The UK Government are providing the restored Executive with a £2 billion financial package that delivers for the people of Northern Ireland and supports delivery of the “New Decade, New Approach” agreement. This financial commitment represents the biggest injection of new money in a Northern Ireland talks deal in well over a decade. The £2 billion of extra investment gives the Executive the means to transform the lives of people in Northern Ireland for a generation.
In January 2020, when making a statement about the “New Decade, New Approach” deal, the Secretary of State told the House that the financial package was a good start. I love a good start, but I also like good progress. Will he update the House on what progress has been made in building on the good start to ensure investment in better mental health services and dealing with the legacy of the past?
Indeed, the hon. Gentleman is right. There has been a very good start, and there have been multiple meetings here in Whitehall with joint Ministers. We have had a Joint Ministerial Committee in Cardiff, and yesterday both the First and Deputy First Ministers attended, for the first time ever, a recruitment drive by the Police Service of Northern Ireland. We have seen a very positive start, and I hope that that continues.
Thank you very much. I thank my right hon. Friend for his previous answer. Will he confirm for the House and for the communities of Northern Ireland that this is the most generous package of its kind that has ever been allocated to Northern Ireland through a process like this?
Indeed, my hon. Friend is right. Voters in Northern Ireland realise that this is a good package. There is a Budget coming up in March, and I am sure that if the Executive prioritise their programme of government there will be a positive future for the whole of Northern Ireland.
Will the Secretary of State confirm that all the welcome financial assistance being made available to the new Northern Ireland Executive will be subject to the Barnett formula? Will he also say what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Scotland on this matter?
I think that the hon. Lady knows that this package is a unique package for Northern Ireland, and is not subject to the Barnett consequentials. She also knows that there is a very, very good Secretary of State for Scotland, who enjoys working positively with her and her colleagues.
There is some discussion about exactly what £2 billion extra means among the parties in Northern Ireland, and it is important that the Government maintain trust with the people of Northern Ireland to honour financial and economic commitments. In the wake of the renewable heat incentive scandal it is important that the Government ensure transparency and value for taxpayers’ money. Can the Secretary of State tell us what investment is required to fund the Bengoa review, and what assessment has been made of savings from delivering an integrated education service?
The answers are to be found with the Executive. It is up to the devolved Government to look at how best to spend the package. It is up to the parties and the Executive to work through how they deliver on their side of the agreement, which is to transform both the health service and education. It is not for me to come up with those answers, but I look forward to hearing theirs.