Tuesday, May 21, 2019
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A breach of the rules of the House

Dear Editor,

There was a breach of the Rules of Procedure of the House of Assembly on Wednesday (May 1) that apparently went unnoticed by members. I draw attention to it because it should not be regarded as regular or as a precedent.

It happened while the House was dealing with reports of committees. Opposition leader Philip Brave Davis, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), presented a majority report from that committee dealing primarily with a controversial ruling made by former Speaker Dr. Kendal Major when the PLP was the majority.

The ruling by Major is to the effect that only documents before the House can be inquired into by the PAC. But now that they are in opposition, the PLP clearly wants to get around that ruling and examine documents that have not yet been presented to the House. That was the case Davis was trying to make in his majority report.

After reading his report, Davis attempted to comment on a minority report that had not yet been presented to the House. Speaker Halson Moultrie rightly stopped him from speaking at that point and called on the FNM’s Michael Foulkes to present the minority report signed by himself and Adrian Gibson.

In the minority report, Foulkes made what appeared to be an airtight case to the effect that the PAC with a PLP majority was still bound by the ruling of Major as the PAC with an FNM majority was, and that the ruling did indeed restrict the PAC to examining only documents before the House. He also pointed out that there were 21 audited reports before the House but that the majority had shown no interest in examining these.

It was at this point that the speaker made a mistake. Because the next item in the order of business was adoption of reports, the speaker decided to invite a motion there and then for adoption of reports so that Davis could move for the adoption of his report and debate the matter.

It was wrong to call for or to allow a motion for the adoption of a report presented at a sitting of the House at the same sitting. The speaker should have waited for notice of adoption of the report at the next meeting.

In the event, Davis missed his cue to speak on the motion. The majority report was rejected and the House voted to adopt the minority report.

Because he had promised him an opportunity to speak, Moultrie nevertheless still called on Davis to speak after the motion was disposed of, which is irregular, but Davis again declined.

– Diogenes

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