Replies to some written questions to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development have been drawn to my attention. In particular, I have considered the answers to written questions Nos 12234, 12225, 11652, 11710, and 11715. The answers are an abuse of the written question process. In my view, they show a contempt for the accountability which a Minister has to this House. The Minister knows that they would be completely unacceptable as answers to oral questions, and the same rules apply.
Ministers are required to endeavour to give informative replies to questions—Speaker’s ruling 177/5. While the Speaker is not responsible for the quality of answers, I do expect Ministers to make a serious attempt to provide an informative answer. These questions do not come close to meeting that standard.
As a result of these answers that I have seen, I rule that: (1) the Minister will provide substantive amended answers to the questions concerned by midday on Tuesday, 3 July; (2) since the Opposition has been denied an opportunity to use written questions to scrutinise the Government in a timely manner, they will receive an additional 20 supplementary oral questions, to be used by the end of next week.
I have also written to the Minister indicating a form of reply he is using to avoid giving substantive answers is unacceptable, and that he has until next Thursday to provide corrected answers.
As No Right Turn reminds us, this is a Government that promised to be the most transparent ever. Yet just a few months in, Twyford is demonstrating such arrogance it is shocking. Written questions are there so MPs can get factual information. Electorate MPs are also being frustrated at being unable to find out about transport projects in their seats.
Here’s an example of a Twyford question:
12234 (2018). Hon Judith Collins to the Housing and Urban Development (Minister – Phil Twyford) (14 Jun 2018): How many electricians will the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development employ?Hon Phil Twyford (Housing and Urban Development (Minister – Phil Twyford) ) replied: Employment of staff will be an operational decision for the CEO of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development to determine. If the Member is on the look out for work, she should keep an eye on the classifieds.
11710 (2018). Hon Judith Collins to the Housing and Urban Development (Minister – Phil Twyford) (08 Jun 2018): Further to his answer to Oral Question No 4 on 23 May 2018, has there been any decisions made since then regarding whether KiwiBuild homeowners be allowed to rent out rooms for profit in their KiwiBuild home?Hon Phil Twyford (Housing and Urban Development (Minister – Phil Twyford) ) replied: The Member will have to wait until announcements are made, but if the Member is volunteering to peek in the windows of her constituents, I will take that under advisement.