Speaker wants Premier’s question time ‘in near future’
The Speaker of the House of Assembly said today he hoped to see the introduction of a parliamentary Premier's Question Time “in the near future”.
Randy Horton told members of Hamilton Rotary Club that the Legislature would benefit from a rigorous question-and-answer session similar to the one the British prime minister takes part in every Wednesday.
He added: “I wish also to provide members of Parliament with the opportunity to question Ministers regarding their portfolios. Currently, Ministers can be subjected to questions from other members of the House of Assembly only following a ministerial statement.”
Asked if the questions for the Premier and Ministers would have to be submitted by MPs in advance of the House session, Mr Horton said not.
“The [British] prime minister doesn't know what the questions are, though he spends hours trying to know what the questions are,” he said. “There were times when Tony Blair spent eight hours sometimes preparing for the half-an-hour period when they are going to ask questions.”
He said MPs were always trying to “trip up” the PM, hence the need for so much advance preparation.
The Progressive Labour Party MP told Rotarians that he envisioned the Premier and Ministers' question period being introduced in the future, along with:
* televised House of Assembly proceedings;
* a progressive Parliament with an invigorated committee structure, holding the executive to account, empowering backbenchers and providing better access to the public;
* full use of Sessions House so the public could have private access to meetings with MPs; and
* increased information and communication technology, leading to “greater participation, accountability and representation among citizens”.
Mr Horton, who became Speaker in February, said: “Of course, I am cognizant that our current economic climate mitigates against the introduction of some of these initiatives but we must keep them in sight.”
He said during his tenure he wished to see a “higher level of parliamentary debate and consistent unwavering scrutiny of the parliamentary process, in order to ensure the community gets the best possible return on its investment”.
“I wish to be remembered as a Speaker under whose leadership the operation of the House of Assembly consistently attained the standard excellence: in members' general deportment, in the standard of debate and in the quality of the legislation enacted.”
The Southampton West MP told the lunchtime meeting that citizens in democracies around the world expected more and more from their parliamentarians and were able to place them under intense scrutiny, thanks to new technology.
“Bermuda's Parliament is no exception in this regard. We must, therefore, bring our Parliament in line with current international standards. We must adjust to a new paradigm shift if we want to be effective in the 21st century.”
He pointed out that a committee had been appointed to examine the management structure and governance of Parliament and a Hansard verbatim record of parliamentary proceedings was now available to the public.
Useful website: www.parliament.bm.