The uproar which took place recently in the Jamaican Parliament, which of course you would have read about here, actually originated with a question being asked by the Member from North West St. Elizabeth J.C. Hutchinson, of Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke. It has been accepted by all concerned that the Standing Orders of Parliament were breached during the resulting pandemonium (and how!) But what do the Standing Orders actually say?

The Standing Orders of the House of Representatives (there are separate Standing Orders for the Senate) have very detailed provisions governing how questions should be asked of Cabinet Ministers.

In the first place, section 14 states that a question can be put to a Minister in relation to any subject within his area of responsibility.

The way in which those questions may be asked, however, is strictly regulated.

Let’s take a look at section 16. This provides that:

–       The right to ask questions is subject to some general rules. The sole judge of the interpretation of those rules is the Speaker.

–       Questions may be asked to get information on a question of fact within the Minister’s portfolio, or to ask for official action.

–       Questions are not to include the names of any persons or any statements of fact, unless they are necessary for the question to be understood.

–       If a question contains a statement of fact, the Member asking the question is responsible for its accuracy.

–       No question can be based on a newspaper report or unofficial publication.

–       Members are not to address the House upon a question, and a question is not to be the pretext for a debate.

–       Each question should only refer to one subject and questions are not to be excessively long.

–       Questions are not to contain arguments, inferences, opinions, imputations, epithets, hypothetical questions or ironical expressions

You can also check out my first post on the Standing Orders.

Next Time – what kinds of questions are not permitted