Items filed under 'Press Statements'

Hermon Receives Apology on Expenses Story

North Down’s Independent MP, Lady Hermon, has described as “wholly untrue” reports in today’s press that she submitted a claim for a 1 penny telephone call in her Parliamentary expenses.

Speaking from her North Down Constituency Office, Lady Hermon said: “At no stage have I ever submitted a claim for a 1p phonecall, and reports that I have done so are wholly untrue. 

This was an administrative error, and I have now received a fulsome apology and explanation from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), which administers the MPs’ expenses system.”

Its Operations Director, Mr Scott Woolveridge, has confirmed that Lady Hermon … “did not submit an expense claim to IPSA for 1p.”  He also went on to express IPSA’s “apologies for the way (it had) dealt with this,” and accepted that IPSA … “would have been better to have taken a different course of action so as to avoid the distress” caused to Lady Hermon, her office and family.”

Copy of e-mail from IPSA below:

From: Scott Woolveridge
Sent: 08 July 2011 16:18
Cc: Nick Lee
Subject: Claim publication - an apology
Dear Lady Hermon,
Thank you for your time on the telephone this afternoon.
Let me begin by confirming that you did not submit an expense claim to IPSA for 1p.
This impression has been caused following a claim you submitted for £89.09, when the receipt you provided as evidence was for £89.08. As your claim was for more than the actual cost incurred, albeit only by 1p, we had to match the claim with the receipt.
In making this reconciliation it meant there was a penny left over.  At the point of dealing with that claim, rather than go into further administrative activities over this 1p, which would have cost us and your office more time, we created a second claim line for 1p. This claim line was paid in error.
Our intent was to minimise any inconvenience to you for such an insignificant amount of money. That said, I can see that we would have been better to have taken a different course of action so as to avoid the distress you, your office and family have been caused by what has transpired since the information was published. I am sorry that we did not do so.
I recognise all the points you have made to us about the difficulties this has caused you and, of course, regret the distress you have suffered. I accept, entirely, your position that there were other ways to handle this matter which would have been more effective and, of course, offer you my apologies for the way we have dealt with this.
Scott Woolveridge
Director of Operations

July 13th, 2011

Hermon ‘Overjoyed’ at Rory’s US Open Triumph

“I’m overjoyed, absolutely overjoyed for Rory!  Even though I’m not a golfer, I still found myself glued to the television on Sunday night watching Rory win the US Open.  I was so relieved and so proud to see him hold his nerve right to the very end, and win in such great style. 

He’s a tremendous ambassador for golf, and for all that is good about Northern Ireland.  He has my warmest congratulations, and an abundance of good wishes for continued success for years and years and years to come.”

June 23rd, 2011

‘Hold Firm’ on Coastguard Says MP

“As a norm, attendance by MPs at Westminster Hall debates is not particularly good, but that certainly could not be said of last Thursday’s debate on the modernisation of the Coastguard Service.

Instead, there were so many MPs present that not everyone had an opportunity to speak during the 3-hour debate.  From Northern Ireland, both Jim Shannon MP and I were present and, between us, all the main arguments favouring the retention of our sole remaining Coastguard Centre in Bangor were made.”

Reflecting upon the intense debate during which every MP spoke passionately about his or her Coastguard centre, Lady Hermon concluded:  “What was particularly striking was the Shipping Minister, Mike Penning’s, complimentary remarks about his visit earlier this month to Bregenz House.  He described having had a ‘wonderful trip to Bangor’, where he had ‘a breath of fresh air’ with the submission of a brand new set of proposals from Bangor’s Coastguard.

Although the Minister emphasised that no decisions about closures had been made or would be made, until after the end of the consultation period on 5th May, Jim Shannon and I definitely felt much more encouraged by the tone and content of Mike Penning’s speech at the end of the Westminster Hall debate.

I’m convinced that the presentation of new proposals by our Coastguard staff in Bangor marked the turning point in the fight to retain N. Ireland’s Coastguard.  We must now hold firm, and continue to win the argument.”

March 31st, 2011

MP Reflects on Coastguard Visit

“Shipping Minister Mike Penning seemed to be in good form when he arrived along with the N.I. Secretary of State at Bregenz House last Wednesday afternoon, and he certainly left in even better form.  Not only had the discussions with the Bangor Coastguard staff been friendly and open, but Centre Manager Richard Newell and his colleagues had also managed to play a blinder, so to speak, by presenting the Minister with a brand new set of proposals for the modernisation of the UK’s entire Coastguard Service.
Their alternative proposals, well-researched and exceedingly well-presented, gave Mike Penning a solution – not a headache – about how best to update the country’s Coastguard Service and build its resilience to meet 21st century demands.  Sitting beside him during the presentation, it was obvious to me that Mr Penning was positively impressed and clearly delighted to welcome ‘as a fresh breath of air’ these new proposals presented by Richard and his team.

