Interesting news from the Western Mail:
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Andy Burnham held a meeting earlier this week with Assembly Budget Minister Jane Hutt and their counterparts from Edinburgh and Belfast.
The Cardiff meeting, which was not publicised, discussed general funding issues for the devolved administrations. (ICWales)
There would have been plenty to talk about. The Holyrood and Stormont Finance Ministers, John Swinney and Peter Robinson, both want more powers over taxation, while the
new Welsh Government is committed to a review of the Barnett Formula
that allocates spending between the different nations of the UK.
Welsh Secretary Peter Hain says this not on the cards, but on
the evidence of this week's PMQs at Westminster, the issue is going to
become increasingly salient. A number of Tories attacked Brown over the
differential in nurses' pay between England and Scotland. Labour
backbenchers have also been calling for change.
Robinson had this to say after the meeting:
“[I] had very useful discussions with the Scottish Finance Minister, John Swinney MSP and the Welsh Finance Minister, Jane Hutt AM and we agreed to join forces, as appropriate, to make common cause in the interests of our respective devolved administrations.
“It cannot be stressed strongly enough that the UK regions can register a much stronger case by approaching HM Treasury on a collective basis and, alongside my Scottish and Welsh counterparts, I stressed to Treasury the importance to the devolved administrations of maintaining a significant level of financial flexibility." (DFPNI)
The Ulster Unionists' Danny Kennedy responded with this statement:
"The Finance Minister`s meetings with counterparts in Wales and Scotland, while welcome, are no logical reason for the Treasury to loosen its grip on cash. We may, in fact, be less likely to receive more money if it is part of a larger multi-regional bid." (UTV)
He also had this to say on corporation tax:
"I would suggest that if they are getting nowhere with the Treasury and the Varney Review over corporation tax that they try instead to have enterprise zones established in Northern Ireland with ten-year periods of lower tax for specific types of manufacturing, hi-tec and knowledge economy companies," Mr Kennedy said.
"We must have something in our armoury of economic packages to attract inward investment and to counter the Irish Republic`s 12.5% corporation tax advantage."
It looks to me like the UUP are moving to a very lukewarm position on the case for a corporation tax cut, in order to position themselves as being more unionist than the 'Ulster nationalist' DUP. It will be interesting to see how this goes down with the business community in the North.