Speaker of the House Mary Lawrence has ordered legislators to stay in their appointed seats when voting in the Legislative Assembly.
Ms Lawrence was prompted to make a ruling on where members of the Legislative Assembly sit during divisions, in which each member’s name is called and their vote is recorded, after she noticed that not all members were in their usual seats when a vote on the Stamp Duty Bill was called Monday, 26 November.
“I would remind members that if you intend to vote in a division, you have to be in your own seat to do so. You cannot vote from any other seat in the House,” the speaker said.
Ezzard Miller, the independent MLA for North Side, asked the speaker to enlighten him as to which of the standing orders, which dictate the rules of the House, addressed where MLAs should be sitting when they vote. “I don’t recall that particular standing order,” he said.
Premier McKeeva Bush then stood to point out that it had been the convention and precedent of the Legislative Assembly for members to vote from their own seats, but he urged that there not be “a big contention over this because the vote is carried”. Pressed again by Mr. Miller on which standing order applied, Ms Lawrence called a recess while she went to research the issue. When she returned, she acknowledged that there was no specific standing order that says members are required to be in their own seats for a division, but that as her role was to maintain order in the House, she was making a ruling on the matter. “You cannot be running around like chickens and voting from every corner of this chamber when it is time to vote and so I am making the ruling … that you shall be in your seat when a division is taken if you wish to vote,” she said.
Later, Ms Lawrence pointed out that when there is nothing in standing orders to back up a particular order, one turns to Erskine Mays, the ultimate parliamentary rule book. Quoting from resolutions passed in 1698 and 1720 governing the rules of behaviour for members not speaking, she said members were ordered to keep their places.
“So if there is any doubt about the position of this House and of this chair, members will remain in their places … I have given latitude to members moving around for consultation. When it comes time to vote, please find your chair and vote from your chair. That is the correct procedure,” the speaker said.