Death of Lord Barnett, inventor of Welsh funding formula

Joel Barnett in Downing Street in 1976, when he was Chief Secretary to the Treasury Credit: PA Archive

Joel Barnett, the former Labour cabinet minister credited with inventing the formula that decides how much money Wales gets from Westminster, has died at the age of 91. He was Chief Secretary to the Treasury during the Wilson and Callaghan Labour governments of the late 1970s, when a temporary -and secret- method of funding Wales was devised for the Welsh Assembly that was rejected in the 1979 referendum.

Despite the defeat of devolution, the Barnett Formula was retained and made official. It limited any annual increase (or cut) in the funding of the Welsh Office (now the Welsh Government) to the change in spending on equivalent departments in England. Its intention was to slowly reduce the greater funding that Wales received.

I never for one moment thought it would continue for very long. It did not seem to be done on a fair basis.

Lord Barnett, speaking in 2009

Lord Barnett's daughter Erica said he died peacefully at home on Saturday morning after a short illness. She said he retained his interest in politics during his illness and "the last words he spoke to me were about the European Union budget". The upsurge in interest in the Barnett Formula following the Scottish Referendum - and the "vow" by David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg to retain the system - had provided a "great boost" to him, she said.

The Barnett Formula thing during the Scottish referendum was a great boost to him, because he was able to say what he had been saying for a long time to anybody who would listen, but this time people were listening. He had the chance finally to tell people just why he thought it was not only unfair but undemocratic.

Erica Barnett

His death was confirmed this morning by the Labour Party. The Shadow Leader of the House of Lords Baroness Royall, who used to be the European Commission's representative in Wales, paid tribute to him.

Joel was an extraordinary individual. As an MP, minister and colleague in the House of Lords, to the very end he was diligently holding the Government to account and doing his best to ensure the best for the people of this country.

Baroness Royall