We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Brexit: Hidden OFMDFM Paper

Oral Answers to Questions — The Executive Office – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 3rd October 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Nichola Mallon Nichola Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party 2:30 pm, 3rd October 2016

T1. Ms Mallon asked the First Minister and deputy First Minister why the First Minister kept the Brexit research paper, which was produced before the referendum, hidden from the people of Northern Ireland. (AQT 256/16-21)

Photo of Arlene Foster Arlene Foster DUP

I am very pleased that the Member has asked that question today, because I want to put a few things on the record.

First, the paper was not commissioned by me, and it was not commissioned by my predecessor. It came to my attention only when a freedom of information request came in earlier this year. The document was not seen by me. Just today, I spoke to the head of the Civil Service. He had been on leave for a time, and it was my first opportunity to speak to him in order to get the bottom of the issue. When I asked him why it had not been brought to my attention, he said, "Well, I wouldn't have brought it to your attention, as it was not completed". Yet, somehow, the document has become something that I stopped going out, for some reason. It never came to me; nor did it come to my predecessor. It was initiated by the head of the Civil Service. I would have thought that Members opposite, despite the fact that they are in the Opposition, would know full well that civil servants, from time to time, commission and pass around papers between them, but it is not something that came to my desk.

Photo of Nichola Mallon Nichola Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party

Will the First Minister confirm whether the deputy First Minister suggested publishing the report, or at least sharing it with other Executive colleagues, as outlined in an interview with the BBC?

Photo of Arlene Foster Arlene Foster DUP

I did not hear the interview and what the deputy First Minister had to say, but the document certainly did not come to me. I will let the deputy First Minister answer on whether the document came to him. I am not aware of it having gone to him, but it certainly did not come to me. It was written, as I understand it, by two civil servants in the Department's European policy branch. It was not initiated by a Minister; it was initiated inside the Civil Service. Everybody needs to calm down about this so-called Brexit paper.