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Opposition MPs upset at rule change

Opposition MPs were annoyed on Monday when the Deputy Speaker said Ministers won't have to give out printed copies of their Budget speeches despite new rules making the House of Assembly more transparent.

Under normal circumstances, Ministerial Statements are now automatically available to MPs after House procedures were modernised last year.

However, those rules won't apply during the Budget, meaning Ministers aren't obliged to share their briefs as they read out reams of statistics during debates over the next two weeks.

United Bermuda Party MPs complain this makes it difficult for them to pick up key information released on a one-off basis by Ministers.

The Progressive Labour Party argues the Ministers are often reading from rough notes for their guide only, which should not be shared.

Veteran UBP MP John Barritt, who helped put the rule changes together before they were accepted by MPs last year, told the House: “We have adopted these rules. What rules do apply? This is totally wrong and unacceptable.”

Deputy Speaker Wayne Perinchief said both Whips, himself and Speaker Stanley Lowe had reached a consensus saying the new rules would not apply throughout the Budget.

“We have clearly, with the respective Whips, established that the Budget debate will not be governed by the new standing orders which in any case are provisional,” said Mr Perinchief.

“The briefs are notes for the Ministers and they are not going to be provided to Opposition members because we have never done that in the past; there's no precedent.”

Deputy UBP leader Trevor Moniz argued: “There was no such consensus.”

UBP Whip Cole Simons told

The Royal Gazette his party had never agreed to such a move.

But Government Whip Lovitta Foggo said: “It was clearly understood that the Ministers would not be providing any briefs unless they choose to do.”

Ms Foggo noted the UBP hadn't raised any complaints when Shadow Finance Minister Bob Richards spoke for two hours in his Budget Reply, despite time limits imposed by the new rules.

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Published March 02, 2011 at 9:11 am (Updated March 02, 2011 at 9:11 am)

Opposition MPs upset at rule change

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