Sinn Fein decides to bin Mr Wilson’s dodgy estimates (and one of its key pro #borderpoll arguments)…

Just in passing… Absentee Westminster MP Conor Murphy on the unreliability of Sammy Wilson’s estimates:

“Mr Wilson insists that the methodology used to produce his figures is identical to those used for Scotland and that they are international standards for the compiling of statistics and have to be adhered to and are subject to a degree of rigour and international scrutiny. He fails to add that when Scotland launched a robust challenge to this methodology it was admitted by British Economists producing the figures that the report ‘was designed to maintain the Union and score (points) over all opponents’.

“Sammy Wilson’s own Department of Finance has repeatedly stated that its figures ‘are not intended to provide an exact figure of individual revenue items’ and are produced: “on the basis of high level assumptions and apportionment factors.”

“British government sources have also admitted that they cannot provide an accurate assessment of the deficit – if there is one – for the north. Therefore it’s time that Mr Wilson desisted from using this disinformation and ‘assumptions and apportionment’ as a comfort blanket to reassure him that the union is safe.

Not sure when the memo to stop using Sammy’s dodgy figures for the party’s own public arguments made the desk of the party’s Oireachtas team, but surely it wasn’t before Pearse Doherty used the old line:

“If you peel back the figures, and this is something that we’ve been doing for quite a period of time, the €10 billion is made up of €6 billion that you wouldn’t actually be spending in an all-Ireland economy,”

And of course we were all having a right old time of it putting on the poor mouth for the cameras, again with Sammy’s figures front and centre

As Murphy notes:

“NI Statistics and Research Agency’s (NISRA), John Bradley and Tom Healey from the Nevin Institute among other prominent economists have all called for improvements in how these calculations are made. While DFP claim that improving the samples would cost too much, Scotland has a full framework for economic data, the North has no independent methodology to provide accurate information.

“Figures produced by DFP are not recognised by anyone outside the Department while Scottish diligence and determination has made tremendous progress and their figures are accepted by the British Office of National Statistics, while Sammy’s are not.

“It’s time Sammy got past ‘assumptions and apportionment’ and demanded proper statistics along with real fiscal powers that would allow us to grow our economy”.

So, no more economic figures in the battle for a border poll Conor? It at least has the virtue of binning another weak card in the argument for unification of the island.

Perhaps foregrounding a divisive debate about a border poll in which you have no weapons that can be relied upon NOT to backfire is not, after all, the best way to promote a unity of the people argument?

, , , ,

  • Morpheus

    CM says Sammy Wilson’s figures are unreliable but based on those figures PD points out something else. Hardly earth shattering.

  • Mick Fealty

    its sequential Morph… Gerry and and Pearse were both dining out on those figures and presenting them as sound… now, they are not…

  • Barnshee

    This was done to death some time ago on Slugger

    Its simple enough

    What is the UK population
    What is the NI population
    What is the total UK tax take

    A Assume that the NI Population is reflected in the tax take– ie pays its share ( -(a generous assumption given the state of the NI economy)
    What figure will that produce?

    B What is spent in N I on NHS,Dole etc including the sewer that is the “public sector”
    What is that figure?

    What is A minus B (+ or- ??) Answers (and vouchers for courses in Tax , Economics and general knowledge) to our local politicians.

  • FionnualaT

    The two positions are not contradictory.

    Pearse’s reflections are on expenditure figures produced by the British Treasury

    Conor’s reflections are on DFP estimates

    What all this shows is how little people actually no about revenue and expendiure in the north

  • Morpheus

    Why guess?

    In 2010/2011 NI raised £12,700m in taxes.
    It cost £23,200m to run the place.
    London gave us the £10,500m shortfall despite the fact that we get 25% more per head spent on us than the English taxpayers do.

    PD thinks that of the £10,500m there could be a saving of £6,000m. He could be right.

    CM thinks the figures are incorrect because Scotland proved that their figures were incorrect when pushed.

    Net result = begging bowl in one hand, cap in the other

  • FuturePhysicist


    The public sector does indeed pay for sewers, I wonder how much derision you would make if sewerage including its infrastructure as a waste of money if it was completely privatised and reliant on market forces.

