Senate President Claudius Francis has said that the standing orders give the Speaker of the House many options, which allows him to prevent a member to continuing his speech, but opposition Member of Parliament Guy Joseph maintains that he was not in breach of any standing orders.
While Francis did not offer to comment on the exchange between House Speaker Peter Foster and the Castries South East Member MP on Tuesday, he said that the speaker could have used at least three standing orders, given the nature of the debate and the issue he was confronted with.
He told HTS News Force that Standing Order 41 states: “The Speaker in the House and the Chairman in any committee shall be responsible for the observance of the rules of the House and Committee respectively and their decision upon any point of order shall not be open to appeal or shall not be reviewed by the house except upon a substantive motion made after notice.”
Francis explained that there are motions that could be made on the floor that does not require notice and others that requires notice, noting that the substantive motion requires notice and has to be put in writing for the approval of the presiding officer in the sitting at a subsequent meeting.
He said Standing Order 43 states: “The speaker after having called the attention of the house or the committee to the conduct of a member who persists in irrelevance or tedious repetition either of his own arguments or of the arguments used by other members in debate may direct the members to discontinue his speech and resume his seat.”
Further, in Section 43:2 it goes on to say: “The speaker shall order any members whose conduct is grossly disorderly to withdraw immediately from the house during the remainder of that days sittings. If the member refuses to withdraw the speaker may direct steps to be taken as necessary to enforce such order which includes the intervention of the sergeant of arms.”
However, Guy Joseph maintains that it was inappropriate for the speaker to engage him in a debate and stressed that his questions were relevant given that the government had earlier passed a motion seeking parliamentary guarantee for the project he was highlighting.
“I could not see how it was irrelevant, because I was highlighting what was in the contract and the speaker chose to explain to me what was in contract. I was simply saying that what is in the contract which says that 450 days from the commencement date of the project would be the completion date, and it says 450 days from the commencement date would be the end of the defects liability period.”
Joseph said the speaker never said that he was in breach of any standing orders. “The speaker never highlighted to me that I was in breach of the standing orders. What the speaker said to me is while I do not want to lecture you on law, but I need to tell you that your interpretation is wrong.”
The UWP MP said there is nowhere in the standing orders which gives the speaker the right to interrupt law for any member. “If I am saying something that is out of place, I would understand that the person with the motion, who is the Minister of Finance, may say to me, through the speaker, that my information is not in keeping with what the contract says. I don’t know the speaker has access to the contract.”
Further, the Castries South East MP said the speaker even demanded that he offer an explanation “quickly” in reference to his comment on the signatories of the contract being the permanent secretary and the contractor, who have the same surname.
“I mean since when the speaker will dictate at what pace I should be speaking in the house. I had just started my presentation and before I even started it looked like that speaker wanted me to end,” he concluded.