Belfast Telegraph

Tory MP warns against DUP coalition

A Conservative former minister has warned his party against entering a coalition with the Democratic Unionists, suggesting the Northern Irish party would hold them to ransom over Commons votes.

Crispin Blunt claimed the DUP had already cost taxpayers £1 billion after helping former prime minister Gordon Brown narrowly win a Commons vote to extend the maximum time terror suspects could be detained for up to 42 days in 2008.

There was uproar in the Commons after the vote amid claims that Mr Brown had offered Northern Ireland financial help in return for DUP support.

Mr Blunt said the prospect of a Tory-DUP coalition, which has been touted in some quarters, made him fear for the country in light of that "deal".

During a Commons statement on the Stormont House Agreement, Mr Blunt said: "You will recall the behaviour of the DUP over the 42 vote exercise in the last Parliament which cost this country about £1 billion under the deal that was done there.

"And from the numbers you have just given ... this deal has cost the taxpayers of Great Britain another £1 billion.

"Do you like me rather fear for the face of this country if by some mischance there is not a clear Conservative majority at the next election and an administration will have to rely on that lot over there (the DUP)?"

Replying for the Government, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said the Tories were campaigning for a majority not a coalition.

Mr Blunt was quickly slapped down by DUP MPs Sammy Wilson and Jeffrey Donaldson.

Mr Wilson accused Mr Blunt of acting like a "Little Englander", saying his outburst helps the nationalist cause.

He said: "The additional money which has been made available to Northern Ireland through flexibility and borrowing and the extra money for the additional institutions will be welcomed despite what Mr Blunt says in his Little Englander outburst which helps nationalism more than the nasty nationalists of this House do when it comes to the break-up of the union."

Meanwhile, Mr Donaldson joked that a coalition with the DUP would be far more appetising for the Tories than one with the Scottish National Party.

He said: "I would just say to you that if you are faced with a choice of the Scottish Nationalist Party or a unionist party you may have cause to think again about the comments you just made to this House."

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