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Cannonier resistant to fortnightly sittings

Craig Cannonier, the Opposition Leader

The decision to hold fortnightly House of Assembly meetings last month was not discussed with the Opposition, its head said yesterday.

Craig Cannonier, the leader of the One Bermuda Alliance, said there had been no dialogue about reducing the number of sittings of the House.

He added: “The Premier was quoted as saying that he thought his move to skip sessions was ‘supported by the Opposition and also the Speaker of the House’. He has not consulted me.”

Mr Cannonier was speaking after David Burt, the Premier, said last week that he had decided to have the House sit on just two Fridays in June instead of the normal sessions every Friday. Mr Burt said: “This is not the first time the House has missed Friday sittings, and I can assure you that it will not be the last.

Mr Burt continued: “I can put it down to efficiency. The fact is that we can get the same amount of business done sitting one day as we can two.

“I think that my move is supported by the Opposition and also the Speaker of the House.”

He added that legislation was “the only reason you actually have to go to the House of Assembly, if you’re going to change legislation”.

But Mr Cannonier said that more than just legislation was tackled in the House. He said: “There are reports, debates, and motion to adjourn, ministerial questions and Premier’s Question Time.

“These are things that are designed to help inform the people of Bermuda.”

Mr Cannonier said that a reduction in House sittings reduced the time for scrutiny.

He added: “We also seem to have abandoned protocol. The Premier talks of transparency and working together but he only stands up at the end of a sitting to tell MPs that there will be no session the following week. Even some of his own MPs have seemed surprised.”

Mr Cannonier said that a report from the Efficiency Committee tabled in May had not yet been debated.

He added that payments to Wayne Furbert, the head of the committee, that totalled $60,000 were revealed as a result of the question period.

Mr Cannonier said: “We are still waiting for answers about which other committee chairs were paid and how much.

“Is the Premier now trying to avoid giving answers? Does the Progressive Labour Party fear this kind of scrutiny?”

Dennis Lister, the Speaker of the House, did not respond to questions he was sent by press time yesterday.

To read Craig Cannonier’s statement in full, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”