East Londonderry DUP Gregory Campbell and Warrington South Conservative MP David Mowat have once again criticised the cost of the Saville inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday on January 30, 1972.
Mr Mowat asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Northern Ireland, Dr Andrew Murrison, what assessment has been made of the value for money of the Saville inquiry, which was eventually published after many years of deliberations in June 2010.
He replied that no one could have anticipated that it would take 12 years to complete and cost more than £191 million but that it “produced the definitive account of the tragic events of that day, the value of which is very clear.”
The Warrington MP went on to claim that £191m would have paid for 10,000 nurses for a year or transformed a large part of the economy of Northern Ireland.
“It is clear that the Government completely failed to control the costs. Can the Minister confirm that never again will an inquiry be set up with no attempt whatever to control costs and that the relevant civil servants understand that as well?” he asked.
Dr Murrison replied: “Notwithstanding my remarks about the value of the inquiry, the Government have been clear that although each case will be considered on its merits, we should indeed resist further costly, open-ended inquiries.
“I note that the Inquiries Act 2005 will help in that regard.”
Mr Campbell responded to this by stating: “May I welcome the Minister to his new position?
“Does he agree that the taxpayer is still paying for the ongoing costs of the Saville inquiry - as a reply I received from the Secretary of State in the past few weeks made clear - 10 years after the last witness left the stand and after the £191 million was expended?”
Dr Murrison responed: “Yes, I can only say that the Saville inquiry was set up under the previous Administration, under rules that existed at that time, and that Lord Saville was given free rein - rightly - in his independent inquiry. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that, so many years after this began, the costs are still coming in.
“Nevertheless, the value of the Saville inquiry is clear, and we need to understand that.”
East Belfast Alliance MP Naomi Long said that in order to deal with the issues of the past in a more comprehensive way, momentum is required to take the discussions between the parties in Northern Ireland forward.
She asked Dr Murrison: “What role will the Northern Ireland Office play in trying to bring parties back together, when some have walked away from the challenge of dealing with the past in a comprehensive manner?”
He replied: “The hon. Lady is absolutely right that a long-term peaceful settlement relies entirely on co-operation between the parties.
“The Northern Ireland Office has done, and will continue to do, everything in its power to bring the parties together so that we can ensure a peaceful and prosperous future for the people of Northern Ireland.”