Morrow defends Assembly questions challenge
LORD Morrow has defended his Assembly Questions record, stating he is working for constituents with issues and will continue to do so.
“As an elected member I consider it my duty to robustly lobby on behalf of constituents, and unless and until I get the required answers it is incumbent on me to persist.
“If Ministers answered the questions giving the full information every time there would be very little need for pursuants. On one particular matter it took in excess of 20 written questions to get the answer which could have been given in the first place. When this was eventually addressed it opened up other issues and yet again, the questions are mounting because the answers are not providing the required information, and I am more than happy to elaborate on this if required.
“I cannot represent my constituents fully if Ministers are not forthcoming with all information.
“Quoting directly from the NI Assembly website which states, ‘The purpose of Assembly Questions is to ask for information or to press for action. When the Assembly is in session, Members may table up to five questions for written answer each day, one of which may be for priority answer within two to five days.’
“I am pleased to say there has been action as result of some issues, and I will continue to work on the others. For example, I will push rigorously to persuade the Justice Minister to alter the current policy on SPARs (Supporting Prisoners at Risk), which I believe, along with several other experts are inefficient. As they stand SPARs are opened and closed far too quickly and we are all aware of the outcome of prison suicides, attempted suicides and self-harm. It is my belief SPARs should be opened on all vulnerable prisoners and a grading system of risk introduced. The Minister disagrees, but am I supposed to simply accept that and walk away? Certainly not. Instead I have continued to seek opinions from experts and study reports, and using such evidence have continued on with lobbying for change.
“I have also pressed the Justice Minister on the Prisoner Assessment Unit and its dramatic closure; the monitoring of sex-offenders and SOPOs; the prison drugs culture and extortionate Legal Aid costs.
“Likewise I submitted numerous questions to the Minister for Employment & Learning last year over the proposed Stranmillis merger, and when I wasn’t satisfied with particular answers I sought further clarification. Subsequently, although by no means entirely through me, a halt was called to the merger and a re-think is underway. With that matter solved, albeit temporarily, I moved to another.
“In the case of questions to the Minister of Justice and a claim to be expending tax-payers money, can I point out this Minister has not just expended but wasted such funds in the past including over £4,000 to paint double yellow lines outside Enniskillen Court House in absence of appropriate consultation, which had to be removed one year later. Most recently there was an expenditure of over £36,000 for prison body scanners. This too failed. Likewise he will not restrict the funding of Legal Aid for repeat offenders or have costs built into fines and I am firmly of the opinion crime levels would drop significantly if offenders had to foot the costs. We all know the Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission ran out of funds, despite a departmental top-up of £10 million, which still wasn’t enough.
“So when it comes to wasting tax-payers money, I would suggest a closer look at the department in question.
“It appears elected representatives are in a no-win situation. If you work and lobby for constituents as hard as possible to get the facts, you are accused of wasting tax-payers money. If you do a little and walk away at the first stumbling block, you’re lambasted as indifferent. If you don’t lobby, you are regarded as lazy. Whatever the perception, I have been entrusted with issues by constituents and I intend to pursue them to the best of my ability.”
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Dungannon
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 9 C
Wind Speed: 25 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 4 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: North