Owen Paterson: “it is appropriate that the First Minister and Deputy First Minister first discuss that with me”

Just in case there was any doubt, during Northern Ireland Questions in the House of Commons today, the NI Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, took the opportunity to set out the new ground rules for the NI First and deputy First Ministers. 

Interestingly, it was in response to what appears to have been an attempt by former NI Secretary of State, Shaun Woodward, to provide a false pretext for a meeting between OFMDFM and the Prime Minister – where budgetary concerns could then be raised.

Here are the specific questions and answers [permanent link]

Mr Shaun Woodward (St Helens South and Whiston) (Lab): The Secretary of State and his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave an unambiguous undertaking before the Hillsborough Castle agreement that the previous Government’s financial arrangements for the devolution of policing and justice would be upheld. In relation to the security situation, this unequivocally included a commitment that the Northern Ireland Executive would have access to the reserve. Can the Secretary of State confirm that he continues to stand by that commitment, without any new conditions being imposed by the Treasury?

Mr Paterson: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his question. I have said this already, but I am happy to look him in the eye and repeat it. Should the security situation deteriorate, then—according to the agreement that the previous Government, in which he was Secretary of State, made with the then Executive—the Justice Minister and the Chief Constable have the right to approach the Government with a clear strategy on security grounds in order to call on the national reserve.

Mr Woodward: I am grateful for that reply. We all note the decision to raise the threat level here in Great Britain, and the Secretary of State can be assured that the Opposition fully support the decision to address the problems created by that threat. Given the level of recent attacks in Northern Ireland, including the recent use of a hand grenade, and given the need for the response to be measured, proportionate and joined up, would a request by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister to meet the Prime Minister as soon as possible be fully supported by the Secretary of State?

Mr Paterson: The Prime Minister made regular visits to Northern Ireland when he was Leader of the Opposition. He met the First Minister and Deputy First Minister then, to discuss a broad range of issues. He intends to go back to Northern Ireland, and at that time he will have the opportunity to discuss matters with them. If the right hon. Gentleman is referring specifically to the budget settlement, it is appropriate that the First Minister and Deputy First Minister first discuss that with me, having done their utmost to come to an agreement and consensus in the Executive on a budget for the substantial funds that have been allocated to them in this spending round. [added emphasis throughout]

That should clear up any confusion the NI Executive might have had.

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  • pippakin

    I think Sean Woodward is yesterdays creature, that he may be working harder now than he did when in office is irrelevant.

    If the OFDFM think he will be of more use now, more fool them.

  • John Greene

    Owen Paterson bitch slaps Robinson and McGuiness!
    The Desperate Duo thought they could cut Paterson out of the equation and he really put them in their box.

    As for Woodward you’re just left wondering why Woodward has suddenly become so active?

  • pippakin

    If anyone was ‘bitch slapped’ it was Woodward! and I don’t believe either McGuinness or Robinson are at all naive. If they employed Woodward to do their bidding it was more to embarrass him and the tory than in the expectation of any gain.

    Two birds with one stone, something they might both agree upon.

  • Pete Baker


    You’re so far off it’s unreal.

    It’s more likely that Woodward was trying, clumsily, to undermine Paterson’s stronger position in the constitutional structure – in relation to the position Woodward adopted – by getting him to commit to supporting a call from OFMDFM for a meeting with the Prime Minister.

    Paterson isn’t embarrassed by spelling out the new reality.

    The NI First and deputy First Ministers however…

  • pippakin

    Pete Baker

    Trying to undermine Paterson? by asking him a question about NI, during NI questions. Yeah, I can see how that would work.

    How long has Woodward been an MP,

    I mean I don’t think much of him, but I wouldn’t call that clumsy I would call that stupid and Woodward is not stupid. MMcG and PR are not stupid either.

  • cynic47

    Politicians tend to work harder when in opposition.

  • Pete Baker


    Look again at the evidence.

    “If [OFMDFM] employed Woodward to do their bidding it was more to embarrass him and the tory”

    If they did they were being naive.

    Either way, the NI First and deputy First Ministers have been put in their place.

    By “the tory”.

  • emanonon

    Opposition have more time on their hands and having been in the position previously know how the system works.

    Paterson has made it plain he is SoS for NI and he is the only route to Cabinet, so whether the FM/dFM like it or not he is their contact. No more photo opportunities outside #10.

  • pippakin

    Pete Baker

    Have they? they must have known what would happen if Woodward trod on tory corns. Woodward may be an arrogant fool, but I don’t believe MMcG or PR, are. Or at least I never used to think so.

  • Cynic

    Errr this all seems simple to me. After years of playing the Absentee Landlord here (except when the NIO sleepwalked into a crisis and the cameras were about) the boul Shaun has suddenly decided to take an interest. As an opposition member its much harder to get anyone interested in things you say (as they mean so little) so he’s been trying to be lippy and controversial.

    So this was a very clumsy attempt to attack Paterson who neatly turned the tables reminding him that when Woodward was SOS NI Politicians cut him out and went straight to the horses ass in London.

