McCausland 'misled' Stormont committee

Published Wednesday, 23 July 2014
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Stormont's Social Development Committee has found that Minister Nelson McCausland "deliberately misled" it over the suspension of a Housing Executive double glazing scheme.

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In May 2012, the DUP minister announced the suspension of a large scale project to install double glazing in Housing Executive homes across Northern Ireland.

In response to a letter from the Social Development Committee chair, Mr McCausland said he had taken the decision following a meeting with representatives from the Glass and Glazing Federation and Fusion21 to discuss 'The Good Practice Guide for the Installation of Windows and Doors'.

In a BBC Spotlight programme in July that year allegations were made of wrongful political interference in the Housing Executive along with potential breaches of the Ministerial Code of Conduct and of misleading of the Assembly and the Committee for Social Development.

The programme alleged that the Committee was misled in the letter of 24 May 2012 as the Minister had not met with representatives from the Glass and Glazing Federation but with representatives from Turkington Holdings Ltd - a company which the programme stated had links to the Democratic Unionist Party.

The day after the investigation aired, the minister appeared before the committee to respond to the allegations made in it.

The Spotlight allegations were also debated in a special sitting of the Assembly the following week.

The committee agreed to hold an inquiry into the allegations.

It heard evidence from senior civil servants, representatives from Turkington's, the Glass and Glazing Federation as well as Minister McCausland, his special adviser and his former private secretary.

I have no role in the tendering and letting process of any contracts so there was nothing to be gained by me, other than the potential for significant savings to the public purse.

Nelson McCausland, DUP

During his evidence session, Mr McCausland accepted he had "inadvertently unintentionally misinformed the Committee" in his letter to the committee of 24 May 2012.

However, the majority of the committee found that "the determined efforts that both the minister and his special adviser made to remove Turkington's from the record would suggest that it was neither unintentional nor inadvertent".

The 11-member committee, which includes four DUP MLAs, could not reach a consensus as to whether the minister had deliberately or inadvertently misled it.

However, following a vote the committee passed the motion "that the minister for Social Development deliberately misled the Committee for Social Development".

The committee was divided on the motion and it was carried by a majority vote.

The majority of its members also expressed their "deep concern" about the inaction of senior civil servants in the Department for Social Development to "robustly challenge the minister when they knew he was factually incorrect in his statements to the Assembly and Committee".

Minister McCausland, in a letter to the committee, said its findings were "fundamentally flawed and weak in its analysis and statement of facts".

He argued that the report should not be published in its current form.

He said: "I also believe that the content of this report falls short of the standards expected in relation to any inquiry and this report is fundamentally flawed in relation to its analysis of the evidence and its conclusions.

"I do not believe that the evidence, both written and oral, provided to the committee was given due regard and I fail to understand how the committee has considered the evidence and the facts appropriately in line with the terms of reference.

"The committee's conclusion is in fact totally unsubstantiated and the report does not set out in what way the committee believe I misled them in relation to my decision to seek a review of the specification for the supply and fitting of double glazing.

"This purports to be an objective assessment of my decision to seek a review of the specification for the supply and fitting of double glazing. It is anything but that."

It's a grave situation for the minister to find himself in.

Alex Maskey, Sinn Féin

The minister added: "I have said many times that it was no important who I met but the fact that I was being advised, that if the Glass and Glazing Federation guidelines were followed, this could lead to significant savings to the public purse and indeed provide a better standard of service to tenants.

"I and my special adviser genuinely believe that the Turkington representatives were there in their capacity as members of the Glass and Glazing Federation.

"My aim, in relation to the double glazing programme, has always been to ensure that the Programme for Government target to double glaze all Housing Executive homes by 2015, is met whilst ensuring best value for money and meeting industry standards."

Social Development Committee chair Alex Maskey said it was a "grave situation for the minister".

The Sinn Féin MLA added: "It is a grave cause for concern that a committee which has conducted a statutory inquiry which took several months and held extensive evidence sessions made such a finding."

But DUP East Antrim MLA and member of the DSD Committee Sammy Wilson dismissed the report as "a discredited political witch-hunt and a waste of time and money".

© UTV News
Comments Comments
48 Comments
Dorothy in Kansas wrote (116 days ago):
Dee in Newtownabbey... I think you're wrong about GB Shaw, I think you'll have to check your source. But my, didn't my rather mild remark show us the bitter little person you are.
John in Newtownabbey wrote (118 days ago):
Dorothy makes a very valid point. Short yes, but none the less valid. Even the Tories have some conception of honour and resign when they are caught out so as not to detract from the job of government. However in Norn Iron, these backwoodsmen can do as they please and to use DUP parlance, tell an "untruth" as much as they want.
Dee in Newtownabbey wrote (118 days ago):
Dave Mouncey I think all I need to do is refer you to my reply to Dorothy. Think that maybe covers you also. And for heavens sake if you are gonna foolishly mock my comment, bearing in mind the subject and the nature of the man we are quoting, please try and spell 'genious' right. There's a massive slice of irony involved in your silly ridicule when you suggest I'm talking about myself in the 3rd person when I referred to the 'learned literary GENIOUS'. Must do better Dave.
Dave Mouncey in Belfast wrote (118 days ago):
Dorothy maybe Dee in Newtownabbey IS the learned literary genious he's refering to.
jane in real world wrote (118 days ago):
Next time refuse to vote for McCausland, vote for somebody else then maybe the DUP will see we are not all mugs
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