Peers debate Barnett formula as its author passes away

The House of Lords debated the Barnett formula this afternoon - without the man himself.

Joel Barnett, Lord Barnett, died at the weekend at the age of 91. His formula lives on and it was somehow fitting that peers debated its legacy on the day his passing was announced.

There were tributes from political friend and foe alike. Lord Wigley said he was a "lovely, gentle, intelligent colleague" who was among the first to recognise that the funding formula in his name by now needs radical reform.

Labour's Lord Peston said with a smile that a minister "could be forgiven for thinking that one of Lord Barnett's missions in life was to make the minister's life a total mystery". He said Lord Barnett deserved to be remembered for more than his formula.

Liberal Democrat Lord Thomas of Gresford recalled taxi journeys from Euston with "a lovely man". Labour leader in the Lords, Baroness Royall said that Lord Barnett was an extraordinary man. She said: "He was diligently holding the Government to account and doing his upmost to ensure the best for the people of this country until just a few weeks ago. Indeed he believed, and I believe that we all do, that Government should be a force for making life better."

Lib Dem Lord Newby, speaking for the Treasury, said he was "a delight to have as a sparring partner" and compared the Barnett formula to the Schleswig-Holstein Question - "virtually nobody understands how we've got to where we are today".

The issue had been raised by the former Plaid Cymru leader Lord Wigley, who pointed out the riches that would come Wales's way if it were funded on the same basis as Scotland. He suggested it would be "a fitting tribute" to Lord Barnett to offer Wales parity with Scotland on funding.

Lord Newby told him there were no changes in prospect to the formula but the UK government had agreed with the Welsh government to revisit arrangements before every spending review.

Lord Newby said the Holtham review of funding had suggested Wales would be getting a fair degree of funding if it was getting 114 % of funding in England: "Certainly this year and next year that figure will be met".

He added: "The key question is how much money makes its way to Wales and as I said earlier on for the period ahead Wales will be receiving a figure in line with most definitions, I believe of what people think is fair."