Below is the speech Mr Allister made today when proposing his amendment.
I beg to move amendment No 2:
Leave out all after “glazing” and insert
“; and having no confidence in the Minister for Social Development calls on him to resign.”
I begin on a totally non-controversial note by saying that it is great to see back in the Chamber the Member for East Londonderry Mr David McClarty. [Applause].
Some Members: Hear, hear.
Mr Allister: It is marvellous that he is back with us. I am sure we all wish him every success in the recovery and the battle that he has.
I am not here today to defend the Housing Executive. I am not here today to defend any contractor, whatever vested interest others might have. I have no vested interest in defending any contractor. This debate is about the Minister. It is the Minister that this House can hold to account, and that is why that is the focus and should be the focus of the debate. True to form, of course, the DUP has tabled an amendment in an attempt to divert and divide attention away from the issue — a desperate attempt to muddy the waters as much as they can. We heard Mr Campbell today, as we heard him on the BBC last week, and I think anyone can see through it. Methinks he doth protest too much in the desperate attempts to muddy the waters in these issues.
In holding a Minister to account, let us remind ourselves of the requirements of the ministerial code of conduct. It requires Ministers to:
“observe the highest standards of propriety and regularity involving impartiality, integrity and objectivity in relation to the stewardship of public funds”.
It records reference to the seven principles of public life, one of which is integrity and another of which is openness. It is against those standards that I invite the House to judge the Minister today. Are the Minister and those for whom he has responsibility in a position to demonstrate the highest standards of propriety, particularly in regard to the bully boy tactics of his special adviser? Now the Minister is vicariously liable for his special adviser from the moment that he endorses and backs him, which is what he has done in this case.
The Minister is vicariously liable for his SpAd. His SpAd behaved in a bully-boy fashion to a member of his own party, telling her, “The party comes first” and “You do what you are told”. The totalitarianism of it is staggering, and what was she being told to do? She was being told to reverse a previous decision and to extend the contract term for Red Sky. The Minister wrote asking that that might be up to six months, and yet, in a letter to ‘Spotlight’, he has denied that he ever sought an extension to the Red Sky contract. Yet, his letter asked for that extension. It is quite clear that the Minister, through his special adviser, was in the business of promoting not just a party interest but a commercial interest, with which the party is aligned. That is the essence of it, and that is why the administrator was cut out of the meeting that Mr Douglas, the First Minister, the Minister for Social Development, his SpAd and DSD officials attended. They wanted to go behind the back of the administrator. They wanted to go behind the back of the administrator for the purpose of giving time for Totalis, the reincarnation of Red Sky, to get up and running to compete for contracts.
That is what that was all about, and anyone who watched Councillor Jenny Palmer should have no difficulty in deciding who is telling the truth. She exuded integrity and honesty in everything that she said. What a contrast with the cutting-and-running SpAd who could not even face the cameras. The First Minister is in the perilous position on the fence of not knowing who to believe. He must be the only person in this country who does not know who to believe on that. Of course, that position itself, as with the petition of concern today, is engendered by the party-comes-first attitude that is the hallmark of all of that.
Perhaps, in a way, the most damning portion of the programme was that which dealt with the glazing contracts. After representations from a DUP donor, Mr Turkington, the Minister put on hold the glazing contracts so that those could be separated out from the general housing replacement work and so that Turkington’s could directly contract on the window front in that regard. The Minister misrepresented to the Committee for Social Development his involvement and whom he met. He told the Committee that he had a meeting with Fusion 21 and the Glass and Glazing Federation. He had a meeting with Turkington Holdings, asked for in a letter of 2 February. Interestingly enough, that letter was cc’d to the Finance Minister. A meeting then took place, and at that meeting, Turkington’s made its representation. The Housing Executive staff who were present said that it was nothing to do with the Glass and Glazing Federation, and the Glass and Glazing Federation said that it had nothing to do with it. Personnel at the meeting said that it had nothing to do with the federation. Yes, the Minister had a meeting with Fusion 21 on 23 April, but it had nothing to do with the glazing contracts. Yet he changes a letter, drafted for him, to suggest that he had met the Glass and Glazing Federation and Fusion 21. He went on to talk about “this meeting” in the singular, as though they were both there — they were not. The only people there were from Turkington Holdings. Yes, he had a meeting with Fusion 21 on 14 May, but he had already, on 30 April, written to the Housing Executive to change the spec on the glazing contract. He had already made the decision and made it not on the basis of input from Fusion NI or from the glass and glazing contractors but on the basis of input from Turkington Holdings, which had a vested interest. Those are the facts. Why did the Minister mislead the Committee and the House on those matters?
I have to ask the Democratic Unionist Party this: have you no shame that you would use your position in office — abuse it — to oppress a member of your party who dared to stand in your way in order to promote the commercial interest of a political buddy? Did you learn nothing from the £5 land deals and the various property scandals of a few years ago? Is your arrogance such that you think that you can still abuse power for your own ends and those of your friends?