Confidence and Supply Agreement

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons on 22nd May 2019.

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Photo of Hannah Bardell Hannah Bardell Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

What recent discussions she has had with the Prime Minister on the continuation of the Government’s confidence and supply agreement with the Democratic Unionist party.

Photo of Marion Fellows Marion Fellows SNP Whip, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Small Business, Enterprise and Innovation)

What recent discussions she has had with the Prime Minister on the continuation of the Government’s confidence and supply agreement with the Democratic Unionist party.

Photo of John Penrose John Penrose The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

The Secretary of State has not had any meetings with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on the confidence and supply agreement. The agreement is between the Conservative party and the Democratic Unionist party for the length of the Parliament, and as the agreement makes clear, the Secretary of State is not involved in confidence and supply discussions.

Photo of Hannah Bardell Hannah Bardell Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

Last year, I met two incredibly brave women, Sarah Ewart and Denise Phelan, who have been directly impacted by Northern Ireland’s near total abortion ban and are working with Amnesty UK to change the law. Their harrowing experience of being unable to access safe and legal abortion in Northern Ireland demonstrates the reality of that restrictive regime. In Denise’s case, the foetus died and decomposed inside her. When will the Secretary of State realise that her Government’s agreement with the DUP is holding back the human rights of women in Northern Ireland, and what is she going to do about it?

Photo of John Penrose John Penrose The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

I am not quite clear what the very important and, I agree, very difficult issue of abortion laws in Northern Ireland has to do with the confidence and supply agreement. It is not in the confidence and supply agreement at all. It is a very difficult and knotty issue that needs to be addressed as soon as we can get the Stormont Parliament up and running.

Photo of Marion Fellows Marion Fellows SNP Whip, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Small Business, Enterprise and Innovation)

Can the Minister confirm whether there have been ongoing discussions between any members of the Cabinet and the DUP, seeking support for the Prime Minister’s latest attempt to bring back her Brexit deal? If so, will the new DUP bung be subject to the Barnett formula?

Photo of John Penrose John Penrose The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

I tried to make this clear earlier, but let me repeat it, so that everybody is crystal clear. The confidence and supply agreement is not something that the Northern Ireland Office gets involved in, and rightly so. It is done at a much more senior level between No. 10 and through the usual channels, and it is not something that the Northern Ireland Office would have any particular participation in.

Photo of Paul Girvan Paul Girvan Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Education), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport)

Will the Minister outline the benefits that confidence and supply one—I use that term in anticipation that we will have another—has brought to the population of Northern Ireland?

Photo of John Penrose John Penrose The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

There has been a great degree of investment in Northern Ireland as a result of the confidence and supply agreement; the hon. Gentleman is right. There has been extensive spending. We have so far spent £430 million in Northern Ireland on things such as health, education and infrastructure. There is a further £333 million, subject to Parliament’s approval, and the remaining £323 million will be allocated in due course.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

The Minister’s answer to my hon. Friend Marion Fellows simply was not good enough. The current confidence and supply agreement between the Tories and the DUP has denied Scotland a total of £3.4 billion in Barnett consequentials. Would the Minister care to find out what the next bribe to the DUP will cost the people of Scotland, so that we can tell them?

Photo of John Penrose John Penrose The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

It is very clear that the confidence and supply agreement does not incur Barnett consequentials and is separate. In that respect, it is rather like the city deals. I gently point out to Scottish National party Members that Scotland has done extremely well out of the city deals—it has had something like £1.25 billion. It is all very well them gesturing that away, as if it is nothing at all, but this is real money going into important investments in local economies across Scotland, as it is in Northern Ireland as well.