DUP-Tory deal: 'Not a penny' without NI devolution

The deal was signed in Downing St by DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Tory Chief Whip Gavin Williamson Image copyright Reuters
Image caption DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Tory Chief Whip Gavin Williamson signed the deal in front of their party leaders in June

"Not a penny" of the £1bn negotiated as part of the DUP-Tory deal will be released unless Stormont is restored, a Civil Service source has told the BBC.

The £1bn in extra public spending for Northern Ireland was agreed in June, in exchange for the DUP's support for the minority Conservative government.

A Stormont Civil Service source claimed the Treasury made clear the money would not be released without devolution.

But the DUP said the cash does not depend on local government at Stormont.

After the general election in June, the DUP signed a confidence and supply deal with the Tories which was accompanied by an extra £1bn in public spending for Northern Ireland.

It included £250m of additional funding for the health service and £50m for education.

'Tory power struggle'

The financial package also allowed for greater flexibility over a further £500m which had been promised, but not yet spent, as part of previous political agreements.

When the Conservative-DUP deal was signed, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said the extra cash was not dependent on the restoration of a power-sharing executive government in Northern Ireland.

Image caption Nigel Dodds (left) was part of the DUP delegation which struck the deal at Downing Street with Theresa May

Recently, some senior DUP figures have been critical of Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire for linking the financial package to a Stormont deal.

Last month, East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson accused Mr Brokenshire of "abdicating his responsibilities" by not releasing the money.

Stormont civil service sources believe the Treasury was strongly opposed to the DUP-Conservative deal from the outset, and may now be "flexing its muscles".

The sources suggest the reluctance to release the cash may be part of an ongoing power struggle within the Conservative party, involving the Chancellor Philip Hammond.

'Push back'

Downing Street would not comment on the claim.

However, other senior Conservatives involved in negotiating the DUP-Tory agreement have previously told the BBC that if there is no Stormont deal, direct rule ministers will eventually spend the money negotiated by the DUP.

A source well-informed about the negotiations between the two parties insisted the Conservatives have recognised the need for additional resources for Northern Ireland.

That source acknowledged there may be "pushback" amongst some Treasury officials, but argued that the "realpolitik" of the confidence-and-supply arrangement means that if the Stormont talks fail, then the promised extra resources will still be delivered.

It is understood DUP politicians have been liaising with Conservative ministers on a regular basis, with further high-level meetings planned for next week.

A DUP spokesman told the BBC: "We were delighted to negotiate a £1.5bn boost for everyone in Northern Ireland.

"The package was agreed to address a need in Northern Ireland.

"The delivery of the package does not depend on the nature of local government."

Meanwhile, The DUP is to back the Conservatives in next Tuesday's vote on changing the make-up of committees that scrutinise government legislation.

The government wants to ensure there is a Tory majority on the committees - even though the party does not have a majority on its own in parliament.

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn has accused ministers of an "unprecedented attempt to rig Parliament".

But a senior DUP source described their support for it as "uncontroversial," because, in the source's words, "the alternative would be spontaneous trench warfare on the most mundane of issues, and to whose benefit? Jeremy Corbyn's benefit. And we're not in the business of doing that."

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