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Senator is critical of lack of time given to the Opposition in Budget debate

Opposition Senate Leader Jeanne Atherden has criticised Government for leaving little time for debate, calling it a “deliberate attempt so that questions are not asked”.

Senator Jeanne Atherden said this had become a “pattern” particularly in areas where there is a concern in regards to spending.

Speaking after a Budget debate of the Ministry of Health, she said: “Today we were left with four minutes to debate health which is one of the biggest issues when it comes to spending and expenditure.”

She said the Cabinet offices with lots of consultants in those departments were discussed, but there was limited time for Opposition or Independent Senators to ask questions and get answers to their queries.

According to Sen Atherden people have been concerned about how much money has been allocated to consultants and whether the spending cuts in this area will actually result in benefits to Bermuda.

“When you get only a minute or two left when its supposed to be the Opposition debate it raises questions on whether the rules themselves have to be looked at so when the debate is set there is more than a few minutes for us.”

Sen Atherden said Senators could better utilise time by summarising their information.

“If they believe they have a story to tell, they can tell it outside of the Senate. This is supposed to be a Budget debate so there can be questions raised,” she added.

“The reason I am really annoyed at this is because we have an economic debate and this is time we allocate at specific heads to account for the money and how it was spent so people can be sure we can get results for them about money and that there is not the overspend.”

She said this process was important in ensuring that Government stayed within the original spending limits, rather than revising the Budget as time goes on.

“We are going into debt for some things that are supposed to be controlled costs,” she added.

Sen Atherden said in the past some of the Government Senators gave out Ministerial briefs in advance.

She said it seemed like when they weren't given out the Senators “read so slowly you have to believe this is a deliberate attempt so that questions are not asked” .

The Royal Gazette invited Government Senators to respond, by press time last night there was no response.

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Published March 24, 2011 at 9:59 am (Updated March 24, 2011 at 9:59 am)

Senator is critical of lack of time given to the Opposition in Budget debate

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