Clark gets rap over knuckles after question breach ruling

David Clark
David Clark
Health Minister David Clark has been severely reprimanded by Speaker Trevor Mallard over a ''blatant breach'' of requirements to answer parliamentary questions properly.

While recognising that Dr Clark's office had been under pressure after having received 1500 written parliamentary questions in one day, some responses failed to meet the requirements of standing orders and Speaker's rulings, Mr Mallard told Parliament yesterday.

''In one instance, the member would have had to make his way through 22 separate replies which do not answer the question before finally reaching the answer.

''That approach falls far short of the standard of accountability required to the House of ministers.''

The breach was compounded by the fact that the ultimate answer was that the matter was an operational one, the Speaker said.

The questioner - Dr Clark's Dunedin North rival and National health spokesman Michael Woodhouse - was then told he could use the Official Information Act to request the information sought.

''There is no convention that ministers are not answerable for operational matters in the agencies falling within their portfolio areas.

''In fact, that's a key part of the role of a minister,'' Mr Mallard said.

He ordered Dr Clark's office to lodge fresh answers to several of Mr Woodhouse's questions.

He also awarded National 12 additional supplementaries for Question Time this week.

Mr Woodhouse said he had been ''sent on a wild goose chase'' by Dr Clark's office and was pleased with Mr Mallard's ruling.

Dr Clark did not respond to a request to comment before deadline.

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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