Speaker says House rules on questioning need clarification

Speaker of the House of Assembly Halson Moultrie has called on the House Rules and Business Committee to “urgently” address a rule regarding question time.

Moultrie addressed the issue in a letter he wrote to Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis last month.

The speaker tabled the letter in the House yesterday after Centreville MP Reece Chipman queried if the House intended to follow the agenda outlined in the Rules of Procedure of the House of Assembly regarding the second Wednesday of the month.

Chipman said, “I just wanted to find out, in accordance with section 39 (2) of the rules book and this being the second Wednesday in the month, which order of business are we following?”

Rule 39 (2) of the House rules states that, “Unless the House determines otherwise, the House shall proceed to the following business on the second Wednesday in each month provided the House is sitting during that month.”

The rules then lists the agenda, which provides for question time, where members may question the government.

But rule 59(1) seems to make it mandatory for the question time to take place.

It states, “Question time shall be held on the second Wednesday of each month provided the House is sitting during the month and shall be for a duration of not more than 30 minutes.”

Moultrie agreed with Chipman and said the House must determine which order of business it intended to follow.

Leader of Government Business Renward Wells moved that the House continue with its normal agenda and not the agenda outlined for the second Wednesday of each month.

Garden Hills MP Brensil Rolle seconded the motion.

All four members of the opposition, Chipman and Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine voted against the motion.

The House then followed its ordinary agenda, with Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis leading debate on the Business Licence (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 2018.

During the debate, the speaker said he could hear members in their seats commenting on his ruling on the motion. Moultrie said he only carries out the rules of the House.

He said there is a need for action on the part of the House Rules and Business Committee.

“The modernization of the rules with respect to technology and social media in conjunction with eradication of ambiguities and contradictions from the rules must be the priority of the committee,” Moultrie said in his letter to Davis.

“There is much work to be done. I trust that all members now see the fixing of these problems as an absolute urgency and necessity.”

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Travis Cartwright-Carroll

Travis Cartwright-Carroll is the assistant editor. He covers a wide range of national issues. He joined The Nassau Guardian in 2011 as a copy editor before shifting to reporting. He was promoted to assistant news editor in December 2018. Education: College of The Bahamas, English

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