the partnership of all the countries within it. I welcome what both he and Nigel Dodds said.
My right hon. Friend is right. To repeat a hugely important point, the money will go to all parts of Northern Ireland. It will benefit all communities in Northern Ireland, and that should be a significant step towards ensuring that we have a successful conclusion to these vital talks about the re-setting up of a devolved Executive, which I am sure that everyone in this House wants to see.
Is the Minister concerned that his performance today is likely to bring crude hypocrisy into some disrepute? The Government have just lost an election. They made themselves and the country more unstable and weaker than they were before. In order again to correct problems within the Tory party, they are using this crude bribe. Is not the answer today that MPs who represent Wales and Scotland have to put our countries first, and is not the result of this that the Government are making the United Kingdom more divided than ever?
The problem with the hon. Gentleman’s analysis is his starting point that our party lost the election. No, we did not; his party lost the election—it lost its third election in a row. We all know that Labour won more seats than most of its own Members thought it would—there are people sitting on the Labour Benches who assumed that they would be out of a job now. In the spirit of non-partisanship, I welcome them back to this House but, nevertheless, the idea that the Labour party won the election is a fantasy that I think is dying out even on the wilder shores of Momentum.
Given that the DUP’s well known hard-nosed negotiators have generally done deals for about £1 billion when they need arrangements from the United Kingdom Government, may I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the fabulous value for money that he has obtained in a confidence and supply arrangement that will last five years and deliver Brexit? That compares rather well with the arrangement in 2008, when for about the same amount of money the then Government got one vote on 42-day detention—we were joined in the Lobby by the current Leader of the Opposition, shadow Chancellor, shadow Foreign Secretary and shadow Home Secretary—only for it to be reversed in the House of Lords three months later. This deal therefore looks like spectacularly good value for money for the United Kingdom.
I think that I thank my hon. Friend for that question. I am happy to agree with him that this is indeed a very good deal, not just for Northern Ireland but for the whole United Kingdom.
The Minister will be aware that the north-east of England is one of the poorest areas in the United Kingdom. We have not got a Barnett formula and the Government have only four or five MPs there—at least the last time I counted—so obviously we are going to get nowt, but is he giving our money away? Will we get what we are getting or are we going to get nowt?
If the hon. Gentleman wants to come and talk to us about a deal, I am sure that he, and indeed his constituents, would be very welcome. I can absolutely assure him that this does not involve diverting money from any of the various programmes that we use. Indeed, the UK prosperity fund will be able to help some parts of his area. He is more than welcome to keep an eye on that. As he knows, there are many city deals across England, and I am sure that the metro Mayor in Teesside will also do great things for that area. We are committed to all parts of the United Kingdom, including the part that the hon. Gentleman represents with such distinction.
My hon. Friend is right. I am sorry; I did not read out the entire agreement because you might have objected to that, Mr Speaker, but he is absolutely right. One of the things on which the DUP and the Conservative party are completely united is making sure that we meet our NATO commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence. I hope my hon. Friend would also welcome the first sailing of the new aircraft carrier today, which shows that this party, and indeed the DUP, are very serious about defending our country.
May I take this opportunity to thank you, Mr Speaker, for the fantastic family event on Saturday, when this Chamber was full of the sound of children and joy? You handled it with grace. I would encourage all Members to take a look at the coat of arms for our much loved Jo Cox and to enjoy the symbolism of mountains, the Thames, women’s suffrage and, of course, the Yorkshire rose.
Global goal 5, which we agreed to, states that there has to be reproductive rights for all women. Will the deal with the DUP mean that we have stopped our progress towards that goal, losing our position as one of the global leaders fighting for equality for all?
May I first associate myself with the hon. Lady’s very apposite remarks about the Jo Cox memorial? It was indeed very good to see it in this House on what was obviously a very sad anniversary.
In answer to the hon. Lady’s question, this is, as I said to her hon. Friends, a matter to be decided in Northern Ireland by Northern Ireland politicians and the people of Northern Ireland, and that is where she should be making her arguments.