  • “Absentee Westminster MP ” Now now Mick, is that not prejudicial language?

  • 6crealist

    Shocking to se Fawlty’s interest in sectarian attacks in Northern Ireland fade dramatically after a number of high-profile incidents and convictions recently that don’t really fit his jaded narrative.

    “Apart from breaking the law. what exactly did the Orangemen do wrong?” Classic.

  • The ever vigilant Mr Fitz has beaten me to the mark on this one and in fairness the proprietor of Fealty Towers has responded:

  • tacapall

    What is the total annual cost of the British presence in Ireland minus the total revenue generated in crown taxes etc from the Irish people = ??????.

    No-one only the Crown knows how much it cost for them to keep a presence in Ireland ( North and South). Sinn Fein and the DUP or whoever can imagine all sorts of figures they like but ultimately they are simply guessing what it costs to run a normal society without cloak and dagger operations and crossing the palms of those who have an interest in the status quo. Ireland is strategically, vitally important to the crown, we’re Britains Cuba type of thing and money is no object when it comes to survival.

  • HammerTime


    Net result = begging bowl in one hand, cap in the other.

    What is the alternative?

  • Morpheus

    CM is right about one thing – the finances of NI PLC should be up for scrutiny and I think Sammy Wilson has managed to bluff his way through his Ministry because no one has taken the time to go through them with a fine tooth comb and question him.

    It cost £23,200m to run NI in 2010/2011 which is broken down as follows:
    Public and common services – 611m
    EU transactions – 73m
    International services – 257m
    Debt interest – 1,276m
    Defence – 1,127m
    Public order and safety – 1,626m
    Enterprise and economic development – 302m
    Science and technology – 103m
    Employment policies – 214m
    Agriculture, fisheries and forestry – 517m
    Transport – 655m
    Environment protection – 262m
    Housing and community amenities – 973m
    Health – 3,831m
    Recreation, culture and religion – 554m
    Education – 2,714m
    Social protection – 7,319m
    Accounting Adjustments – 800m

    Our spending on defence has increased by 22% since 2006 to over £1.1b. Why?

    Our income tax receipts have dropped by £166m from 2006 – why? In the same period the UK as a whole saw a 4% increase yet we saw a 6% decrease – why?

    Our receipts from alcohol and tobacco duty increased by 29% and 38% respectively from 2006 – why?

    Air passenger duty increased by 98% in 4 years – why?

    We need to put him though his paces before he hands it over to the next clueless minister.

  • Morpheus
    Excellent post and questions

  • Mick Fealty

    Write your Westminster M… no, wait…

  • Morpheus

    Both hilarious and constructive. Thanks.

  • GavBelfast

    They ARE interesting questions, but, would the answers to them be any / much more relevant or impacting than if were got the same sort of info about Wales, the East Midlands, Merseyside, etc, etc?

    The UK is the UK is the UK. Everywhere gives and takes – the vast majority take, away from the City of London, and the SE of England.

    To coin a phrase: so what? It’s the same in many countries, especially bigger ones.

    Anyway, I suppose it’s good to hear that Murphy is still around. He’s one of the more anonymous of our largely anonymous MPs these days.

  • Neil


    we vote for them on the basis of them not taking their seats. No doubt they will one day perform the standard u-turn on that too. In the meantime SF are as well placed to find out the answers to these questions currently as they would be if they were to take an oath to the Queen a la SDLP and attend Westminster. It makes no difference, the only people who care are the type of people who would never consider voting for them.

  • Morpheus

    Just because SF don’t sit in the chamber doesn’t mean they aren’t using their access to the real corridors of power to get their point across

  • Neil

    Hope we’re all tuned into spotlight. A glut of blogs incoming on DUP political interference in the NIHE.

  • Simple Q. What exactly have the parties that sit at Westminster achieved that the Party that don’t have?

