Dear Secretary of State,
We write to call on you and the Treasury to release the nearly £600 million allocated for Northern Ireland public sector pay claims with immediate effect.
It would be wrong to withhold money that is owed public sector workers in Northern Ireland, who are shamefully underpaid when compared with the rest of the United Kingdom, when you have acknowledged that the money is available.
It would be even worse to withhold the money in those circumstances while promising to release it if the DUP agrees to accept the border in the Irish Sea and the partial disenfranchisement of the people of Northern Ireland, losing the right to make the laws to which they are subject in some 300 different areas.
What makes your current position even more untenable, however, is the fact Northern Ireland has been funded below the UK Government’s own definition of need - as set out in the Holtham Formula - not just since the beginning of this financial year but since the beginning of the previous financial year, April 2022!
The UK Government has adopted the Holtham definition of need for a very good reason, to avoid funding falling below need because the consequences of being funded below need are socially dislocating and destructive.
As the Fiscal Council figures demonstrate, the cost of being funded below need (£124) in 2022-3 was £322 million and in the current financial year, 2023-24 £431 million.
In this context the decision not to release the monies to pay public sector wages, is not only wrong because the money is there but because the money has in any event already been wrongly withheld from Northern Ireland for approaching two years.
Your decision not to release the monies unless and until the DUP submits to the Windsor border, and goes back to the Assembly, does not create a new funding injustice but compounds and prolongs an existing funding injustice to which the people of Northern Ireland have been uniquely subjected. Rather than prolonging this injustice, we would ask you to end it immediately by releasing the money.
It is a testament to the need for urgent government action that we find ourselves in the extraordinary position of where the BBC is reporting the Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service imploring you to release the monies.
Please listen to the people of Northern Ireland, do the right thing and release the money.
Lord Morrow of the Clogher Valley,
Lord Dodds of Duncairn,
Lord Browne of Belmont,
Lord Hay of Ballyore,
Lord McCrea of Magherafelt & Cookstown,
Lord Weir of Ballyholme