Liam Fox last night enraged Question Time viewers by defending a billion pound deal for Northern Ireland in return for votes in Parliament - before saying a pay rise for nurses may not be in “the interests of taxpayers”.
The Conservative international trade secretary said just minutes after defending a £1bn deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) that public sector pay rises couldn’t be guaranteed.
Defending the failure to remove a one percent cap on wage hikes, Fox said: “I think that we need to look at the control of public finances and have a balance here to strike. We have to look after the interests of the taxpayers.”
Viewers were quick to highlight the startling difference in priorities.
Earlier, Labour MP Stella Creasy had said: “This country hasn’t had a pay rise for ten years.”
Fox defended the DUP deal, saying: “The government after the election had no overall majority, we had a duty to form a government, that’s our duty and it’s part of our constitution.
“The DUP share a lot of the common elements with the Conservative party.
“What of course we, erm, it’s the MPs from the DUP clearly wanted to get better funding for Northern Ireland on things like infrastructure, and who can blame them? They have influence that they didn’t have before and that’s what our political system throws up.
“There was something that was different about Northern Ireland. If you look at the city deals that were done in England, there were over £3.2 billion pounds worth of city deals done. In Scotland, there were three-quarters of a billion pounds worth of city deals done. In Wales, there were half a billion pounds. In Northern Ireland, zero.”
To applause, editor of left-wing blog the Canary, Kerri-Anne Mendoza asked: “Does that mean that in order for Northern Ireland to get the funding it deserves Theresa May has to depend on them to stay in power?”
Fox responded: “No, money has been allocated and is for a number of specific projects, mental health is one of them, facilities in Northern Ireland should be better.”
Asked by host David Dimbleby where the money was coming from, Fox said: “The money comes from the Treasury. We do have programmes that need to be funded. This money does not go to the DUP it goes to the government of Northern Ireland.”