The Barnett Formula - Select Committee on the Barnett Formula Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 500 - 507)


Ms Helen Bailey, Ms Helene Radcliffe, Mr Mark Parkinson and Mr Jim Gallagher

  Q500  Lord Rowe-Beddoe: But the Treasury would actually have to give the ideas as to what we should be doing?

  Ms Bailey: Indeed, and there would be a considerable dialogue, I have no doubt, between officials, ministers and advisers, and there would be a dialogue with the devolved administrations. None of that has taken place, which is why I cannot answer your question in any more detail.

  Q501  Chairman: I do not want to come back to where we started from, but could I just say that you did that exercise in the seventies. Why was it possible to do it in 1978 or 1979 but not possible to do it now?

  Mr Parkinson: That is a benchmark. That study took about two years, just to give you an idea.

  Q502  Chairman: Perhaps you ought to have a different way of asking?

  Mr Parkinson: That was a particular study using a particular methodology, as Helen said. It is by no means obvious that we would use the same methodology again.

  Q503  Lord Rooker: Even if it is being requested by the ministers? In the 1970s Joel Barnett did not even know about this going on and he was the Chief Secretary of the Treasury, so it was done without the minister asking for it to be done.

  Ms Bailey: I have seen his evidence and I understand the point you are making. I do not know whether any other minister or ministers were involved in that decision, so I will not comment further, but an exercise of that sort -

  Lord Rooker: I am sorry, it was a cheap question. I apologise for that.

  Chairman: No, it was not cheap, I think it was rather expensive!

  Q504  Lord Lang of Monkton: Were other government departments involved in the assessment?

  Ms Bailey: Yes.

  Q505  Lord Lang of Monkton: And they all agreed on the outcome?

  Mr Parkinson: No, they did not reach an agreed outcome.

  Q506  Lord Lang of Monkton: So you reached no conclusion?

  Mr Parkinson: No.

  Ms Bailey: No.

  Q507  Chairman: Thank you very much. Two things, if I may. One is, you will have gathered there is a fair degree of unease, uncertainty and indeed disappointment at the views that are expressed, the ones you have given us today. So be it. There is a difference between us. There are various detailed questions on the figures which I do not think I am really qualified to put to you, but which Mr Trench, who is our special advisor, is qualified to put to you. I wonder whether you would be kind enough to talk to him about it? Secondly, it may well be that when we have had a good look at the transcript we may think that perhaps it would be helpful to the Committee if you were to come back and put your heads in the lion's den yet again, but on behalf of us all I think I can say thank you very much indeed. You have exposed certain problems and indeed expressed a clear attitude on the part of the Treasury, and for that we are grateful.

  Ms Bailey: Can I thank you, Chairman, for those kind words. We would be more than delighted to talk to Mr Trench or any of your other advisers and take them through the detailed figures. We would be very happy to do that. I think I would just like to clarify some of what you call the difference between us. The Treasury's view, insofar as it has one, is set out in the statement of its funding policy and clearly the views of the Treasury are largely the views of our ministers, so we can help insofar as the practical operation at official level and we will happily do so and come back, as you so graciously put it, into the lion's den on any occasion you would wish in order to be able to do that. I apologise to you for the fact that we cannot go further than that brief.

  Chairman: Thank you very much.

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