Government at odds with each other over Rates Cap, says Lord Trimble

UUP Peer Lord Trimble said there was clear contradiction between Lord Rooker and Minister David Hanson over a cap on rates in Northern Ireland following last night’s debate in Parliament.

In a statement Lord Trimble said,

“Last night the Rates order could have been defeated. The political parties in Northern Ireland had united to call on the Lords to reject the Order. The Conservatives, however, decided not to oppose the Order because the government accepted their amendment, which called on the government:

‘In the event of a system as envisaged under this order being introduced, to set a valuation cap at £500,000 and to take action to help lower income pensioner households.’

Lord Rooker for the government said at the end of the debate:

‘Money—it is a modest amount—can be found to meet the pensioners’ situation. 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. … 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.’

Neither in the Conservative amendment or in Lord Rooker’s speech is the cap made conditional on devolution, yet after the debate Minister David Hanson is reported as saying the cap was conditional on devolution.

‘…the key to it is they [the local devolved parties] have to be back in power in order to face the consequences of that and to see it through. That is why we won’t do it until such time as they’ve signed up.’

There is a clear contradiction between the two. Who is telling the truth who is speaking for the government? Have the Conservatives been sold a pup?

I am convinced that had Lord Rooker used Minister Hanson’s words the conservatives would have voted against the Order and Northern Ireland would have been spared this penal tax.”

(November 9th, 2006)

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