Ten minutes had not passed in fifth meeting of the 2004/2005 Session of the Legislative Assembly on Thursday before the Opposition took exception to aspects of the proceedings.
Deputy Leader of Government Business Gilbert McLean moved for the suspension of Standing Order 21, which mandates that questions to ministers and members of cabinet be submitted to the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly at least 10 full days before the House convenes.
East End MLA Arden McLean then asked Gilbert McLean to explain the reason for the suspension of the Standing Order. He also asked the Deputy Leader of Government Business what the new deadline for questions was.
‘The decision was taken by the Business Committee to give Members up until Wednesday of next week to submit questions to the Parliament,’ Gilbert McLean responded.
Mr. McLean said that a letter went out last Friday giving the dates of when members must submit question and motions to the House.
A similar suspension of the Standing Order 24(5), which mandates that motions must be submitted to the Clerk five clear days before the house convenes, was also moved in the House.
Gilbert McLean said that the five full days started from the date of the letter, which meant Members had until Friday to present their motions.
Disagreeing, Arden McLean said the decision to suspend the Standing Order could not be taken by the Business Committee, and only by the House itself.
As such, Mr. McLean suggested there was no authority to issue the letter that had been sent out and that the five days and 10 days respectively for the submission of questions and motions commence upon the passing of the motion of the suspension of the Standing Order.
Gilbert McLean pointed out that the Clerk had been requested to send out the letter.
‘We were sure we could suspend the Standing Orders,’ he said, referring to the Government’s supremacy in numbers. ‘Now we have to start of here wrangling over this ridiculousness.’
Before Arden McLean or any other Opposition could respond, Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, who was filling in for the absent-with-apologies Linford Pierson, said there was no procedural provision that allowed them to question the motion and further.
The motion to suspend the Standing Orders then passed by a 9-4 vote.
Afterwards, MLA Alden McLaughlin said the Opposition’s stance was not taken because they did not want more time to submit question and motions.
‘What we were trying to say, but weren’t allowed, was that we objected to the short notice we received of house sitting in the first place,’ he said.
The notice that the House would convene was sent out last Friday, precluding the submission of questions and motions without the suspension of Standing Orders.