Application for emergency debate (Standing Order No. 24)
I rise to propose that the House debates a specific and important matter for urgent consideration—namely, the Government’s confidence and supply deal with the Democratic Unionist party and the associated funding arrangements.
Yesterday morning, the Government confirmed a confidence and supply agreement with the Democratic Unionist party to secure a working majority in this Parliament. The central part of the deal involved a funding arrangement that would see Northern Ireland benefit from more than £1 billion of extra investment, while the other nations of the United Kingdom would secure next to nothing. The full details of the deal must be fully debated and all the issues properly scrutinised as quickly as possible, certainly ahead of Thursday’s votes on the Humble Address. Yesterday there was an hour-long statement, with little notice, from the First Secretary of State, who took questions from hon. Members. That cannot be considered satisfactory, given the significance and importance of the deal. Members must be given a chance to debate all the issues fully.
The normal arrangements for the funding of the nations of the United Kingdom have been turned on their head with the disregard of the Barnett formula. Had the Barnett formula been applied, Scotland would have been entitled to nearly £2.9 billion of additional funding and Wales would have got an extra £1.7 billion. The First Secretary yesterday claimed that the deal was to be compared to allocations made under city deals. That is not the case and that assertion must be tested. City deals in Scotland are match-funded by the Scottish Government and local authority partners; and Northern Ireland is not a city.
There are also questions about the role of the Scotland Office in all this. On Sunday, the Secretary of State for Scotland noted he would not support any funding that,
“is deliberately sought to subvert the Barnett rules”.
This deal clearly does—it fails that test. We and all the new Scottish Members of Parliament need to know whether the Scotland Office made representations to the Prime Minister in advance of this deal being announced, and whether it did anything at all to protect Scotland’s vital funding interests in this deal.
While we welcome the increased funding for Northern Ireland, we believe there are serious questions regarding the relevance of the Barnett formula in the light of this new deal. If this represents a relaxation of ideological austerity, all regions and nations of the UK should benefit. This matter requires more attention from the House, and I humbly request an emergency debate to get the answers that this House and this country need.
The hon. Member asks leave to propose a debate on a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely the DUP funding deal. I have listened carefully—it was my decision to allocate to the hon. Gentleman three minutes in which to make his case—to the application from the hon. Member. However, I am not persuaded that this matter is proper to be discussed under Standing Order No. 24.
I do realise that that will disappoint the hon. Gentleman, but he is a persistent terrier, and I feel sure that he and other Members from his Benches will raise this matter in all sorts of ways in days to come, and they will not be deterred in any way by the thought that they might be repeating themselves. [Interruption.] They will very properly return to this matter as and when they wish—preferably, however, when they are on their feet, rather than, as exemplified by the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Angus Brendan MacNeil), from the comfort of their seat. We will leave it there for now.