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Speaker tells MPs to be ‘as statesmanlike as possible’

Warning: Dennis Lister, the Speaker of the House (File photograph)

MPs have been ordered to act in a statesmanlike manner and not use offensive or insulting language during debates in the House of Assembly.

The directive came from Dennis Lister, the Speaker of the House, at the opening of Friday’s session.

At the start of the session, Mr Lister said: “I would like to read a brief statement this morning. I will read as follows. I wish to remind honourable members to exercise restraint when speaking during debate and be as statesmanlike as possible.”

He acknowledged that members could get “very passionate and worked up at times” but stressed that under House of Assembly regulations dating back to 1911, politicians should refrain from “the use of offensive and insulting language which can bring the House into disrepute”.

“I would also like to remind members that although the matter relating to conflict of interest is not specifically addressed in our Standing Orders, Standing Order 50 speaks to rules not provided for.

“I wish to draw your attention to … a member is required to declare a relevant interest of whatever nature, whether direct or indirect that he may have.”

It followed comments made by the MP Derrick Burgess during the motion to adjourn in Parliament two weeks ago.

Exercising parliamentary privilege, Mr Burgess, who is also the Deputy Speaker, accused civil servants of using bully boy tactics and engaging in “threatening” and “shameful” behaviour.

Although Mr Burgess did not provide examples of such behaviour, The Royal Gazette reported claims by his granddaughter — businesswoman Shi-Vaughn Lee — that she was being “targeted” by officials after challenging the Government over its refusal to grant her Covid-19 social insurance relief.

During the same session, Mr Burgess also launched an attack on the Bank of Butterfield, claiming that it had shut down the accounts of four customers, including two Progressive Labour Party premiers.

Mr Lister denied that his warning had been issued in response to Mr Burgess’s tirade.

He said: “It was the fact that we are at the start of the Budget session and I just wanted to remind members to be mindful.

“It wasn’t anything particularly related to what was said earlier, but because of recent events I wanted to put members in the right frame of mind. Budgets can get very personal.“