Who’s lying on the rates cap – the Lord or the Minister..?

…and were the Tories just plain stupid, or did they secretly betray Northern Ireland? Lord Trimble seems more than a tad unhappy with the Conservatives because the “Rates Order could have been defeated” last night. But the Tories, somewhat gullibly, backed the Government when Lord Rooker took on board Lord Glentoran’s amendment to “set a valuation cap at £500,000 and to take action to help lower income pensioner households”. There was no mention of this being conditional on the return of devolution – until much later, when NIO minister David Hanson said that “the key to it is they [the local 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.” Lord Smith, who for once didn’t bottle it, said in the House that he recognised “a pincer movement when I see one in this new, unholy alliance between the two Front Benches”, but Trimble smelt the rat. And where were the DUP’s new lords? Ah, but the DUP has already accepted Minister Hanson’s interpretation; according to the party’s own consultation paper, the St Andrews Agreement means a cap on rates.

  • Alan

    Neither of them are lying.

    The motion that was passed was

    “That the draft order laid before the House on 9 October be approved, but this House calls upon Her Majesty’s Government to work closely with the political parties in Northern Ireland; and, 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”.”

    Surely you shouldn’t leave out the key section of the motion to make a story ? It is up to the government to decide what “work closely with the political parties in Northern Ireland”actually means. Hanson has spelt it out.

    To be honest this motion is evidence of the mounting frustration ( moving to anger in some quarters at Westminster ) at the lack of progress towards a return of the Assembly. The Tories knew full well what they were at. Smith got it right. The question is why are the Lib Dems not doing all they can to push the key offenders back into the Assembly.

  • Confused

    Conservatives betrayed NI?? How’s that?
    Anne Monaghan Chair of Fair Rates says on UTV:
    “The situation changed when Lord Rooker accepted the Conservative amendment.

    “That amendment places an obligation on Government ministers, if the Assembly is not able to address this, to implement the rates cap.

    “The Government must honour the amendment. David Hanson must publicly backtrack from the claim that the rates cap can only happen in the event of devolution returning.”

  • Angryashell

    Gonzo you really need to revise this.
    DUP leaflet was published weeks ago and was the situation after St Andrews – what the Conservatives did on Tuesday was put the extra relief and cap in place for next April and make it NOT conditional on devolution.

  • Does the Order make any reference to the return of devolution? – obviously not. Does the amendment or Rooker’s speech make any reference to the concessions being dependent on the return of devolution? No.
    So the concessions are not dependent on devolution.
    The fact that the Minister (Hanson) and Mr Hain attempt to ‘spin’ it that way does not change the facts.
    Hanson’s press release from DFP and his radio performances on GMU are all wrong.

    Either Rooker mislead Parliament or Hanson is a liar

    I shall enjoy watching them back down

  • Alan

    Where are the constitutional lawyers?

    In my mind, “this House calls upon” is a petition, rather than an obligation. It may have some moral suasion behind it, but is not compelling.

  • Crataegus

    Rates are about raising finance to pay for services and the debate should be open and honest as to how that should be done. Quite simple really. It should not be some artificial bargaining counter. I personally take a very dim view of this sort of nonsense, it wastes time and distracts attention from things that need attention, no wonder the place is in the state it is.

    I have never had much time for Rooker and Labour are collectively deeply disappointing, so nothing would surprise me, but this really is no way to run a country. We need clarity not muddle.

  • Julian Robertson

    “That the draft order laid before the House on 9 October be approved, but this House calls upon Her Majesty’s Government to work closely with the political parties in Northern Ireland; and, 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”

    Rooker:
    “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”

    The concession was agreed at St A to introduce a cap biut dependnet on devolution. The agreement in the Lords built on what the negotiating parties at St A wanted but did not make devolution a pre-requisite.

    If the Conservatives had indicated they were going to vote against this the concessions would have been withdrawn and the vote lost.

  • Gonzo

    The thing is, the rates cap may be the biggest red herring of them all. As the Govt has pointed out (if it isn’t lying, and that’s a big ‘if’), a cap will only help a few, and these people are likely to be loaded. The rates lost to the cap will be passed on to the vast bulk of the population, most of whom will be on a lower income than those benefiting from the cap – an estimated £30 more for the likes of people like meself.

    If the concern genuinely is the little old lady who’s been living in her big house for 40 years but is now on her pension, then let’s create exemptions.

    Don’t cap it, scrap it!