After two years without an Assembly in Northern Ireland, due to the collapse in the power sharing initiative, I am concerned that we are lacking local scrutiny of decisions made whilst the devolved government is out of action.
I asked the Secretary of State what action she was taking to ensure that we have more local involvement in decision making and not merely a process which is like a decision being taken behind a pane of glass – you can see what’s going on, but have no way to impact upon its outcomes.
Labour secured an Urgent Question on the failed contract signed by the Transport Secretary with a ferry company who had no ferries.
During his statement, the Transport Secretary said that not one penny had been spent by his department in this terrible deal, which has now been cancelled. However, civil servants and lawyers aren’t free so it must have cost us taxpayers money.
I pressed the Minister as to how many civil servants and lawyers had worked on this contract and what cost it had to the taxpayer. As no answer was forthcoming I have tabled a series of Written Questions to the Secretary of State and will keep pushing for a response.
We cannot allow a government to mismanage our public finances. It was clear from the start that signing a contract with a company with no ferries, a copied and pasted contract from a takeaway and a business owner who owed HMRC tax that this was never going to work. Yet the Secretary of State ploughed ahead.
Not only has the UK Government given a contract to a ferry company that owns no boats and its terms and conditions were copied and pasted from a fast food takeaway, but it has become clear that the owner of this business owes money to HMRC.
I asked the Transport Secretary if he could confirm that the director of this company owes us, the taxpayer, £580,000 and what due diligence he took to ensure that we don’t give contracts for government business to companies who do not pay their taxes.
The Transport Secretary decided to keep quiet. This is appalling. The Government is being farcical and putting our economy at risk because they are not undertaking basic background checks.
An Urgent Question was granted on police funding and I wanted to see if we could get a straight answer from the minister on cuts.
We were told austerity has ended, but the Red Book – which details the Budget’s spending – stated that the Home Office will be cut by £100,000,000 next year. If the UK Government can’t say where these cuts are going to fall we must all be worried that they will hit our neighbourhood police officers the hardest.
If the Government do not properly fund our law enforcement agencies, like security services and the police, properly we will see crime continue to rise.