Speaker of the House of Representatives clarifies that she can’t change standing orders
Area Representative for Queen’s Square, Denise Sista B Barrow, has been consistently absent from the House Meetings in Belmopan. On one occasion, the government side of the House had called on the Speaker for a change in the standing orders that would force Barrow to attend meetings. Speaker of the House, Valerie Woods, clarified this week that changes in the standing orders are not up to her.
Valerie Woods, Speaker of the House of Representatives: “Let me get straight to one that comes to me all the time. A member, and in this case there is the particular member who has been absent. “Oh, the speaker should,…” and I’ve heard this said to both of you, “well we just need the speaker to amend the standing orders.” it doesn’t exist. When the person or member says that it suggests to me perhaps a lack of acquaintance with the standing orders. It doesn’t work like that. But let me say this. There has been a comprehensive effort both in the Senate and the House with the support of this Commonwealth Parliamentary Association based in the UK to review the standing orders of both chambers. There are draft standing orders that is literally being considered by the committee that looks at it. Now let me tell you this, that’s over ninety to a hundred pages. It’s a lot of detail because you’re taking a document from nineteen sixty-six for the most part which has not been amended, save and except for those additions like the Ombudsman Committee came on since then, the Joint Public Accounts, the women’s as well and the change to allow for hybrid sessions due to COVID, right? But save and except those largely it has not been amended. So for example, you have a standing order that refers to the clerk who has to personally deliver, hand deliver in this day and age packages when really a lot of this can be handled digitally. Now, technically, one can say if he didn’t do that, the standing orders wasn’t followed “I didn’t get it.” Right? Another one is the minutes must be signed off. Technically, if that’s not done, you can say that “well, there’s been no properly recorded minutes of the House and so forth. So there are a few things. Another thing that stands out back then chairpersons for the most part were chairmen. That’s not the case now. So in the House standing orders everything refers to a chairman when really in 2023 being gender neutral should be chairperson. I have caught myself because everything is, you know, by tradition. So these notes handed to the presiding offices would say “the chairman of the of the public works committee,” for example only to see that it’s a woman parliamentarian that stands up. So keep in mind thought these are decades of staff. Some staff have been there for over 20 years who that is just how it’s been done. So it’s taking a little bit time for them to also adjust to that as well.”