WELSH secretary Simon Hart has claimed he didn’t know what the Barnett formula was before his appointment in 2019. 

At that point Hart had already been an MP for nearly 10 years during which there was fierce debate over the funding formula that allocates money to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

The Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire MP told Times Radio when questioned why public spending in Wales is higher than in England: “It’s this thing nobody has ever heard of, including me before I took on this job, the Barnett formula.” 

The UK cabinet minister defended the formula as he said it is intended to “as fairly as possible” redistribute funding generated in the south of east of England and its larger conurbations to other parts of the UK, including English regions. 

He said the formula is designed to reflect the economic and cultural backgrounds of the different nations.

In fact the Barnett formula was a stop gap designed by former Labour MP Joel Barnett when he was chief secretary to the treasury in the Labour government of the late 1970s. 

His crude formula adjusted spending for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland based on funding in England for areas such as health and education which, prior to devolution, were administered through the Welsh Office and its counterparts. 

It readjusted a previous population-based funding formula and there have long been complaints that it has funded Wales on population rather than need.

During the interview Times Radio presenter Matt Chorley asked Hart why spending per head in England is £13,166 compared to £14,220 in Wales. 

The secretary of state said it is £1.20 higher per head in Wales and then claimed to have been unaware of the formula until his appointment as Welsh secretary following the December 2019 general election. Before being appointed to the cabinet he was parliamentary secretary at the cabinet office from that July.

  • This article originally appeared on our sister site The National.