Simpson Miller again says no to impromptu questions
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
For a second consecutive week, the parliamentary Opposition has attempted to have Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller answer oral questions in the House of Representatives.
Like she did last week, Simpson Miller, through the leader of government business, Phillip Paulwell, said she would not answer questions unless the minimum seven days' notice is given.
Leader of Opposition Business Delroy Chuck, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, and South West St Catherine Member of Parliament (MP) Everald Warmington all pressed Simpson Miller to consent to answering.
They said based on the Standing Orders which govern the House, the prime minister is obliged to answer oral questions on the second Tuesday of every month.
"On the second Tuesday, which is today, I would like to ask of the prime minister two questions, which she could answer now, or with seven days' notice could answer," Chuck said.
House Speaker Michael Peart challenged the Opposition's interpretation of the Standing Orders.
"That is not the proper procedure," the speaker said.
Chuck, an attorney, however, referenced Standing Orders 17(b), which said there shall be a question time on the second Tuesday in each month in relation to matters of national importance.
"This time, on the second sitting, there are usually oral questions," Chuck said.
But Peart said that, " ... Prime Minister Golding made some adjustments at his behest, which did not conform to the Standing Orders, but we accepted it. The standard practice is for notice to be given when asking questions, whether of a minister or the prime minister."
The Opposition protested. But the matter was only settled when government MP Patrick Atkinson rose and made an intervention.
"There seems to be a lot of confusion between Section 15 and Section 17. Section 15 deals with the manner in which the questions may be asked and the timing for the questions. [Section] 17 deals with the answers. [Section] 17 obviously must presume that the questions were asked in accordance with [Section] 15," Atkinson, the attorney general, said.
Former PM Golding had opted to take oral questions on the day they were asked.
The Standing Orders Committee had also recommended that the practice become part of the rules which govern the operations of the House, but the recommendations were never adopted by the House.