Unhappy Spratt tells Nesbitt: I’m not a child

Jimmy Spratt MLA
Jimmy Spratt MLA

DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt yesterday clashed with Mike Nesbitt at the same committee where last year he described opponents of the Maze peace centre as “nutters”.

At a meeting of the committee which scrutinises the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, Mr Nesbitt, who is the chairman, read a briefing document which revealed that the department had a record of cancelling meetings at short notice, submitting papers late or not at all and responding late to correspondence.

The worst example involved a letter from the committee which Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness’s department only responded to after 299 days.

The department has long been criticised for lengthy delays in responding to Freedom of Information requests — where some have taken more than 300 days to elicit a reply — as well as chronic delays in replying to written Assembly questions and media enquiries.

Mr Spratt objected that the issue had been read in public at the hearing, saying it was unnecessary as members could read it in their pre-supplied packs.

The South Belfast MLA, who is being reinvestigated by the Standards Commissioner over last year’s “nutters” incident, told Mr Nesbitt that he could “take this as a criticism if you like; I don’t care” before telling him that he was not “a child” and was able to read.

He added: “We don’t need the headmaster to read [the document] to us”.

As Mr Nesbitt defended having read the information into the record, Mr Spratt said twice that he had been on a “soapbox”.