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Treasury Spending: Grants to Devolved Institutions

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 3rd July 2018.

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Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady SNP Chief Whip 6:30 pm, 3rd July 2018

I do not think that intervening would be wise. The hon. Gentleman should probably take a seat.

We just have to compare the system in this House with the system in Scotland. Here, we have 90 minutes of debate, but the Scottish Parliament has months of decision making. Tomorrow, in less than 30 seconds, the Supply and Appropriation (Main Estimates) (No. 2) Bill, which has not even been published yet, will be nodded through, authorising billions of pounds-worth of expenditure without any real scrutiny whatsoever.

I cannot finish without talking about the other consequence for devolved institutions. It is the elephant in the room, the canary in the coal mine, or whatever metaphor we please: the dodgy deal, the grubby agreement, the confidence and supply arrangement that has propped up this weak Government for over a year in return for £1.5 billion that we cannot scrutinise and is almost impossible to find anywhere in the estimates document. The debates yesterday and today and the Bill tomorrow are literally the supply element of confidence and supply, but getting to the bottom of the deal is almost impenetrable. All the Library briefing note can find is a line about health buried somewhere. If I was in the DUP, first of all I would be here, but I might also be starting to feel slightly aggrieved about whether the money is ever actually going to show.

However, at least that money has been promised. The real disgrace of the confidence and supply arrangement is that Barnett consequentials are not being made available to the other devolved institutions. We have seen the contempt in which the UK Government hold the devolution settlement these days. They ripped up the Sewel convention to pass the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill without a legislative consent motion from Scotland. In fact, that contempt has been clear since they have shown total disregard for the Barnett formula. No matter what vows were made in 2014, it seems that the conventions and formulae that have underpinned devolution for the past 20 years are slowly but surely being undone. There we are.

We have heard the reality of Tory austerity, which has always been an ideological choice, not a necessity. It has meant real-terms cuts to the discretionary budget in Scotland. We heard Jonathan Edwards speak of the struggles in Wales, which has been dealt the double whammy of Tory austerity and Labour incompetence. We wonder where and when there will ever be a proper chance for scrutiny of the confidence and supply deal that is propping up this Government at the cost of £1.5 billion, which has been delivered without the due consequentials elsewhere.

I know that, unaccountably, the attention of other Members might be somewhere else at 7 o’clock, but we in the SNP are left with no choice but to divide the House on the estimates.