The DUP has defended the process behind the payment of the £1 billion it secured from the Tories after anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller threatened to go to court about the News Letter’s revelation that some of the money is being spent without Parliamentary authorisation.
Rather than authorising expenditure of the money prior to it being spent, the government is planning to ask Parliament to approve the expenditure after some of it has already left the government account – effectively a retrospective process.
The Treasury said that the “funding committed in the confidence and supply agreement is subject to the full authorisation of the UK Parliament through supply estimates which will take place soon”. That process is expected to involve a vote in the Commons next month.
Yesterday businesswoman and leading anti-Brexit campaigner Ms Miller – who began legal proceedings over the DUP deal but discontinued them after the government’s lawyers wrote to state that the spending would be subject to Parliamentary authorisation – threatened to go to court over the issue.
Given that political horse-trading is as old as politics itself, there does not appear to be any obvious legal route whereby Ms Miller could block the DUP-Tory deal in principle, but she could ask the High Court to ensure that Parliament is given a vote on the issue, a similar tactic to that which she deployed in opposing Brexit.
Last night the DUP was dismissive of the threat and insisted that the procedure behind authorising the spending of the money was appropriate.
Responding to Ms Miller’s comments, a DUP spokesman said: “Anyone with an understanding of Parliamentary convention and practice will be satisfied that all proper procedures are being, and will be, followed.
“The fact is that Northern Ireland will benefit enormously from the extra expenditure as a result of the DUP agreement. Not a single extra penny of this money would be coming had it not been for the DUP deal.”
Ms Miller said that she feared that the government was attempting to “slip this under the radar” in Parliament.
She told BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show: “It’s not going to go under the radar ... I have in my hand a letter from the government on the 29th of August last year saying that it [spending the £1 billion] needs to have authorisation by Parliament.
“At the moment, we’re talking about the £20-30m but that’s only a small part of the overall payment, which is deemed as an exceptional payment that does need to have authorisation.
“So you’ve got two bits that need to have authorisation – the retrospective payment, but also the much larger payment. Now, if the government do not put that before Parliament soon then we will go because we’ve already issued what’s known as a pre-action letter, I will seek clarification from the court and that will definitely bring it straight into the public attention.”