DUP ‘always knew’ Parliamentary approval needed for £1bn package

Prime Minister Theresa May stands with First Secretary of State Damian Green (right), DUP leader Arlene Foster (second left), DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds (left), as DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (third right) shakes hands with Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, and Chief Whip, Gavin Williamson, inside 10 Downing Street, London, after the DUP agreed a deal to support the minority Conservative government in June
Prime Minister Theresa May stands with First Secretary of State Damian Green (right), DUP leader Arlene Foster (second left), DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds (left), as DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (third right) shakes hands with Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, and Chief Whip, Gavin Williamson, inside 10 Downing Street, London, after the DUP agreed a deal to support the minority Conservative government in June

The DUP has played down the announcement that its £1bn deal with the Tories will need to be approved by Parliament and pledged that the money “will be delivered” to the people of Northern Ireland.

The funding package was negotiated by the DUP in June as part of its confidence and supply deal to prop up the minority Conservative government, but so far no money has been released.

And the UK government has now acknowledged that the provision of the additional funding must first be put to a vote in the Commons.

Responding to a legal letter from campaigner Gina Miller and the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), a Treasury solicitor said the investment package for Northern Ireland “will have appropriate Parliamentary authorisation”.

Ms Miller said prime minister Theresa May should have made it clear at the time of the deal that it would need to be voted on by MPs.

But the DUP’s chief whip Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said this was “not a new development”, adding that the party “always knew” the money would be subject to Parliamentary approval.

Ms Miller, whose legal action forced the government to give MPs and peers a vote on triggering Article 50 which formally began the EU withdrawal process, said: “It beggars belief that, neither at the time the government sealed its dubious deal with the DUP in exchange for their votes in the Commons, nor at any point since, has the government made it clear that the £1 billion of taxpayers’ money for Northern Ireland could only be handed over following Parliamentary approval.

“We all need to know when the government intended to come clean to Parliament, its parliamentary party, and the public.”

No timetable has been set for a vote on the issue, the Treasury confirmed.

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey told the News Letter that it was “no secret” that the deal would have to secure Parliamentary approval, adding: “All government spending goes through appropriations processes.”

Ms Miller questioned whether some Tories who are unhappy with the DUP deal, such as the Scottish Conservatives, might take “disruptive” action.

However, Sir Jeffrey said he was “confident” the provision of the extra £1bn would pass through the House of Commons.

In a statement, the DUP’s press office said the issue of parliamentary approval was “not new or surprising”.

A spokesperson added: “The package secured by DUP MPs for everyone in Northern Ireland will be delivered.”

Journalist and political analyst Stephen Bush echoed the party’s sentiments and said he was “slightly perplexed” by the issue, tweeting: “Of course, Parliament votes on expenditure.

“That’s how the British constitution works.”

In an article published on the New Statesman website yesterday, Mr Bush stated: “You don’t need to instruct a lawyer to find out if Parliament has to vote on expenditure, you just need to borrow a history book from any library.”