Peter Robinson has called on the Government to honour commitments made in the St Andrew’s Agreement over funding for Northern Ireland after the Secretary of State suggested that circumstances had changed.
Mr Robinson said that the 2006 deal “guaranteed” the Executive here at least £18 billion over 10 years for capital funding to cover essential infrastructure development.
But Secretary of State Owen Paterson indicated yesterday that the agreement reached with the Labour administration was not binding on the new Coalition Government.
“You have to question whether Gordon Brown made a promise he couldn't keep — Gordon Brown got us into this mess as chancellor and prime minister,” he said.
“He fought an election campaign himself promising cuts of about £44bn, so I think you do have to question whether the Labour Party, if it was in power now, could honour many of these old commitments.”
Last night, Mr Robinson said: “People will be concerned by the statement from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Apparently he believes that international agreements and binding commitments with devolved institutions have no standing if governments change or economic circumstances alter.
“Yet the very reason the agreement was sought and given was to give the fledgling Northern Ireland Executive certainty should such circumstances come about.”
The funding Mr Robinson is referring to is the “updated strategic capital investment plan totalling £18bn over the period 2005 to 2017”.
In 2006, the Treasury said this money was “to underpin long term economic growth, and facilitate substantial capital spending on roads, health, schools, tertiary education and other priorities”.
Mr Robinson said that the “best guide” now to the Treasury's intentions show that “the Government is poised to cut our annual capital spend by 50%”.
The St Andrew’s Agreement between the British and Irish governments and the political parties here was primarily about the devolution of policing and justice to Northern Ireland and restoring the Executive.