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Simons withdraws remarks about Premier

Cole Simons, the Opposition Leader (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A parliamentary row resulted in the Opposition leader withdrawing remarks accusing David Burt of being out of touch owing to the “growth of his personal wealth” in recent years.

Cole Simons, One Bermuda Alliance leader, came under fire from government MPs after he made the comments in his Reply to the Budget.

Mr Simons later withdrew the statement after being directed to do so by Dennis Lister, the Speaker of the House.

The OBA leader sparked criticism when he told MPs: “When it comes to the accumulation of wealth in Bermuda, the Premier’s bullish and sunny outlook for our economy next year may have been driven by the growth of his personal wealth, but for the average working-class person and even members of this honourable House, they have not seen or enjoyed the same accumulation of wealth during the last ten years.”

Referring to the comments, one government MP used the term “defamatory” in the chamber.

When the session resumed after lunch, Mr Simons withdrew the remarks, telling MPs: “There was no ill intent in my comment.”

Referring to the Premier, Mr Simons said: “He may be doing well, but others aren’t.”

Mr Lister told the House: “I spoke with him during the break, he acknowledged the intent did not come across in the way that he intended, and he wished to clean it up.”

The Speaker added: “I remind Members that our tone should always be one that stays on a higher ground, rather than a lower ground.”

During the break in the parliamentary session, Mr Simons told The Royal Gazette: “I may have said it incorrectly, but all I meant was his life may be going on well, where other people are struggling.”

Jason Hayward, Minister of Economy and Labour, criticised the Opposition leader over the way he phrased the withdrawal of his comments to MPs.

Mr Hayward said that the Opposition leader’s remarks were “beneath” the standards of the House of Assembly.

He added: “In his conclusion, he closed with equally disrespectful remarks that breach standing orders.”