Burt demands House Speaker own up to error’
Opposition Deputy Leader David Burt has called on House Speaker Randy Horton to admit he erred during a heated Parliament session on Friday night.
It ended abruptly after discussion on a motion to establish a joint select committee to look into immigration reform. Amendments by Attorney-General Trevor Moniz were then voted on without any debate.
Mr Burt stood to make a point of privilege, but Mr Horton called for Sergeant at Arms. Mr Burt and other PLP MPs subsequently marched out of the House, leaving the amended version of the motion to be passed by Government.
In a letter addressed to Mr Horton and passed on to the media, Mr Burt said he stood on four occasions, but was only recognised to speak once.
“The only time I was recognised was before a vote was ordered on the amendment to MP [Walton] Brown’s motion that had been put to the floor by the Attorney-General,” Mr Burt said. “I was recognised after you said, ‘We vote first’.”
In their exchange, Mr Burt asked Mr Horton what standing order prevented debate on an amendment before a vote — a question that Mr Burt said was never answered.
“After a few more speakers, you recognised the Attorney-General [Trevor Moniz] and said, ‘He will first make the amendment and then we will vote on the amendment’,” Mr Burt continued.
“At this point I again stood on a point of order.
“Again, I was not allowed to speak and you stated that, ‘There is no point of order now’. You refused to hear my point of order even though you had no way of knowing the content of my point of order.
“As per standing orders, a point of order is used to call attention to a breach of standing orders or to seek guidance.
“In this case, I wanted to be sure there would be a debate on the amendment before there was a vote on the amendment.”
Mr Burt wrote that the Speaker then recognised Mr Moniz, who proposed the amendment, to have the amendment reread and had the motion put to a vote before any debate on the amendment could take place.
“Before the ayes and nays were called, I rose to my feet on another point of order,” Mr Burt wrote.
“This was the third time I stood on a point of order. For the second consecutive time I was not recognised to speak and you said, ‘There is no point of order’, and you again ordered me to take my seat.”
After the vote was taken without debate, Mr Burt said he stood again on a question of privilege as he felt that his rights as an MP had been breached.
He continued: “Again, you refused to recognise me or even hear my question of privilege. Following your refusal to hear my question of privilege and after I had taken my seat, you called me by name to the Sergeant at Arms and said, ‘Mr Fox — Honourable Member Burt’.
“It was my assumption that this was meant for me to be named and removed from the House.
“Of course, there was no need for the Sergeant at Arms to remove me as I left the chamber of my own volition.”
Mr Burt noted Standing Orders which state that substantive amendments are debated before being brought to a vote and that MPs can make points of order to the Speaker of the House.
“I would hope that you accept that you were in the wrong,” Mr Burt said. “It is my expectation that on Monday, March 16, 2015, at the next sitting of parliament, you will take the opportunity to admit your error, in allowing the vote on the amendment to proceed without debate, to the Members of the House.
“Though I do not require a personal apology, I would hope that you will make it clear to the House that in the future you will hear points of order being made by Members prior to making a ruling on their point of order.
“Mr Speaker, should you not wish to admit your error in this regard or decline to assure Members of their right to be heard, please accept this letter as notice that pursuant to standing order 13(3)(a) I intend to raise this matter as a question of privilege on Monday, March 16, 2015, where I will lay out the above matters in full and ask for the House to make a ruling.”
An OBA spokesman last night described the letter as “deeply disrespectful” to the Speaker and called it a “self-serving ploy to shift blame”.
“The deplorable events of Friday evening and through the weekend are not isolated, but form part of an unacceptable pattern of behaviour and language set by Opposition Leader Marc Bean,” the spokesman said. “It is vital for the proper conduct of the people’s business that Members of Parliament abide by the rules and conventions of the Legislature.
“Central to those rules and conventions is for MPs to respect and abide by the rulings of the Speaker. It is, after all, his House and his rulings are final.
“This clearly was not the case on Friday evening, and again on the weekend when Mr Burt questioned the Speaker’s competence and his integrity.”
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