Government legislator Delroy Chuck on Tuesday rushed to the defence of House Speaker Juliet Holness as she continued to be pressured by the Opposition to share the Attorney General’s opinion on how reports are to be tabled in the Parliament.
For several weeks members of the Opposition have been insisting that the Speaker share this opinion, which was sought as a result of discussions regarding the manner in which reports from the Integrity Commission (IC) and the Auditor General’s Department are tabled and what pertains in the Standing Orders.
Just a few minutes into the sitting of the House on Tuesday, Leader of Opposition Business Phillip Paulwell again asked that the advice of the Attorney General on the matter be provided.
However, Chuck quickly responded to the request, stating that he has been watching the “to and fro” on the matter and insisted that it is not appropriate for the Speaker to be incessantly interrogated about the issue.
“It doesn’t look good for you to be interrogating a Speaker inside of Parliament. You undermine the integrity of the Speaker when you start interrogating her in this case; it’s not good,” Chuck said.
“I don’t think it is appropriate… asking the Speaker why you’re not doing this, when are you going to share [an] opinion… If the Speaker does not provide it, that’s the end of the matter… because the ruling of the Speaker is final,” he said to objections from Opposition members.
He suggested that if members have a dispute with the Speaker’s rulings “we go back to the Standing Order or, in the case of the IC, we go back to the IC and change them. Parliament can do that”.
Chuck, who was acting as Leader of Government Business for Tuesday’s proceedings, insisted that the House move on from the matter, but this was met with disapproval by the Opposition.
Opposition member Julian Robinson, who rose on a point of order, objected to Chuck “imputing motive in relation to comments from this side, which I believe to be totally out of order”.
Robinson said he did not agree that the fact that, because questions have been raised, the acting House Leader would consider it as challenging the Speaker.
“These are fundamental issues about how the Parliament operates, and in that regard we have our right to know what the opinion is, and that is what we are asking, and that opinion has not been shared,” he said.
He reminded the House that the whole issue arose when he had challenged former Speaker Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert on a ruling she made on the tabling of reports, which was in contravention of regular proceedings.
“She indicated she would seek the advice of the Attorney General on the matter. Having sought the opinion of the Attorney General she didn’t do so in a private capacity, she sought it because there was a dispute about how matters of this nature should be dealt with. Now, having made a ruling, which you have, you should share with us the opinion of the Attorney General, so that we can understand the thinking behind the ruling,” Robinson argued.
“We have an opinion from the Government’s chief legal advisor, and that opinion should be shared with us. The decision that you have made goes against years of convention of how matters should be dealt with in the House. Now, having done that, I am saying share with us the thinking, the advice provided by the Attorney General, so we can understand the conclusion that you have come to,” he said.
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