    Now they have to deal with Patterson first. That’s not just right constitutionally, it makes them look to their own solution first

  • Cynic

    ‘yesterdays creature’

    Absolutely. He had a =great early career helping Esther Rantzen find dogs that could be made to say ‘sausages’ ………….and then it all went wrong

  • Pete Baker


    “Woodward may be an arrogant fool, but I don’t believe MMcG or PR, are. Or at least I never used to think so.”

    Think again?

    Either way, the NI First and deputy First Ministers have been put in their place.

    By “the tory”.

  • Pete Baker


    “Now they have to deal with Patterson first. That’s not just right constitutionally, it makes them look to their own solution first.”


  • fin

    Except that, soon after becoming PM Davey spoke with the FM and dFM on the phone

    “A Downing Street spokesman said the Prime Minister had spoken to Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness on Wednesday night.

    “David Cameron praised the work of his predecessors, as well as the first minister and deputy first minister in laying the foundations for peace in Northern Ireland.

    “In both calls, he underlined his commitment to economic and political stability in Northern Ireland and made clear his strong support for devolution of policing and justice.

    “The prime minister looks forward to working closely with both the first and deputy first minister in the weeks and months ahead”. ”

    And he’s already been here as PM

    “Northern Ireland must play its part in tackling the UK’s deficit, Prime Minister David Cameron has said.

    Mr Cameron said Northern Ireland would not be singled out for cuts, but all parts of the UK had a role to play in the economic recovery.

    On his first visit to Northern Ireland since taking office, Mr Cameron met First and Deputy First Minister Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness. ”

    And they have already been there….

    “NI leaders meet PM in London for talks on budget cuts
    Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson held talks with the prime minister

    The NI Executive needs more detail from the government before considering what budget cuts must be made, First Minister Peter Robinson has said.

    He was speaking after meeting Prime Minister David Cameron in London along with Welsh and Scottish leaders.

    Martin McGuinness said he told the PM vital services must be protected.”

    I’m guessing the boy Owen is in fear of been sidelined due to his dalliance with the UUP and for nationalists his efforts in trying to achieve unionist unity, However, as his only public statements seem to repeat “Secretary of State Owen Paterson said it was not sustainable for more than 70% of Northern Ireland’s gross domestic product to go into public spending.” he actually just be looking for relevance

    Finally, its hardly putting the FM and dFM in their place as this is just the opening remark in the spat (if it is a spat)

    Finall, finally, Davey is probably more than happy with the comments as there are only hard times ahead for NI and the boy Owen has stepped up to the plate to say its all his responsibility, D’oh, good job he only has to rule NI and not actually stand for election there

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    “is just the opening remark in the spat (if it is a spat)”

    The key issue here is the relationship between Stormo and Westminster and SF as an abstentionist party speak directly to London and whether it so SOS or the PM doens’t really matter as long as the business gets done.

  • Pace parent

    It seems fittingly ironic that Owen Paterson has put manners on Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness. The irrelevance of Stormont, the Executive, the Assembly and the minority parties that comprise this wasteful cabal is coming into sharp focus now that peace and conflict resolution are the order of the day.

  • Anon

    How ironic that the various Tory cheerleaders who talked about binging Northern Ireland “into the mainstream” are to be found now egging on the notion that Call Me Dave has decided to ignore us and relegate us to having “manners put on” us by a half-wit like Owen Paterson.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    If Owen Paterson is a half wit what does that make the local politicians.

    I only wish we had a few of his calibre and energy in our local Executive, then we might actually get something done instead of the endless bleating, blame shifting and procrastination that we have to suffer daily.

    The PM appointed the SoS and has properly decided that he is in charge here, not like his labour predecessors who were always relegated to walking 6 paces behind Blair or Brown.

  • Anon

    So much for the “respect agenda”. The Tories couldn’t give a tinkers cuss about Northern Ireland, sending a partisan UUP-cheerleading quasi-governor here shows that.

  • fin

    care to list some ofhis achievements, personally I think going in the opposite direction of Davey and Gove on education is hardly an achievement, the only input on NI economics seems to be constantly repeated, although he did show lots of energy as shadow SoS running around organising unionist unity meeting, unfortunately that now leaves him at odds with 50% of the population in NI as does his choice in wristbands. However happy to be enlightened on his greatness although I feel his latest mummblings are more an attempt to regain lost ground, anyway wouldn’t get too excited, I’m sure the FM, dFM and others have Daveys number on their mobiles

  • Neil

    I’m sure the FM, dFM and others have Daveys number on their mobiles

    Exactly. All Paterson’s achieved is to tell Marty and Peter how to easily make him look a tit, that is, bypass him at every opportunity. The idea that either of them wouldn’t get a meeting with Cameron without Owen’s say so is off the wall.

  • joeCanuck

    Just another sign that “normality” is starting to be established in N.I. politics.

  • madraj55

    Couldn’t have put it better myself, Pace Parent. I expect a n onslught of former TalkbackMB boarders to try to get on here now, by the way. now that the Beeb in Belfast has diowned us and closed the board today. I’ve been here for some time already though.