I call Mr Andrew Bowie.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government are committed to ensuring that everyone from every nation and region of our United Kingdom is able to share in the proceeds of continued economic growth? As has already been mentioned, one way of doing that has been through the successful city deals, and my constituency has benefited greatly from the Aberdeen city deal. What will the Government do to boost investment in Northern Ireland and spread the benefits of such mechanisms?
I welcome my hon. Friend to his place. He is completely right to point out the benefits of the investment that has been made in his constituency thanks to the Government’s strong economic progress over the past seven years, which enables us to afford regeneration and investment that those who would run the economy down would not be able to afford. I am happy to assure my hon. Friend, and indeed the people of Northern Ireland, that that same strength of the economy can and will be used to regenerate communities all over the United Kingdom, including in Northern Ireland.
Will the First Secretary of State confirm that, constitutionally, the extra money that he has announced today is for the Northern Ireland Assembly, not one particular party—great negotiators though I know its members to be? Will he confirm that the money has been agreed, and that its priorities have been agreed, by all parties that may form the Executive on Thursday?
As I have said a number of times during these exchanges, absolutely. This is money for Northern Ireland—for the whole of Northern Ireland. It is not for one party in Northern Ireland and it is not for one community in Northern Ireland. It is for the whole of Northern Ireland, and it will benefit every community in Northern Ireland. As I said to Emily Thornberry, I am quite surprised that Labour Members are not welcoming this extra money, particularly that for disadvantaged communities in Northern Ireland. There was a time when the Labour party purported to care about disadvantaged communities.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that while much has been said in recent weeks about the importance of working with others across the aisle in the national interest, not everyone seems to like that in practice? Does he agree with the words of Ronald Reagan, I think, who said that someone you agree with 80% of the time is 80% friend and ally, not 20% enemy?
I confess that I had never heard that extremely good quotation before. I am grateful to my hon. Friend and I will use it shamelessly.
My hon. Friend is quite right. Having sat for four years in a coalition Government with the Liberal Democrats, I am happy to admit that there will be times when one has very strong disagreements with people in another party but can still work alongside them in the interests of the country as a whole. That is a duty that we should all take on board.
I am sure the First Secretary agrees that it is a rather remarkable day when the Labour party criticises investment in schools, investment in roads, investment in housing and investment in jobs on the grounds that that threatens the peace process. It really is bonkers to suggest that that is the case. Perhaps some Labour Front Benchers might now want to reflect on their past equivocation when it came to supporting the IRA, and the message that that sends to young people today in Northern Ireland who might be thinking about taking up arms in the future.
I am happy to agree with my right hon. Friend. It is clear that anything that aids investment, particularly for disadvantaged communities, ought to help to produce a more positive political atmosphere in Northern Ireland. I am sure that Labour Front Benchers heard his other thoughts with interest.
In welcoming this deal and the increased role of Northern Irish MPs in Westminster affairs, does the First Secretary agree that it is time to look again at the donations to the Northern Irish parties to ensure that they are consistent with the rules on the mainland, both in terms of transparency and of being sourced from outside the UK?
That is not part of the agreement, so it is not directly relevant to my statement today, but I am sure that the House will have heard my hon. Friend and will no doubt wish to discuss those matters further.
At this stage, with three days to go before the deadline, the sensible thing for me to point out is that the Conservative party is completely committed to getting the Executive re-established, as is the Democratic Unionist party. We both believe that decisions about the funding of public services in Northern Ireland should be taken by politicians in Northern Ireland. That is the logic of the devolution settlement that we have with the other countries in the United Kingdom, and that is the position we want to get back to in Northern Ireland as well.
Spreading infrastructure development, bringing stability to Government, delivering the Good Friday agreement and helping to implement a soft border with the Republic of Ireland are all good for Northern Ireland and for the United Kingdom. If none of that is welcome to Pete Wishart and his party, would my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government would be happy to receive back from the Scottish National party the moneys received for the Scottish city deals?
