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Hayward: clarity needed about House comments

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A government backbencher said on Friday that there was “inconsistency” between a House of Assembly audio recording and an official written account of the sitting.

Jason Hayward claimed that “clarity” was needed about comments he made in Parliament on March 16.

The Progressive Labour Party MP told the House: “At that time, I did make a statement, ‘how dare a Member of this House refer to people of this country as being at the bottom of the earth?'

“I made the comments because I recalled hearing a Member [Patricia Gordon-Pamplin] refer to people as being on the lower spectrum of the earth.

“As an individual who has always stood for justice and has actively represented the people of this country for over a decade, I found the statement alarming.

“Since March 16, the Hansard has been produced and there is an inconsistency between what I recall hearing and what is recorded on the Hansard.

“I have had an opportunity to review the audio recording, which can be found on the parliamentary website, and there is also an inconsistency between the audio recording and the Hansard.

“If you review the audio recording at the time period — seven hours, seven minutes, 19 seconds — you clearly hear a Member referring to people as being at the lower spectrum of the earth.

“This statement was then corrected. However, the original sentence is not recorded on the Hansard, just the correction.”

The March 16 debate he cited was on the Payroll Tax Amendment Act 2020, in which workers earning $48,000 and below had their taxes cut from 4 per cent to 2 per cent.

Ms Gordon-Pamplin, the shadow finance minister, revisited the dispute on May 8, when she used the Hansard record to tell the House that she had been referring to relief for “people on the lower end of the earning spectrum”.

Mr Hayward questioned why The Royal Gazette highlighted the exchange in an article and an editorial.

He added: “I've been wondering if it's a deliberate attempt to tarnish my reputation or to create division.”

Lawrence Scott, the Government Whip, explained in the House on Friday that Hansard was “a written document of the sentiments of a parliamentary meeting, not a transcript of the sitting”.

He added that the rules allowed Members to “amend the Hansard to reflect the context of what they were trying to get across, not what they actually said”.

Mr Scott explained that his “biggest concern” was that “the first topic that a Member brings, to flag as an important issue” during the motion to adjourn in the first sitting after a period during which the coronavirus crisis gripped Bermuda, was to “talk about themselves, and something that happened to them two months ago, which people have probably forgotten”.

He added yesterday: “When I saw the opinion piece by the Editor, and using such words as ‘integrity', I had to say something because, and no disrespect, the integrity of that piece is in question because this is the first time that I'm being called.

“It's obvious that the Editor wasn't aware that it's not a transcript, that Hansard's not a transcript, it is a documentation. It's a document of the context of what was discussed, and he didn't know that Members could amend it, within reason.”

Mr Scott said that, on listening to the March 16 recording, he heard the word “earth”, but that it was corrected “almost like as soon as she finished saying it”.

He added that he believed “some people will hear ‘earth', some people won't”.

Ms Gordon-Pamplin said in the House on Friday that she “stood by” what was written in the Hansard account.

She explained: “I can say unequivocally that in the events of that particular day, at no time was any request made of me to change or clarify anything that was said on that day.

“So I can simply say that the Hansard, to me, represented exactly what I said and I am big enough to say that I did not go back and listen to the recording because one of the things that I do find is that when you come back with a recording and you transcribe it, you can then be accused of manipulating it to suit your own purposes — and that's just not what I'm about.”

The One Bermuda Alliance MP added that she would listen to the audio recording.

Dennis Lister, the Speaker, said later that he asked his “technical people ... to do a proper assessment of what was discussed”.

The Bermuda Parliament website explains: “Hansard is the official published verbatim report of the proceedings of the Legislature.”

Dexter Smith, the Editor of The Royal Gazette, said yesterday: “I stand by the editorial. Mr Scott has demanded a retraction and an apology in the Monday newspaper.

He should be careful what he asks for because he has only shone a more piercing and definitive light on his and Jason Hayward's culpability, the unintended consequences, if he were to be believed, being to invalidate the Hansard.”

Mr Hayward declined to comment further yesterday and Ms Gordon-Pamplin could not be contacted.

Jason Hayward, the Progressive Labour Party backbencher (File photograph by Akil Simmons)
Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, a One Bermuda Alliance MP (File photograph by Akil Simmons)
Lawrence Scott, the Government Whip, left (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published May 25, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated May 25, 2020 at 9:17 am)

Hayward: clarity needed about House comments

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