As for the six-week extension for submission of written responses to the consultation, I’m fairly relaxed about that.  I say so because the original closing date of 24th March 2011 happens, by complete coincidence, to be the same day as the dissolution of the current N.I. Assembly at Stormont.  During the ensuing six-week election campaign, the Northern Ireland Office and the Government at Westminster will have to observe a period of ‘purdah’, making no comment on local matters.  So, even if the Shipping Minister had good news to announce regarding Northern Ireland’s remaining Coastguard Centre in Bangor, he could not have returned to Bregenz House to do so.
Now, with the newly-announced closure date for submissions fixed for 5th May, which also is the date of the Assembly Election, ‘purdah’ will finish at midnight that night.  I’ve made it abundantly clear to Mike Penning that we would be absolutely delighted to have him back in Bregenz House to give us good news.  My invitation was warmly extended last Wednesday and, following the presentation of the new proposals then, I am definitely much more hopeful that he will be able to deliver a good result for Northern Ireland.”

March 17th, 2011

MP Reflects on Dorrian Anniversary

“I can scarcely believe it is now six years since Lisa Dorrian was killed and then so cruelly ‘disappeared’ by those responsible. Extraordinary anguish continues to be caused to Lisa’s loving family by not yet having her remains located and not being able to have her funeral.

Mercifully, police inquiries still continue, ably supported by forensic experts, and so her parents, sisters and the wider family remain dignified in their painful wait for the return of Lisa’s body for a proper Christian burial.

Again, on this anniversary of her disappearance, I would appeal to the conscience of anyone with information that could bring Lisa home to please ring the confidential Crimestoppers hotline on 0800 555 111. Her family really need an end to their agonising wait, and an end to this terrible living nightmare.”

March 3rd, 2011

Momentum Steps Up on Coastguard Campaign

North Down’s MP, Lady Hermon, today welcomed a cross-party delegation of MPs to the Coastguard headquarters in Bangor as part of her campaign to save Northern Ireland’s only remaining Coastguard Centre.

The Department for Transport is currently consulting on its proposals for the modernisation of Coastguard services, which could see Bangor losing out to the Coastguard Centre in Liverpool.

Speaking from Bregenz House, the home of N. Ireland’s Coastguard, at the conclusion of the visit, Lady Hermon said: “I greatly appreciated the support today (Monday) of other MPs - Jim Shannon of the DUP, Margaret Ritchie, Leader of the SDLP, and Naomi Long of the Alliance Party – when we visited Northern Ireland’s only remaining Coastguard Centre at Bregenz House in Bangor.

The meeting with Coastguard staff and a senior representative of the Maritime & Coastguard Agency was very useful indeed, and ran much longer than anticipated.  With the representative of the Agency choosing to spend most of the time in an adjacent room, Coastguard staff were free to respond frankly and in detail to the questions we MPs posed about the modernisation proposals.  As a result, we collectively felt much better briefed and are now in an even stronger position to persuade the Shipping Minister, Mike Penning MP, that Northern Ireland cannot be the only part of the United Kingdom left without a Coastguard Centre.”

Having invited Secretary of State Owen Paterson, the Shipping Minister and other key political players to visit N. Ireland’s remaining Coastguard in Bangor, Lady Hermon continued: “Mike Penning MP is due to visit Bregenz House later this week, when I will be pleased to have the opportunity to introduce him to both the First and Deputy First Ministers.  Whilst that meeting is scheduled to last only an hour, I suspect that it too will run over schedule, particularly as the Secretary of State will also be attending.”

“We know we have a fight on our hands to save Northern Ireland’s last remaining Coastguard Centre in Bangor, but it’s a fight that has brought together the collective will of the various political parties here.  Together, we are fighting to win”, she concluded.

February 17th, 2011

Penning’s Coastguard Visit Postponed

Speaking from the House of Commons late last night, North Down’s MP, Lady Hermon, reflected on the sudden turn of events, which have caused the postponement of Shipping Minister Mike Penning MP’s and the Secretary of State’s visit to Bregenz House in Bangor, the home of Northern Ireland’s only remaining Coastguard Centre.  With resignation in her voice, she said:

“Most regrettably, my plans for the Bangor Coastguard staff to explain the unique features of their work in N. Ireland to Shipping Minister Mike Penning and Secretary of State Owen Paterson on Thursday have now been thwarted by unexpected circumstances, one tinged with considerable sadness.

Immediately, after visiting the Coastguard in Bangor, the Secretary of State and Mr Penning had planned to visit the Belfast Harbour Commission.  Tragically, however, the Belfast Deputy Harbour Master, Michael Evans, lost his life in the awful Cork air crash last week, and his funeral is expected to take place on Thursday.  In these very sad circumstances, I can well understand why Mike Penning and Owen Paterson felt it inappropriate to proceed with their scheduled visit to the Commission on Thursday.

