A heated verbal exchange over routine parliamentary procedure at the Legislative Assembly Thursday escalated to the point where the Opposition Leader told a Cabinet minister to ‘shut up.’
The exchange began when Opposition MLA Rolston Anglin asked Speaker of the House Edna Moyle why a question from government back bench MLA Lucille Seymour had been allowed since the information was already available in budget documents.
‘(Standing orders say) no question should be asked for which the answer can be found by reference to available official documents,’ Mr. Anglin said during the house proceedings.
Ms Moyle noted the statement by Mr. Anglin and apologised.
‘These things happen and I’m sorry,’ Ms Moyle said.
At that point, Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush interjected off microphone, without being called upon by the speaker.
‘Do you think you can do anything about getting the other one that should be answered answered?’ Mr. Bush asked. This was believed to be a reference to a question Mr. Bush had asked last week in the legislature’s finance committee about a government contract for the removal of scrap metal from the George Town Landfill.
Works and Infrastructure Minister Arden McLean had declined to answer the question asked in finance committee.
Following the off-mic statement by Mr. Bush both sides of the assembly started making remarks back and forth while Speaker Moyle attempted to carry on with the meeting.
At one point, Ms Moyle asked the opposition members to defer a parliamentary question by West Bay MLA Cline Glidden, who was not present. Mr. Bush stood up to make the motion and Mr. McLean could be heard speaking off-mic during the motion.
‘Madame Speaker I would like if the Minister of Road Works would shut up while I can talk to you,’ Mr. Bush said.
Mr. McLean did not do so, and continued to speak across the assembly floor prompting an outburst from Mr. Bush.
‘Why don’t you answer about Matrix (the company awarded the scrap metal removal contract) instead of telling lies about it?’ Mr. Bush said.
A member of the government bench, again off-mic, could be heard saying ‘yeah, like you’ in retort.
Off-mic conversations continued until Ms Moyle finally asked to be allowed to speak, and waited until the members had quieted before proceeding. She then asked for another parliamentary question from George Town MLA Lucille Seymour to be read.
Off-mic conversations started up again.
‘Could we allow the member to ask a question please, honourable members?’ Ms Moyle asked. ‘Honourable Leader of the Opposition could we allow the member to ask a question?’
‘I’m not talking to her ma’am,’ Mr. Bush said.
‘It’s difficult for me to speak, Madame Speaker,’ Ms Seymour said.
‘I’m asking members please to stay quiet so that the member can ask her question,’ Ms Moyle said.
Following Ms Seymour’s question concerning whether the law condoned not hiring pregnant women when they apply for a job, Employment Minister Alden McLaughlin said the Labour Law does not allow discrimination against pregnant women in the hiring process.
Mr. Anglin again asked whether the question should have been allowed.
‘I wonder if the minister (Mr. McLaughlin) could tell this house whether or not that law is a secret document and not available to all members?’ Mr. Anglin said.
‘I really don’t think that that’s a supplementary (question) – that’s a tongue-in-cheek,’ Ms Moyle said.