  • Pete Baker

    For the record, here’s the “ridicule and derision” of Sinn Féin in the Northern Ireland Assembly that Conor Murphy, MP, was complaining about – presumably because none of his party’s MLAs present could think of a suitable riposte at the time. And since Conor has nothing else to do but attempt to interfere in the proceedings of a devolved legislative assembly… ANYhoo. From Hansard 1 July Questions to Finance and Personnel Minister

    4. Ms Boyle asked the Minister of Finance and Personnel to outline the international standards against which the revenue estimates produced in his Department’s fiscal balance report are accredited or recognised. (AQO 4431/11-15)

    Mr Wilson: I am sure that the Member would love me to say that, when it comes to the net fiscal balance report, we pluck the figure out of the air, say, “There it is” and stick it down on paper. That, unfortunately, is the naive view held by Sinn Féin when it comes to the net fiscal balance report, because it does not want to believe that if we were out of the United Kingdom, we would be billions of pounds less well off. However, the figures in the net fiscal balance report come from and follow the same methodology as that used for the Government expenditure and revenue Scotland (GERS) report. Those figures are subject to international standards. There is a code of practice that they are subject to, and, as a result, international standards for the compiling of statistics have to be adhered to. These figures are not made up; they are subject to a degree of rigour and international scrutiny. Therefore, wriggle as it will, Sinn Féin will never be able to make the case that, somehow or other, we owe money to the rest of the United Kingdom rather than we get a positive flow of money from the Treasury to Northern Ireland. Therefore, that is the value of being British and part of the United Kingdom.

    Some Members: Hear, hear. [Interruption.]

    Mr Flanagan: Resign, resign. [Laughter.]

    Mr Deputy Speaker: Order, please. I will not encourage shouting across the Chamber.

    Ms Boyle: Go raibh maith agat. I thank the Minister for that very detailed answer. No doubt, he will pre-empt my supplementary question. All of this is a distraction from the simple fact that there is no statement of revenue here in the North. The figures that we have are not comparable to those available in Scotland. Can the Minister outline how and when he plans to provide accurate figures?

    Mr Wilson: How many times do I have to say it, Mr Deputy Speaker? The figures in the net fiscal balance report use the same methodology as is used for the Government expenditure and revenue figures in Scotland. Those are subject to the international code of practice for official statistics. They are not made-up figures. The only point that I will concede to the Member — and it is also true for Scotland — is that for the regions of the United Kingdom, VAT figures, etc, are not compiled on the basis of how much shops a, b, c, d, e, and so on, paid in VAT, with the total VAT bill worked out from that. There is a degree of estimation and apportionment, but the methodology used is accepted internationally as being robust to give a figure that reflects the situation in each region.

    I know that Sinn Féin, in pursuit of its political objective, would love to wish away the billions of pounds that come to Northern Ireland from the Exchequer, but even the fairies would not believe that, and I do not think that its own supporters believe it. The fact that 25% of its own voters would not vote for a united Ireland is an indication that it has not even sold the story to its own voters.

    Mr Beggs: Some people seem to let their politics get in the way of reality. Can the Minister advise us, when the international standards are applied, what the fiscal balance in Northern Ireland has been in recent years?

    Mr Wilson: I should have the figure here, but I do not have it. The net fiscal balance in 2010-11, which is the most recent year for which we have that information, was £10·526 billion, which is an indication of how dependent we are on our association with the United Kingdom and how valuable it is from the point of view of the economy. I think that many of the constituents of the party opposite would be very unhappy, if, as a result of its bankrupt economic, political and constitutional policies, we were to lose that kind of funding.

    Mr Allister: If the Minister were to find that he had sufficient spare time to go back to marking economic papers, what mark would he anticipate giving Sinn Féin for its economic submissions?

    Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. I have shown great tolerance, but I think that that question goes far beyond what the Minister is here to answer. However, I leave it up to him.