I rarely disagree with my hon. Friend, but I disagree with him on that point. I do not believe that the SNP speaks for Scotland on this matter. I am interested in the prosperity and future of the Scottish people, just as I am in the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. That is the logic of being a Unionist, and I will preserve that logic to the end.
Hospitals, schools and other public services in my constituency continue to face unprecedented cuts, so how do the Government justify finding £1.5 billion in order to achieve self-preservation? Is there any money on the magic money tree for the Dewsbury constituency?
As I have explained to the shadow First Secretary, this Government are committed to spending an extra £8 billion on the NHS in this Parliament, as well as an extra £4 billion on education and an extra £23 billion on infrastructure as a whole around the whole of the United Kingdom. I hope and expect that the people of Dewsbury will be able to benefit from that like everyone else.
Twenty per cent. more of my constituents voted Conservative in 2017 than did so at the previous opportunity. No one else will blow that trumpet, so I thought I should. Many of them did so because they were inspired by the vision for Brexit that was laid out by Theresa May. Can the First Secretary reassure me that this deal will strengthen Theresa May’s hand when it comes to Brexit and ensure that we can deliver control of our borders and our laws, as was promised at the general election?
First, I should praise the perspicacity of my hon. Friend’s constituents for massively increasing his vote at the recent election. I am happy to assure him that this deal does indeed make it clear that the vision of a Brexit that works for all parts of this country is reinforced and strengthened by the agreement that we are discussing today.
The Prime Minister and the DUP pride themselves on being champions of this supposedly precious Union. While the Prime Minister is busy bribing the DUP to stitch up the seams of this threadbare Administration, she continues to neglect the people of Wales and treats us like third-class citizens in this so-called family of equals. My party has always been at pains to prove that the Barnett formula is not fit for purpose, and the Government’s disregard for it today seems to indicate that they now agree. If this Government can hand out £1 billion to Northern Ireland in times of such austerity, I ask on the behalf of the people of Wales, “Where is the £1.7 billion which is now so evidently our right?”
I am happy to remind the hon. Lady that, under the new funding formula agreed last year, public spending in Wales is roughly £120 a head for every £100 a head spent in England, so the idea that this Government are in some way neglecting the people of Wales—my homeland—is wide of the mark. That figure arises from the Barnett formula and, on top of that, the two city deals involve funding of up to £540 million, which should release private sector investment totalling £4.7 billion. As the hon. Lady can see, the people of Wales are being well served by this Government.
Be in no doubt that this deal has everything to do with the Conservative party and absolutely nothing to do with the country. If it had anything to do with the country, the First Secretary would come to the Dispatch Box and tell me how much money Scotland will get as a result of this deal being signed.
Since this deal is about Northern Ireland, Scotland will benefit in the way that it has in the past. I am quite happy to repeat the figures that I repeated to Pete Wishart, the SNP spokesman, but I would not want to embarrass him further. Scotland is doing extremely well out of city deals and other things, and it benefits from the Barnett formula as well. Scotland’s problem is that it has a Government in Holyrood that are not very good at running public services. Ian Murray and I probably ought to agree on that.
There has been much reference to the national interest this afternoon, and I commend my right hon. Friend for doing a deal with the DUP in the national interest. However, given this crucial time in our history and the challenges that lie ahead, does he agree that now is the time for Labour to work constructively with the Government for the greater good of the nation, not to seek to score political points?
I agree with my hon. Friend’s wise point. It is never too late to repent, and if the Opposition Front-Bench team want to adopt a more constructive attitude, I would very much welcome that.
Does the First Secretary view with utter despair the comments and implications from the Opposition Front-Bench team today that people will in effect go back to war because we intend to spend £1.5 billion on services that people so vitally need? A bit of rationale surely needs to be injected into this debate. This is a good deal for Northern Ireland and a good deal for the entire United Kingdom.
I agree that the extra £1 billion of new money in this deal, which will, as I have repeatedly said, be spent in the interests of developing the prosperity of all the people of Northern Ireland, is hugely welcome both in itself and in this crucial week for the devolution process. I am genuinely surprised that there is not a greater welcome for it among those on the Labour Benches.
