Belfast Telegraph

Nelson McCausland accused of disrespecting Assembly after refusing to answer allegations that he misled MLAs

BY NOEL MCADAM

DUP minister Nelson McCausland has been accused of disrespecting the Assembly after refusing to answer allegations that he misled MLAs.

The Alliance Party said the Social Development Minister had declined to clear up the controversy for the benefit of MLAs by insisting he will not answer the queries for another month.

Mr McCausland declined to answer questions over allegations that he misled the social development committee and instructed an official to change notes over a meeting on housing contracts.

Quizzed by Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson, the minister said he would be responding to the issues when he appears before the committee next month.

"It would be wrong and premature to address the matter until I had the courtesy of giving that to the committee," he said.

"There is a very simple answer, and it will be given on the 12th of December.

"I ask the Member to have a little bit of patience."

Mr Dickson immediately retorted: "I think we should note he hasn't answered the question."

He later added on Twitter: "What is the point of question time if it is not to get answers?"

The East Antrim MLA then went on: "I am very disappointed that the minister would not answer my question.

"He has disrespected the Assembly when he clearly knows the answer to my question."

At last week's committee meeting, senior civil servant Michael Sands said Mr McCausland, in April last year, had met with Turkington Holdings, a donor to the DUP, but Mr Sands was instructed by the minister to change a memo to state that the meeting was with the Glass and Glazing Federation (GGF), a professional body.

While Turkington Holdings is a member of the federation, it never claimed to represent it at the meeting.

Meanwhile, an official report into alleged overpayments by the Housing Executive "does not make good reading", Mr McCausland told the Assembly during question time yesterday.

The long-awaited investigation is due to be made public tomorrow, when the amount involved in the overpayments is revealed.

But it is believed to be significantly less than the £18m Mr McCausland referred to when he named four firms in the Assembly chamber in June.

But Mr McCausland indicated there were still "very substantial amounts overpaid" to contractors.

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