    Mr Wilson: I think that I have already marked its paper on a number of occasions. Let us look at the kind of fiscal prowess of the party opposite. It is the party that tells us that if we reduce the fuel duty on petrol and diesel in Northern Ireland to the level pertaining to red diesel, which would be an 80% reduction, we would, somehow or other, sell sufficiently more diesel to actually increase revenue. As I pointed out during the debate on the issue, that would mean that people would have to buy three and a half times more petrol and diesel than at present. First, how will they afford it? Secondly, where are they going to drive to? We will spend all our time driving around Northern Ireland and no time working to earn the money to pay for the petrol in the first place. I think that that indicates the kind of a mark I would give the party. It certainly would not be a pass grade; indeed, I do not know whether CCEA sets a grade that is low enough to reflect the economic knowledge of the party opposite.

  • And the point is?

  • mac tire

    Mick, seriously, you really can’t help the digs, can you?
    You probably got that one from your NIO information pack…or maybe there was a phone number you had to call…

  • Neil

    Soooo. Trolling, but did anyone enjoy Spotlight as much as I did this evening? Perhaps I should tenuously link the programme to ‘dodgy estimates’ and attempt to avoid the slugger referee.

  • Mick Fealty

    mac tire,

    It wasn’t me who threw the first punch… 🙂

  • JH

    Is there an equivalent of the National Incomes & Expenditures Report for NI? And if not, why do we need a finance minister at all?

  • Barnshee

    “Why guess?

    In 2010/2011 NI raised £12,700m in taxes.
    It cost £23,200m to run the place.”

    The problem is the £12700 figure -whilst it is (relatively) easy to see where money is spent -the organisation of the collection of taxes is such that it is impossible to identify the N II element

    Some Examples indicate the difficulties
    – beer brewed and duty paid in -GB consumed in NI whiskey distilled and duty paid in Scotland consumed in NI how much –

    1 Excise Duty
    2 Vat

    Is attributable to N I? Where would you begin to assemble the information?

  • News_Meister

    Now, now, you threw the first punch when you posted this non-event – we all know you’re playing the Sinn Fein man and not an honest ball game.

    The money phrase from Sammy is; ‘There is a degree of estimation and apportionment’… the true extent of that is what we all need to know. And let’s not pretend, pro-unionism isn’t minded to keep producing figures ‘designed to maintain the Union and score (points) over all opponents’.

    It’s a gross distortion to contend; ‘Gerry and Pearse were both dining out on those figures’ when SF has made abundantly clear they do not regard those figures as accurate. All SF are doing is, using the only available data provided by their UK/Stormont opponents to begin a debate their opponent is in a position to frustrate and is seemingly so doing.

    I’m sure the shrinking Unionist community would like the growing Nationalist community to cease challenging the viability and integrity of their sectarian-infested little orange statelet but that’s just their pipe-dream. No-matter what pro-unionism says or does, the challenges will increase and never ever end until partition ends…

  • Morpheus


    I brought this up about 6 weeks ago using Asda as an example. If Asda has a company number and VAT number registered in England and they send cheques payable to HMRC in London for their Corporation Tax and VAT at what stage is taxes generated on sales of goods/services sold in NI attributed to NI’s figure?

    Then there’s Tesco, BT, Carphone Warehouse etc.

    If all taxes on good/services sold in NI were collected in NI would we still be the financial blackhole that we are lead to believe we are are? Could we hold our heads up instead of our begging bowls out?

  • Barnshee

    “If all taxes on good/services sold in NI were collected in NI would we still be the financial black hole that we are lead to believe we are are? Could we hold our heads up instead of our begging bowls out?”

    (A long time ago 70`s )Trying to answer that question formed my Phd project it lost its way because comprehensive information was simply not obtainable mostly because

    1 The taxation systems were not structured to support analysis which would isolate NI From memory (It WAS along time ago) HMC&E (as they were)were very co-operative we established that the net VAT position was zero to slight – Vat payments being offset by refunds to Agriculture and construction industries

    2 I could not make a dent in the “supplied from GB” tin. The big companies approached would /could not attribute the tax payments appropriate to NI. The reasons given were the lack of system capacity to provide the information or the old “commercial in confidence gambit”. A further problem was the trying to establish which traders in GB trade with or in NI and how material was that trading

    3 The Inland Revenue were the most unhelpful of the bunch batting everything away as subject to ” taxpayer confidentiality”. I got an off the record admission that their systems would not support information analysis of this nature.

