Belfast Telegraph

PM kept us in dark on referendum, claims Tory Paterson

By David Hughes

David Cameron kept MPs in the dark about his plans for further devolution of powers from Westminster, a former Northern Ireland Secretary has claimed.

Owen Paterson also said the Cabinet had been left out of discussions before the Prime Minister let Alex Salmond set the independence question.

Speaking as senior Tories prepared to gather at the Prime Minister's country retreat today to discuss plans for reform at Westminster, Mr Paterson said: "I have talked to two Cabinet ministers, one of them still serving, as to whether the detail of this referendum was discussed in Cabinet and I don't remember it being so."

In another headache for Mr Cameron, Mr Paterson also urged the Prime Minister to adopt "robust, genuinely Conservative policies" or risk the "criminal failure" of losing the election and letting Ed Miliband walk through the door of No 10.

Mr Paterson, who was sacked in the last reshuffle, also criticised the Prime Minister's lack of consultation with his MPs, saying: "I think it would be good if there was more open discussion in Cabinet.

"I think it would have been good if there was more consultation with MPs. I think it would have been good if there was more forewarning of what was coming. We were completely in the dark."

He also warned of a backlash if the much-criticised Barnett formula, which gives £1,600 per head more in public spending to Scotland, was allowed to continue as set out in the vow signed by Mr Cameron and his Labour and Liberal Democrat counterparts.

"The English will not tolerate another lopsided settlement designed to appease nationalist sentiment paid for by English taxpayers," Mr Paterson said.

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