Lidington Challenges Rates Claims

Shadow Secretary of State Asks Civil Servants to Clarify Position on Rates Cap

[UKPRwire, Fri Dec 22 2006] Responding to claims by a spokesman for the Department of Finance and Personnel in yesterday’s Belfast News Letter that rates concessions are dependent on the restoration of devolution, David Lidington MP, shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said:

‘Civil servants are simply wrong to state that the cap on rates and additional relief for pensioners are entirely dependent on the restoration of devolution.

‘Government ministers gave unequivocal and personal assurances to me and other Opposition spokesmen that as a result of our amendment to the rates order approved by the House of Lords that these would go ahead irrespective of whether devolution takes place.

‘The words used by Lord Rooker in Parliament on 7 November when he accepted the Conservative amendment to introduce a cap and extra relief for pensioners “entirely” and “word for word” can only be interpreted in one way.

‘Clearly both the Government and Opposition would prefer it if the Assembly is up and running after 26 March so that it can decide how to modify the new rates system.

‘But unless these civil servants are now saying that their ministers deliberately misled Parliament they are simply misinformed about what was agreed between the Government and Opposition.

‘The Conservative Party will continue to hold Northern Ireland ministers to account for the personal and public assurances they gave and which, if necessary, we can substantiate.’

Notes to Editors

In accepting the Conservative amendment moved by Lord Glentoran on 7 November 2006, Lord Rooker said:
‘I am therefore prepared to recommend to my noble friends that we accept entirely the noble Lord’s amendment and attach it to the government Motion. Therefore, the Motion would contain not only my words—one normally says, “Believe the Minister because it is in Hansard”. If we put the Motion as amended to the House, it will become part of the parliamentary process and that will be the Motion which the House passes. It calls quite specifically for a cap. It states that we have to work with the political parties in Northern Ireland and find more money for pensioners at the margin. On that basis, I commend my Motion, with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, attached to it word for word, to the House’ (Lords Hansard, 7 November 2006, Col 744).

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