Speaker reprimands Phil Twyford

The Speaker Trevor Mallard has come down quite hard on Minister of Housing and Urban Development Phil Twyford for giving flippant answers to written questions submitted by Judith Collins. Twyford wasn’t in Parliament to face the flak.

The Opposition (National) were given 20 additional supplementary oral questions, which seems quite a significant penalty for the Government.

Mr SPEAKER: 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.

There was more later when Leader of the House Chris Hipkins raised a point of order.

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Leader of the House): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. At the beginning of question time today, you made a ruling regarding written question answers that my colleague, the Hon Phil Twyford, had put forward. I’ve had a chance to now look at those questions. I know that you have written to me about this matter as well.

Certainly I can understand the concern that you have raised about some of the answers that my colleague has given, and I agree with you that some of the flippant comments that he has made in those do not reflect well on the House. However, the question that I would like to raise with you is around some of the ironic expressions that are made in some of the questions themselves and whether, in fact, one or two of those answers were in fact appropriate given the context of the question. For example, in question No. 11652, the operable part of the question was how many more sleeps are required before a decision is made regarding KiwiBuild eligibility rules and income testing, to which the Minister replied, “it depends how frequently the member sleeps”. The point that I would make there is that the question itself did set itself up for that kind of answer. So—

Mr SPEAKER: No, you will sit down.

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I fully understand a more rigorous approach to the answers and I wouldn’t contest that at all. The question that I would ask of you, Mr Speaker, is that a rigorous approach is also taken to the accepting of the written questions themselves, because some of these questions do invite answers that would not reflect well on the House because the questions themselves don’t reflect well on the House.

Mr SPEAKER: I can deal with that point of order very easily. If the Minister of Housing and Urban Development had not used the expression “not many more sleeps” in this House to the member when she asked the oral question, then I would not have allowed it in the written question. The original offence, the original irony, was quoted from the Hon Phil Twyford, and, from my perspective, that is an acceptable use within a written question. If the Minister had not used the expression, he wouldn’t have been subject to what looks like an ironic question but, actually, is just a straight response to what was almost certainly an inappropriate comment that he made in the Chamber.

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Leader of the House): A further point of order, Mr Speaker. Are you, therefore, ruling that the phrase “so many sleeps” is out of order, because that is an answer that has been given for many, many, many questions in the House.

Mr SPEAKER: No, no, I’m not doing that. But what I am indicating is that when that is quoted or used in a written question which relates to the answer given in the House, I’m not going to rule it out; whereas if it didn’t have a context, then at that stage it could well be considered ironic.

Twyford has frequently shown signs that he hasn’t been able to step up to the responsibilities of being in Government and being a Minister.

16 Comments

  1. chrism56

     /  June 28, 2018

    Isn’t Mr Tywford supposed to be one of the best of the government Ministers? Doesn’t say much about the quality of the rest of them does it?

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  June 28, 2018

      His answers were very childish and not at all becoming.

      He didn’t come across too well on the news when the issue of prefab houses was raised. The houses shown were good enough for anyone to live in and extremely reasonably priced.

      I have seen them, and they really are attractive and well designed, no space wasted anywhere.

  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  June 28, 2018

    Damming condemnation from your own Speaker. Judith cracks the whip.

  3. Zedd

     /  June 28, 2018

    maybe if Natl MPs actually stopped asking all the repetative, inane written questions; ‘how many Is have you not dotted or Ts not crossed.. this week’… then the new Minister(s) could actually get on with doing their jobs ! 😦

    just a reminder; they asked about 6000 in the first month, after the change.. more than they were asked in Govt. in most years !

    • PDB

       /  June 28, 2018

      Do you just keep repeating already discredited nonsense as fact?

      At the time many examples were given of ministers not answering simple questions and then the National MP would have to resubmit and resubmit in an effort to get them to do so. Not to ignore the fact that in the one month of July 2010 8719 written questions were asked by Labour, 7000 of which came from Trevor Mallard but National just got on with the job and didn’t have a big whinge.

      • Zedd

         /  June 28, 2018

        no.. i just like getting up youz tories noses LOL

        • PDB

           /  June 28, 2018

          I’ll go easy on you – rolling a joint is probably your greatest achievement in life.

    • Gezza

       /  June 28, 2018

      Phil Twyford is a fucking idiot, Zedd. It’s that simple.

      • Blazer

         /  June 29, 2018

        I think Twyford is a very intelligent,hardworking minister with a genuine desire to address some very deep seated problems that have mushroomed under the previous ‘who cares’…Govt.

  4. mr speaker is coming into his own with question time bonuses and deductions, national would be stoked about that….

    • He certainly stepped up and did what was necessary here. Perhaps as a senior Labour MP he has decided that in Ardern’s absence someone has to try and get tough on ministers who aren’t performing to adequate standard.