Does the First Secretary agree that it is perfectly sensible that there should be a consultation on VAT rates in tourism in Northern Ireland? Uniquely within the UK, it has a land border with another country that has a lower VAT rate on tourism—9%—and is therefore currently at a competitive disadvantage.
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. There are various things about Northern Ireland that make it unique within the United Kingdom. The history is one, and the land border is of course another. That is why it has a specific type of devolved government, which we hope to see restored, and why we will be consulting on various other policy areas as well.
I am a little surprised by the First Secretary’s statement, because he left out the most important part of the agreement. He said that the DUP will support the Government on votes on the Queen’s Speech, the Budget and so on, but he left out the only bit that the Government really care about, which is that the DUP will support them on all motions of no confidence. That is what the Government have bought with this money, isn’t it? They have bought continuing support on all motions of no confidence, because the only way to bring down a Government under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 is a motion of no confidence. All the rest is irrelevant. Now that the DUP has effectively become a party of government, and not a party of opposition, surely, surely, surely it should surrender its right to Short money.
I am quite surprised that the hon. Gentleman does not recognise that the addition of large sums of money for promoting infrastructure, for helping people with mental health problems and for helping particularly disadvantaged communities is the most important part of this agreement. It seems to me to be the most important part of the agreement because it will actually help disadvantaged people in Northern Ireland. If he does not accept that that is important, he will lose some of his socialist firebrand credentials, which he loves to parade.
We were told by Ruth Davidson, no less, that the 13 Scottish Conservative MPs in this Parliament would operate as a separate bloc, would put Scotland’s case forcefully and would make sure that they deliver for Scotland. Can the First Secretary tell us, with reference not to the last Parliament but to this Parliament, what additional targeted investments the 13 Scottish Tory MPs have secured for Scotland in return for supporting this deal?
I refer the hon. and learned Lady to what Ruth Davidson has said today. Ruth Davidson is completely in support of this agreement, and she makes the point that, just as Scotland benefits hugely from the strength of the economy that a Conservative Government have provided and that allows us to make all the investment in Scotland that I have already detailed—I am more than happy to detail it again, if the hon. and learned Lady wants—and just as we have treated Scotland fairly, we should treat Northern Ireland, Wales and other parts of England fairly, too. That is what this Government will continue to do. If she wants any new money, I refer her, as I have done repeatedly from this Dispatch Box today, to the UK prosperity fund that we will be introducing after Brexit, from which I hope many communities in Scotland, as well as in other parts of the UK, will benefit.
I recognise that abortion is a devolved matter, although I deplore the resulting legislative framework in Northern Ireland. Women are prosecuted and convicted in Northern Ireland for seeking to procure abortions, which forces them to come to England for terminations. This is the question we are trying to ask the First Secretary: will his Government fund those terminations, those procedures, in English hospitals because those Northern Ireland women—UK citizens—cannot get them in their own country?
If we accept the logic of devolution, as I have said in answer to previous questions along these lines, this is a matter to be resolved by politics in Northern Ireland.
As a Belfast Member of Parliament—like my right hon. Friend Nigel Dodds and my hon. Friend
I am very pleased that, as the hon. Gentleman will know, talks have already started on the Belfast city deal, which I hope can be concluded as fast as possible so that Belfast can enjoy the benefits that other cities, including Glasgow and Cardiff, already have. Apart from anything else, it would be a good symbol of the United Kingdom Government acting in the interests of all parts of the United Kingdom.
Ian Paisley mentioned an extra £1.5 billion for Northern Ireland, and under the Barnett formula that should mean an extra £2.5 billion for Wales. Does the First Secretary of State agree that if the Welsh Secretary refuses to find that money for Wales around the Cabinet table, once again the Tories will have betrayed the people of Wales?
The new money of £1 billion in this deal is of course outside the Barnett formula. As I explained to Liz Saville Roberts, under the Barnett formula every person in Wales receives approximately £120 for every £100 of public spending for every person in England. It is clear from the figures that Wales is not doing badly out of this formula.
