THE Parliamentary pact negotiated by Scarborough-born chief whip Gavin Williamson, and which Theresa May has now agreed with Arlene Foster, leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, will bring about three benefits.
First, it means the Government can just about muster together a Commons majority if they’re no rebellions, starting with Thursday’s vote on the Queen’s Speech which should give Mrs May the authority to remain PM. It buys the Tory leader precious time.
Second, concessions negotiated by the DUP mean that the pensions triple lock, and winter fuel payments, will remain in place for senior citizens across the United Kingdom – alienating the elderly has been a costly lesson in more ways than one for the Conservatives, though it remains to be seen how these measures will now be funded.
Third, the promise to invest an additional £1.5bn in Northern Ireland’s economy places an added onus on all political parties in the province to end the political paralysis that has left the Stormont power-sharing assembly in abeyance.
The whole of the United Kingdom will pay the price if political deadlock remains in Belfast, even more so given that future border arrangements between Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland are critical to safeguarding the hard-won peace and also the implementation of Brexit.
However, while people on this side of the Irish Sea will be relieved to learn that the DUP deal does not extend to issues of social conscience, it should be noted that the agreement only lasts for the duration of this Parliament. If the May government survives, and is in a position to deliver another Queen’s Speech in two years time, Ms Foster’s party will be able to make fresh demands.
Yet, while the Government’s fate is dependent on the support DUP’s tranche of 10 MPs, the same is equally true of the 15 Conservative MPs now representing Yorkshire constituencies. Given the current state of play, they, too, should be using their collective influence to ensure that promises made to this region, most notably on infrastructure investment, are honoured in full. With this county’s devolution arrangements in a state of limbo, it’s even more important that this region’s MPs come to the party and make their intentions clear to Mr Williamson.
Alarm call for flats
JUST as the Government and others were slow to respond to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, lessons need to be learned from the evacuation of hundreds of residents in Camden after their flats were deemed to be a fire risk. An understandable precaution in these traumatic times, this will cause great anxiety to those families living in 75 tower blocks around the country, including Doncaster, where samples of external cladding have failed safety checks.
However, as the Government, councils and housing providers come to terms with the consequences, the immediate priority should be ensuring that fire doors, and other preventative measures like smoke detectors and alarms, are in full working order. That will, at the very least, provide residents with some added reassurance.
It will also serve a far greater purpose than Labour’s John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, claiming the Grenfell Tower victims were ‘murdered’ before the inquests, criminal investigation and public inquiry have had a chance to reach any conclusions. Just how irresponsible can you get?
A symbol of power
AS a proud maritime nation, it’s curious that Britain’s naval fleet has become diminished in recent times, not least since HMS Ark Royal, a distinguished ship that enjoyed an enduring association with the city of Leeds, was decommissioned in 2011. Yet, while it will be another three years before HMS Queen Elizabeth is ready for full duties, the 65,000-tonne battleship was an imposing sight as she gingerly negotiated the Firth of Forth before beginning sea trials.
Though the cost of the new carrier, and sister ship HMS Prince of Wales, is in the region of £6bn, they will – in time – come to symbolise British ambition for the next 50 years. Vessels that would presumably be mothballed if Jeremy Corbyn becomes Prime Minister in time, it is intended that they will be used to launch and co-ordinate relief missions in the wake of humanitarian disasters – evidence of the Royal Navy’s evolving role as a force for good in an ever-changing world.