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Mum on casting vote

By SEAN DOUGLAS Tuesday, August 26 2014

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IN THE CHAIR TODAY: Senate Deputy Vice-President James Lambert, who will preside at today's sitting of the Senate during debate on the Constitution (A...
IN THE CHAIR TODAY: Senate Deputy Vice-President James Lambert, who will preside at today's sitting of the Senate during debate on the Constitution (A...

SENATE vice-president, James Lambert, yesterday played his cards close to his chest over how he might direct his casting vote as Acting Presiding Officer in the event of a tied Senate in today’s debate on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014.

A deadlock could arise if all nine Independent Senators joined the six Opposition Senators to reject the bill, to exactly counterbalance the weight of all 15 Government Senators voting for the bill, in which case the Presiding Officer’s casting vote would decide the bill’s fate.

Newsday asked Lambert what he would do.

The TT Parliament follows the Westminister system, whose presiding officers follow “Speaker Denison’s Rule”, a 19th century Westminster convention as to how the Speaker uses his casting vote in the event of a tie.

The principle is to vote for further debate, or, where no more debate is possible, to vote for the status quo, and thus against a new proposal. The reasoning is that change should only occur if an actual majority vote in favour of change.

Newsday asked Lambert if in the event of a tie, how he would use his casting vote, such as to maintain the status quo and oppose the bill?

“I don’t intend to make a comment on that,” replied Lambert. “My job is to preside over it, in accordance with the Standing Orders. I want to be neutral, and see what develops.”

He declined to reply to Newsday’s query as to whether a Presiding Officer is bound by convention/standing orders to vote against a bill in a tied House. “I don’t want to make a comment,” he said.

Newsday pressed. He replied, “It’s the prerogative of me to read the Standing Orders, and what it says. I can’t do anything outside of what is expected.”

How you expect an historic debate to be?

“To me it’s normal. I’ve presided over several occasions; I don’t anticipate it’ll be any different.” He assured he was “up to” the debate, which he expected to be lively. “The debate will be healthy. I will maintain good order in the debate. The nation will be looking forward to a very healthy-debate.”

Those obeying Speaker Denison’s Rule to vote against their own governments, include former senate presidents Danny Montano, Dr Linda Baboolal and the late Ganace Ramdial, plus current president Timothy Hamel-Smith.

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