In addition, Mr Penning’s office has advised me that the Tory Whips refused to allow him and the NI Secretary of State off the Whip on Thursday.  At present, the House of Commons is in the process of so-called ‘parliamentary ping pong’ with the House of Lords over a key piece of Government legislation to reduce the number of MPs and also to introduce Alternative Voting (AV) for Westminster elections. 

Since the House of Lords made significant amendments to this very important Bill over the last couple of weeks, the Coalition Government is now determined to reverse these this week, before Parliament’s half-term recess.  I suspect that it is a game of numbers in that the Government wants as many of its MPs as possible voting against the Lords’ amendments in order to persuade the unelected House that the will of the Commons should prevail. 

Both Government Ministers have, however, assured me that their visit to the N. Ireland Coastguard Centre in Bangor will take place at the earliest possible opportunity.  Let’s hope the Whips don’t intervene next time. 

Despite these changes, I’m very pleased the visit to Bregenz House by the First and Deputy First Ministers is still going ahead on Thursday as planned.”

February 16th, 2011

MP Reflects on Visit to Donaghadee Lifeboat Station

Following her visit on Sunday to the Donaghadee Lifeboat Station and a trip afloat the all-weather Lifeboat, Saxon, North Down’s MP, Lady Hermon, reflected cheerily:
“I am full of admiration for the work of the RNLI, and felt really privileged – and very safe – going out with the crew of the Donaghadee Lifeboat last Sunday.  I enjoyed the experience so much that disappointment swept over me when we reached the harbour again, all too soon after leaving it!
“Saxon” is a hugely impressive Lifeboat with a highly-motivated and dedicated crew, and so it’s wonder the weather couldn’t dampen my spirits.”

February 10th, 2011

Hermon’s Tribute to Ranger David Dalzell

North Down MP, Lady Hermon, has paid warm tribute to her young constituent, Ranger David Dalzell of 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment, who was tragically killed on 4th February 2011 as a result of an operational accident while working in Check Point RANGER in Nad-e Ali, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
Speaking from her Bangor Constituency Office, Lady Hermon said: “I was profoundly upset when I heard the awful news that David (affectionately nicknamed ‘Diesel’) had been killed in a tragic accident in Afghanistan.  Even though he had only been in the Army for a relatively short time, ‘Diesel’ Dalzell had quickly been identified as a first-class soldier. 

The fact was, and remains, he absolutely loved his job in the Army;  he had true grit, where neither age nor fear were barrriers to his courage.  As his Commanding Officer said of David, “his bravery never wavered under fire.”  
To his parents, Gordon and Susie, his sisters Kelly, Catherine and Rachael and his brothers Gareth, Mark and Stewart, I send my deepest sympathy at this time of terrible grief, loss and heartache.  He will be sorely missed by all who loved and knew him best, and his devoted family, friends and Army colleagues have every right to be enormously proud of this outstanding young soldier.”

February 10th, 2011

Disposal of Portavo Reservoir Delayed

In conjunction with an on-line petition and the first of a series of public meetings, organised by Councillor Andrew Muir, to muster support in opposition to Northern Ireland Water’s proposal to sell-off Portavo Reservoir, North Down’s MP, Lady Hermon, has now received correspondence confirming that “…due to some minor outstanding legal issues which need to be resolved, NI Water has decided to defer placing Portavo Impounding Reservoir on the open market in 2011/12.”

Reflecting upon her letter from Mr Bill Gowdy, the Acting Director of Engineering Procurement for NI Water, Lady Hermon said: “Whilst I obviously welcome the additional breathing space for Portavo in terms of its proposed sale, I’m intrigued and a bit mystified by Mr Gowdy’s acknowledgement that this stay of execution …‘may provide an opportunity for interested parties to discuss the various options surrounding its sale.’

If all of us, who so strongly oppose the disposal of several of North Down’s reservoirs, including Portavo, are stymied by NI Water in our efforts to prevent such disposals, I cannot help but wonder whether, in light of Mr Gowdy’s words, we should actively canvass the RSPB and/or the National Trust to acquire Portavo Reservoir with its beautiful surroundings.”

Lady Hermon concluded: “Meantime, I’m awaiting a response from the DRD Minister Conor Murphy, whom I’ve urged to take our North Down reservoirs off the ‘For Sale’ list, because their disposal could have an adverse impact on our future water supply.  We saw all too starkly, during the recent prolonged and very bitter spell of wintry weather, that household water supplies were not secure.  We cannot tolerate a repetition of that misery for so many.”

February 10th, 2011