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Premier scolds PLP after Speaker vote

Premier Michael Dunkley

The Progressive Labour Party’s motion of censure against Speaker of the House Randy Horton was defeated in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The final vote, which took place at 1am, saw all MPs present in the chamber vote along party lines resulting in the motion being defeated by 17 votes to 15.

After the vote Mr Horton returned to his chair and presided over the last hour of the sitting before Parliament was adjourned until August 17.

At the end of the evening, Premier Michael Dunkley scolded Opposition MPs for the un-Parliamentary language during the debate.

Yesterday he told The Royal Gazette: “The Opposition’s motion of censure against the Speaker was first put down on the Order Paper on March 16, four months ago.

“In the time since, I have called on Opposition Leader Bean and his team to proceed with the motion. I did so repeatedly because to keep it hanging on the Order Paper from week to week and then month to month was not just an affront to the integrity of the House of Assembly but an affront to integrity of the Speaker himself.

“As for Friday’s debate on the censure motion, I have never in my time as an MP heard a more poorly made argument, from start to finish.

“After four months of preparation, not one Opposition speaker advanced a concrete argument that justified the motion. Indeed, some of their speakers rubbished core elements of the motion while they spoke, prompting Government MPs to wonder just what was going on with the members opposite.

“All in all, the Opposition’s handling of this episode has raised questions once again about its leadership and its priorities. There are better ways for the Legislature to spend its time. We did not let the censure motion distract us from the important work we have.

“We voted it down and then tabled the St George’s Resort Act 2015 to make for a productive finish to the day.

“It is my hope that MPs and Senators will use this episode constructively to get on with the people’s business and nothing but the people’s business when they meet again.”

However Michael Scott, the Shadow Attorney General, who brought the motion, defended the Opposition’s conduct.

“I believe the motion was brought with as much integrity as it could have been,” he said. “There were unprecedented interruptions and interventions during the debate and that is a shame.

“We felt there was a clear case that supported and sustained the details of the motion and because Mr Horton later apologised for his actions on the day in question we believed we were able to prove the motion.

“We believe the motion should have been carried.”

The censure motion prompted nearly six hours of fiery debate in the House of Assembly on Friday night with Opposition MPs levelling accusations that Mr Horton was in collusion with the Bermuda Government.

Some went even further claiming Mr Horton had made a blackmail allegation against Marc Bean, Leader of the Opposition, because Mr Bean had threatened to reveal that he had accepted a payment of $45,000 from Nathan Landow.

Suzann Roberts-Holshouser, the Deputy Speaker, had to repeatedly tell MPs from both sides of the floor to stick with the terms of the motion that was brought by Michael Scott, the Shadow Attorney General.

The motion itself related to Mr Horton’s handling of an immigration debate back in March that ended with David Burt, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, being ejected from the chamber and a walkout by the PLP.

Mr Horton later admitted that “with reflection and the benefit of hindsight” he should not have hurried the motion that prompted Mr Burt’s objections.

Mr Scott accused Mr Horton of systematic mismanagement, telling MPs that the charge against Mr Horton of bringing the Parliament into disrepute extended to numerous other issues that have roiled the House.

Trevor Moniz, the Attorney-General, rose next, likened the walkout to “a family spat among colleagues here in the House”.

Other OBA MPs including Shawn Crockwell, the Minister of Tourism Development and Transport, and Grant Gibbons, the Minister for Economic Development, also backed Mr Horton

Walton Brown, the Shadow Minister of Home Affairs, said that he had been present, with Opposition Whip Lovitta Foggo, when Mr Bean had met with the Speaker in his chambers, telling Mr Horton he had information that was “gravely disconcerting” and calling on the Speaker to resign.

Mr Brown said he had been surprised to later hear that Mr Horton had accused Mr Bean of blackmail.

Grant Gibbons, Minister of Economic Development, said the motion was politically motivated and not a good use of the House’s time.

Calling Mr Horton a patient Speaker, Dr Gibbons said that behaviour in the House had “dropped to a new low” and told the Opposition to “suck it up” when they could not get their own way.

PLP MP Jamahl Simmons told the House the Speaker’s error was either a result of incompetence “or something else”, questioning why the OBA were “so protective of the Speaker”.

Mr Crockwell said that there had been Opposition “animus” against Mr Horton since he became Speaker because as a PLP member it affected the numerical balance of the House.