    I go back to my previous comment. If N,I as it buys sells and consumes were paying its expected share of the total tax take It is unlikely to pay more in tax than anyone else and a case might be made for suggesting it may pay less.? Its simple arithmetic.

    Surely some of the SPADS can take this on a project ?

    Or if anyone knows a client (mug) who would fund a research project -surely someone will take it on?

    PS Hint to SF don`t witter about the accuracy of calculations unless you can produce a better set which can be substantiated.

  • Morpheus


    This is exactly the problem I was talking about when posters were saying that the onus is on SF to produce a feasibility report into a united Ireland – the figures are so meshed and tangled that only the Governments could get to the bottom of it.

    What everyone puts into the UK pot and what everyone takes out of the pot again should be accessible, transparent and open to scrutiny but evidently they are not because complexity after complexity has thrown into the mix to muddy the waters.

  • News_Meister

    I bet you wish the current computer software range had been available during the 70’s – it’s amazing what one can do now with macros to interrogate data systems 🙂

    I’m inclined to agree with Morpheus’s multi-national companies point – how much does the like of BT and Tesco etc actually generate in N.I but bill to its head office in Britain. Until we know those figures we are indeed all just speculating.

  • News_Meister

    Hey Morpheus, I’m sure you will want to note the video I posted back on a different SF related threat; see

  • Barnshee

    “this is exactly the problem I was talking about when posters were saying that the onus is on SF to produce a feasibility report into a united Ireland – the figures are so meshed and tangled that only the Governments could get to the bottom of it”

    Sadly information is held internally by companies the government is stuck with tax returns/accounts which tell little It would take government intervention to force companies to report on a regional basis -think of the outcry

    “I bet you wish the current computer software range had been available during the 70′s – it’s amazing what one can do now with macros to interrogate data systems”

    Computer software was not the problem the main problems were

    Non existence of a data set
    Access to existing data sets

    The same problems exist today

  • tacapall

    Someone starting to talk sense at last –

  • GavBelfast

    I can’t see if the same applies in Scotland and Wales.

    It should apply to all three devolved institutions, or none of them.

  • Barnshee

    Someone starting to talk sense at last –


    1 How much is generated by “crown estates” in N I ?
    2 You want it? OK that`s another £X off the block grant

    What we need is a fully comprehensive “income and expenditure” statement for NI .
    Get the existing information and extend and expand it. Confirm its accuracy or highlight its errors.

    I would have thought that the parties (SF maybe particularly) would be seriously interested in establishing the exact state of NI receipts/payments.
    It is likely that only the policos will have the resources and clout to get the facts or as close to them as possible

  • Morpheus

    I have posted the income and expenditure for NI several times Barnshee but I would not call it comprehensive:

    It raises more questions than it answers.

    I agree with most of your post though. This document needs to be verified for it’s accuracy then our Finance Minister questioned up the wazoo about it because he has bluffed his way through his term in office. I have listed a few questions above for starters.

  • Reader

    barnshee: hardly
    1 How much is generated by “crown estates” in N I ?
    2 You want it? OK that`s another £X off the block grant

    Maybe tacapall is assuming that the Assembly will be able to squeeze more out of the tenants and angencies than the Crown Estates manage to do. Put SF in charge of collection and send the boys round…

  • Neil

    Put SF in charge of collection and send the boys round…

    Or threaten that Nelson will be round to fix their house.

  • Barnshee

    “Put SF in charge of collection and send the boys round…

    Or threaten that Nelson will be round to fix their house.”

    Since the “crown estates” in NI are bird sanctuaries (The Copelands and Castle Espie my better informed half tells me)
    there is a some what surreal picture of Nelson trying to fix bird houses and “the boys” trying to collect from the”tenants “

  • tacapall

    Barnshee obviously you dont know what constitutes crown property. If massive reserves of oil were found in Carlingford lough would the seabed rights belong to the Irish people or that entity called the crown who Unionists and loyalists amusingly believe is something to do with Mrs Windsor.