During seven years of austerity, which left north-east working families on average £1,000 worse off per year, Tory Governments refused to invest in smart growth for good jobs, but now they have found £1.5 billion to bung at the DUP. Does the First Secretary therefore acknowledge that unless he immediately invests an equivalent amount in the north-east, and undertakes an air passenger duty review, the Government’s reputation for economic competence will be on a level with their reputation for Brexit negotiations, where they are the laughing stock of Europe?
I point out to the hon. lady that over that period—indeed, over her period in the House—unemployment has consistently fallen in her area, as in other areas, until it has now reached its lowest level since the mid-1970s. I would have thought she would welcome that; more of her constituents are in work than ever before.
Why do this Government not do the right thing and deal with these women who have no option but to travel from Northern Ireland to seek termination services in England, Scotland and Wales? Why do the Government, of whom the First Secretary is a leading member, not do the right thing and say that those women should not be charged for accessing NHS services, which, as taxpayers, they contribute to through the tax they pay on their wages?
The hon. Lady knows that the NHS is a devolved function in the devolved Administrations, so if we accept the logic of devolution, this is clearly a political issue for the people of Northern Ireland.
The House is disappointed this afternoon that the First Secretary of State has been so vague in explaining exactly where the money to pay for this deal is coming from. It is therefore incumbent on him to ask his Chancellor to come to this House to explain how it is that the period of austerity which we have suffered for so long has so abruptly come to an end and how it is that if we now have the “proceeds of growth”, areas such as Yorkshire, the north-west, Newcastle and Cumbria are not also allowed to enjoy them?
All the areas that the hon. Lady talks about have benefited from an economic policy that has reduced unemployment to its lowest level for more than 40 years. I am happy to assure her that the money in this deal is well within the confines of the fiscal targets we have set ourselves, so we are still able to hit those targets of eliminating the deficit by 2025—by the middle of the next decade—and reducing the structural deficit to no more than 2% by 2020-21. This does not affect our fiscal targets at all.
Speaking as the new Member for Stirling, where there is a new city region deal in the offing, may I ask my right hon. Friend to confirm for the benefit of Opposition Members that all city deals in Scotland and Wales since 2014 have sat outside the Barnett formula?
I welcome another of my hon. Friends to his place. He is exactly right. The city deals and the city region deals have proved one of the most successful innovations of this Government. I look forward to the people of his constituency benefiting from them, as people in constituencies across the UK already have.
The Secretary of State for Scotland is not in his place—no doubt he is off somewhere polishing his brass neck—so I will have to tell the First Secretary of State that the city deals arranged in Scotland have come at a cost to local government and the Scottish Government. The UK Government are paying only £678 million, whereas the Scottish Government and local government in Scotland have put in £1.3 billion. How much are local authorities in Belfast and in Northern Ireland as a whole expected to put into the city deals?
Only an SNP Member could idly talk about “only” £678 million; soon we will be talking about real money. [Interruption.] It is a Geoffrey Howe quote. The UK Government and the Scottish Government have joint responsibilities to help the economy of Scotland, and certainly the UK Government are already demonstrably meeting those commitments. I hope the SNP-led Scottish Government continue to do so.
I welcome this agreement, but does the First Secretary of State agree that the injustice—because that is what it is—of women from Northern Ireland who seek terminations being charged to have them on the mainland by the NHS is nothing at all to do with this agreement? It is an entirely separate matter. To that end, does he agree that the Government should consider this matter, because it is not fair that women from Northern Ireland seeking terminations should be charged by the NHS here in this country?
I can only say to my right hon. Friend what I have said to Opposition Members, which is that this is clearly an enormously sensitive political topic, and the best place for it to be resolved is within the democratic politics of Northern Ireland itself.
Tonight, many of my constituents in Glasgow East will be wondering why our local jobcentres are being shut when the pavements of Northern Ireland are being made of gold. Was the Secretary of State for Scotland consulted as part of this grubby deal and the finances involved in it, or was the Cabinet’s man in Scotland once again frozen out?