…and were the Tories just plain stupid, or did they secretly betray Northern Ireland? Lord Trimble seems more than a tad unhappy with the Conservatives because the “Rates Order could have been defeated” last night. But the Tories, somewhat gullibly, backed the Government when Lord Rooker took on board Lord Glentoran’s amendment to “set a valuation cap at £500,000 and to take action to help lower income pensioner households”. There was no mention of this being conditional on the return of devolution – until much later, when NIO minister David Hanson said that “the key to it is they [the local parties] have to be back in power in order to face the consequences of that and to see it through. That is why we won’t do it until such time as they’ve signed up.” Lord Smith, who for once didn’t bottle it, said in the House that he recognised “a pincer movement when I see one in this new, unholy alliance between the two Front Benches”, but Trimble smelt the rat. And where were the DUP’s new lords? Ah, but the DUP has already accepted Minister Hanson’s interpretation; according to the party’s own consultation paper, the St Andrews Agreement means a cap on rates.
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