Horton and Burgess clash over procedure in House

  • Speaker of the House Randolph Horton

    Speaker of the House Randolph Horton

A squabble over parliamentary procedure saw the same half-hour of Budget presentation read out twice in the House of Assembly.

Speaker of the House Randy Horton was thwarted in his attempt to present briefs on non-Ministry Departments.

Announcing that he was “starting a precedent in the process of democratising our Parliament”, Mr Horton began to address budgeting for the Governor and staff before Committee of Supply chairman Rolfe Commissiong.

Deputy Opposition Leader Derrick Burgess protested: “Bermuda’s parliament is one of the oldest in the British Commonwealth. The Speaker can’t sit here and take part in debate — he is not a Minister; he is a Speaker.”

Responding “this is different”, Mr Horton said the new move was in keeping with best international practices.

Mr Commissiong said that, in the absence of hard and fast rules, Mr Horton could continue, presenting on Government House, the office of the Auditor General and on the Parliamentary Registrar.

With “gratitude and pride”, Mr Horton spoke on, saying it was important for the departments to be shown operating independently of Cabinet.

Shadow Attorney General Kim Wilson rose next on a point of information.

After consulting the handbook ‘Erskine May: Parliamentary Practice’, Ms Wilson noted that the Speaker could not participate in any debate, either in the House or in Committee.

Mr Commissiong conceded: “This has been a very trying 25 minutes … I feel like I have been thrown into the deep end, but I am here and decisions must be made.”

Ruling that the book of procedure precluded Mr Horton from taking his role on the floor, Mr Commissiong offered a “happy compromise”.

Premier Craig Cannonier would advance the Budget items while Mr Horton retired to his chambers, he said.

Public Works Minister Trevor Moniz interjected: “I thought both sides of the House had agreed to this.”

Said Mr Horton: “I am prepared to revert to the status quo. I had meetings prior to this with the Opposition and with Government. It was agreed I would move forward; under the circumstances, I will move back.”

Mr Burgess retorted: “I didn’t know anything about it.”

The clock was restarted, with Mr Cannonier reading the briefs from the beginning.

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Published Mar 7, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated Mar 7, 2013 at 12:34 am)

Horton and Burgess clash over procedure in House

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