PLP and OBA trade barbs over farcical ending of House sitting
The newly appointed Government whip has claimed the farcical ending to the House of Assembly on Friday was due to a “PR stunt” by One Bermuda Alliance.
However the Opposition hit back, insisting the “arrogant” Government was not present in “grown-up land”.
Friday’s session of the House of Assembly had to be abruptly ended as the number of MPs present was below the figure – or quorum – needed to debate legislation under parliamentary rules.
As the highly unusual situation developed, Dennis Lister, the Speaker, publicly urged absent members to “put their sneakers on and run” to the chamber.
When the needed number of MPs – 14 out of 36 – failed to appear in the required time span of five minutes, the Speaker adjourned the House, which meant high profile pieces of legislation regarding the minimum wage and immigration were left on hold.
Neville Tyrrell, who was appointed Government whip under David Burt last month, appeared to try and place the blame on the OBA, although he did say that he will be speaking with PLP MPs to ensure there will always be the required numbers present in House.
The ruling PLP has 30 members of the House of Assembly, compared with six for One Bermuda Alliance.
Mr Tyrrell stated: “The Opposition whip called for a quorum in the House of Assembly.
“At the time of the call there were 11 PLP MPs in the House and only one OBA MP, as the other two OBA MPs who were present after lunch left right before the OBA whip called for a quorum and didn't return when the Speaker called for a quorum.
“As is normal, a number of ministers had engagements during the lunch period such as the Premier who was still meeting with residents of St David's at the time the OBA whip called for a quorum.
“It is unfortunate the OBA's planned PR stunt led to a delay in passing important legislation related to the minimum wage today, but we will return next week to complete the business of the Government.
“As the newly elected Government whip, I take this matter seriously and will be speaking with all members of my parliamentary caucus to ensure that despite the political games that may be played by the Opposition, we will always have the required numbers present to advance the Government's legislative agenda.”
Some senior members of the PLP have expressed concerns about Mr Tyrrell’s handling of the situation, The Royal Gazette understands.
Jarion Richardson, OBA deputy leader, said the PLP was “doubling down on their arrogance”.
He said: “This isn’t a stunt, it’s about living in grown-up land. I am sure it is embarrassing for them, both on a party, and individual level, but the job of the Opposition is to hold the Government to account.
“Trying to blame the Opposition for their own deficiencies just shows the PLP is doubling down on its own arrogance.”
Urging MPs to return to the chamber on Friday, Mr Lister said: “Members who are in the listening audience, in the listening ear, if you are not present, I suggest you put on your sneakers and run to this direction.”
The Speaker told Mr Tyrrell: “You have got five minutes to get your members in here.”
The incident meant that two Bills – one impacting on the minimum wage, and another dealing with overstays by visitors – the Employment (Minimum Hourly Wage Entitlement) Act 2022 and the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Amendment Act 2022, had to be put on hold until next week.
The House of Assembly is set to reconvene on Friday