DUP deal: Theresa Villiers repeatedly refuses to answer LBC questions about cash for votes in Northern Ireland

'Well that's the answer I'm giving you,' says the former Northern Ireland Secretary

Will Worley
Tuesday 27 June 2017 13:15
Theresa Villiers repeatedly asked live on LBC radio about cash for votes in Northern Ireland

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers endured a torrid interview on live radio during which she repeatedly refused to answer a question about the legitimacy of the Government's deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Prime Minister Theresa May secured a supply and confidence" deal with the Northern Irish party, which will support the government in motions of confidence and appropriation or budget votes, by either voting in favour or abstaining.

In return the party secured £1bn of extra funding, which will be spent on infrastructure and health spending.

Ms Villiers refused to say whether funding had ever previously been granted to the historically troubled region in exchange for votes.

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Northern Ireland’s power sharing agreement – drawn up because of its turbulent recent history – means the Westminster government is supposed to remain neutral in regional affairs.

It was pointed out to Ms Villiers by LBC presenter James O’Brien pointed out that as the DUP had secured the extra funding, they would be able to present it to voters as their achievement – thereby raising the prospect that the Conservative government has breached its impartiality.

Ms Villiers was asked numerous times about the legitimacy of the funding, given it was contingent on votes.

Mr O’Brien said: “Can you remember any occasion in the history of Northern Ireland when one side of Stormont have been given money in exchange for votes in Westminster?”

She replied: “There have been occasions when individual political parties have asked for support for particular projects in Westminster.”

Mr O’Brien said: "That's not the question I'm asking, is it?"

She replied: "Well that's the answer I'm giving you."

The deal, struck in 10 Downing Street 18 days after the General Election, also saw the Conservatives formally ditch plans to abolish the triple-lock protection for state pensions and means-test the winter fuel payment during this Parliament.

Under the deal, intended to last for the full Parliament, the DUP guarantees that its 10 MPs will vote with the Government on the Queen's Speech, the Budget, and legislation relating to Brexit and national security.

Together with the 317 Tory MPs remaining after Mrs May's disastrous decision to call a snap election, this will give the Prime Minister just enough MPs to clear the 326 level required for an absolute majority in the House of Commons, ensuring her victory in key divisions.

Speaking after talks in Number 10 with DUP leader Arlene Foster, Mrs May said the two parties "share many values" and the agreement was "a very good one".

Mrs Foster said she was "delighted" with a package which includes £1 billion of new funding for infrastructure and health spending, along with enhanced flexibility on almost £500 million of previously allocated cash.

But there were immediate demands for other parts of the UK to receive similar largesse, with Plaid Cymru saying Wales should be entitled to £1.7 billion on a population-weighted basis.

Additional reporting by Press Association.

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