May vows not to imperil the Union as Brexit powers row continues

The Prime Minister has defended her refusal to give further ground to the First Ministers over post-Brexit powers, arguing that to do so would put the Union in danger, the Times reports.

This comes after David Lidington, the Cabinet Office minister, announced that the Government would be narrowing the scope of the hotly-contested Clause 11 of the Withdrawal Bill, and Theresa May wrote for Wales Online to rebut ‘scare stories’ about a Westminster ‘power-grab’.

Although her’s determination to protect the British internal market is welcome and necessary, her approach still risks setting some dangerous precedents, for example by conceding that devolution with ‘UK frameworks’ is a more appropriate way of setting British policy than the British Parliament.

In a clear sign that this drama may have run its course, at least in the near-term, both First Ministers were talking up the prospects of a deal between their administrations and the Government this morning.

Bradley continues to talk up salary cut for Northern Irish legislators

The Northern Irish Secretary is ‘minded’ to slash the pay of Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly (MLAs) by up to 27.5 per cent, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

However, Karen Bradley will apparently consult with the local parties – all of whom will very likely be strongly opposed – before taking any final decision.

Pressure has been mounting for some action on MLA pay. The Assembly has now been suspended for over a year, with no sign of a deal to restore the devolved institutions yet in site. Threatening MLA’s salaries is viewed in some quarters as the stick that might yet break the deadlock and give both big parties a clear financial incentive to sort things out.

Bradley is seeking legislation at Westminster which will broaden her ability to make decisions for Northern Ireland, which has now been without devolved government for over a year.

Williamson intervenes to shield troops from SNP tax rise

The Defence Secretary is planning what the Daily Telegraph calls an “unprecedented intervention” to protect Armed Forces personnel stationed in Scotland from paying higher taxes than those serving elsewhere.

With the Scottish Parliament now setting different taxes to the rest of the UK, the Government is trying to work out how troops, who often don’t get to choose where in the country they are stationed, don’t get penalised if they’re garrisoned north of the border.

Two proposals being considered are an annual compensation payment or a monthly salary increase calculated to offset the SNP’s new taxes.

Foster slams Varadkar for latest intervention in Stormont negotiations

Arlene Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionists, has criticised the Irish prime minister for what she considers an inappropriate intervention in the negotiations about restoring devolution in Northern Ireland, the News Letter reports.

This comes in the same week that Leo Varadkar made another intervention warning that Brexit imperilled the Belfast Agreement – although as we have written before, his attitude to what that covers is somewhat expansive.

Foster, a former First Minister, attacked his suggestion that the British and Irish governments might both table proposals for how to take the talks forward, with the DUP insisting that that was the proper job of the British Government alone. However, she did welcome Varadkar’s acknowledgement that his government’s Brexit stance had angered unionists.

Sargeant enquiry finally gets underway

Wales Online reports that the terms of reference for a formal inquiry into the death of Carl Sargeant, a former minister in the Welsh Government, have finally been agreed.

However, the site reports that his family have not succeeded in getting everything they wanted from the rules which will set limits on what can be investigated.

Apparently the terms of reference do not include specific reference to the crucial few days between Sargeant’s sacking and his apparent suicide, nor do they broaden the scope of the inquiry to individuals in the Labour Party other than the First Minister himself.

Carwyn Jones, the First Minister, is accused of badly mishandling allegations of sexual misconduct against Sargeant by tasking a spad to conduct an initial investigation and then dismissing his minister without telling him the charges, rather than going through the official channels.