Northern Ireland

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:10 pm on 26th June 2017.

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Photo of Damian Green Damian Green First Secretary of State and Minister for the Cabinet Office 4:10 pm, 26th June 2017

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 8 June by a significant margin, only the Conservative party has the ability and legitimacy to lead the Government our country needs. This agreement delivers the certainty we need in the United Kingdom’s national interest at this crucial time. The agreement means that the DUP will support the Government on votes on the Queen’s Speech, the Budget, and legislation relating to our exit from the European Union and national security. It will ensure that we can govern in the national interest, strengthening and enhancing the Union, keeping our country safe, delivering prosperity for all and securing a departure from the European Union that benefits all parts of the United Kingdom. To support the agreement, the Government will chair a co-ordination committee involving both parties.

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.