Owen Paterson: “A settlement is precisely that – a settlement. It is not the opening round of a negotiation.”

You might have thought that when the Northern Ireland First and deputy First Ministers met yesterday with NI Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, and Treasury Finance Secretary, Mark Hoban, the first item on the agenda would be the still-to-be-agreed NI draft budget.

After all, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness did tell us that the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, had assured them that the NIO and the Treasury would be re-examining the figures.

Strangely, there’s no mention of that in the OFMDFM statement following yesterday’s meeting

Plenty about corporation tax and the proposed UK loan to the Irish government though…

Meanwhile, as the BBC reports, Owen Paterson has this evening re-iterated the UK Government’s position on the block grant

[Owen Paterson] said: “A settlement is precisely that – a settlement. It is not the opening round of a negotiation.”

Mr Paterson said Stormont had got a fair deal, which compared well with the rest of the UK and included an offer to resolve the crisis faced by savers with the Presbyterian Mutual Society (PMS).

In a speech to the Co-operation Ireland dinner in Belfast, he said the government would stick to its wider financial plans.

“The executive is being asked to make reductions in current spending of 1.72% a year over four years.

“While the reduction in one of the capital spending streams is higher, having discussed in detail with the Treasury we are confident that – using the same assumptions and calculations as Gordon Brown in 2007 – we will deliver the £18bn promised after St Andrews. [added link]

“Northern Ireland is now the only part of the United Kingdom that hasn’t set a budget following the spending review settlement.

“That cannot go on. People need clarity and certainty.”

Adds  Comments by Secretary of State Owen Paterson MP : Co-Operation Ireland Dinner (Belfast)