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Quarrel over Standing Orders

By CLINT CHAN TACK Wednesday, August 6 2014

click on pic to zoom in
Dr Keith Rowley...
Dr Keith Rowley...

The House was adjourned to August 11 at 10.30 am to debate the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2014. However Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley claimed this sitting was in violation of the House’s new Standing Orders, which were approved in July and went into effect on Monday.

Leader of Government Business in the House Dr Roodal Moonilal, insisted that the Standing Orders were not breached.

“Dr Rowley did not study the new Standing Orders. He is negligent,” Moonilal said. He argued that Standing Orders 11, 13 and 14 “provides for the Parliament meeting during the vacation break period to undertake debate on matters critical to the Government’s agenda. “Rowley should have objected at the adjournment...he was asleep again,” quipped Moonilal.

In response, Rowley asked, “When was I supposed to study the Standing Orders?” He said copies of the new Standing Orders were presented to MPs in envelopes in the House, at the same time the bill was laid.

Noting that Moonilal adjourned the sitting shortly after Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar laid the bill, Rowley said, “Members would have seen it after they opened their envelopes. The action is forbidden by the Standing Orders.” Rowley reiterated that Government has been shown to be in violation of the Standing orders, “and must be corrected and Parliament must comply with its own written procedures.” He added, “no motion was put to the floor to waive the Standing Orders.”

Diego Martin North/East MP Colm Imbert, who was Leader of Government Business in the House under the former PNM administration, explained, “Standing Orders 11, 13 and 14 when invoked together do allow for a sitting in August, but only when the procedure outlined in Section 13 is followed.” Imbert said this was not done on Monday.

Standing Order 11 reads, “Subject to these Standing Orders, the House shall meet on Fridays and every adjournment of the House shall be to the next Friday unless the House on a motion moved by a Minister, without notice, decides to adjourn to another day. No debate shall ensue on such a motion.”

Standing Order 13 (1) states, “If at any time when the House is adjourned pursuant to its own order, the Speaker is satisfied that there is urgent necessity for the House to meet upon a day to which the House stands adjourned, he may subject to the provisions of paragraph two of this Standing order, direct the Clerk to summon a meeting of the House for such time and on such day, whether Friday or otherwise as the Speaker may determine.”

Standing Order 13 (2) states, “ Every direction under paragraph one of this Standing Order shall be in writing and shall be signed by the Speaker and shall bear the date upon which it is given to the Clerk and shall specify the business to be transacted at the meeting to which it relates.” Standing Order 13(3) states, “Immediately upon receipt of any direction under paragraph two of this Standing Order, the Clerk shall inform every Member of the House, personally if practicable, of the day and hour appointed by the Speaker for the holding of the extraordinary sitting of the House and of the business to be transacted at such sitting.”

Standing Order 13 (4) states, “Except by leave of the House, no business other than the business specified in the direction under paragraph two of this Standing Order shall be transacted at any extraordinary sitting of the House. At the conclusion of the business, unless the House has otherwise decided, the House shall stand adjourned without question being put to the day to which it had originally been adjourned at its last sitting.”

Standing Order 14, which deals with the issue of fixed recess of the House, reads, “Notwithstanding Standing Order 11 (meeting days), unless there are urgent or extraordinary reasons for doing so, no sitting of the House of Representatives shall be held from the first week in the month of July to the first week in the month of September in any year.”

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