Saturday, 9 July 2016

Why can't you say a Minister is Lying?


There  are ro thoughts running through my head when reading that  Plaid Cymru’s Neil McEvoy has been strongly reprimanded by Presiding Officer Elin Jones following a series of incidents where he has accused Carwyn Jones of misleading the National Assembly..
The first is that if a Minister or anybody in the Assembly Siambr  is clearly lying or misleading  AMs and the public, shunt an elected official have the right to say so
On the other hand we don't want the debates in the Assembly becoming a shouting match.
On several occasions since his election to the Assembly in May, Mr McEvoy has challenged the First Minister on the issue in the Senedd, in one instance calling him a liar.
Now Llywydd Elin Jones has written an email to her fellow Plaid AM, saying: 
“Although robust political debate is welcome, I expect all Members to behave in a consistently courteous and civil manner to one another, even when both sides are disputing evidence.
“I would ask you to guard against making any remarks in the Siambr [the Assembly’s debating chamber] which appear to call into question another Member’s integrity, or indeed endeavouring to create that impression.
"I hope you will bear this in mind when planning your future contributions to plenary.”
 When you are called to ask a supplementary question, you must do so.“You are not at liberty to digress in the way that you did [on Tuesday] – that is an abuse of being called to speak. The rules of conduct and debate in the Siambr are governed by Standing Orders.
“I have already dealt with the first key principle of these rules, that is that Members must at all times in their conduct promote respect for the Assembly and extend respect and courtesy to other Members.
“The other key principle is that Members must, at all times, comply – without argument - with any directions given by the Presiding Officer about conduct and order in plenary meetings.
“Members must not challenge the Chair during plenary but should deal with any questions or concerns in private.”
  “Both the Deputy Presiding Officer and I have been very patient because you are a new member, but this behaviour must not continue.“If you need any further assistance to help you to understand procedures, you only have to ask. My door is always open.
“I must warn you that I will impose sanctions if you continue to disregard these rules and procedures.”
 In a response to Ms Jones, Mr McEvoy wrote:

 “During the Fourth Assembly, the First Minister branded me a liar, using the term ‘blatant lie’.“I assume that the rules have now changed. I do call the First Minister’s integrity into question on the basis of fact.
“He denied making any such announcement about LDPs in 2012 during First Minister’s Questions recently.
“A simple apology or admission of an error would have sufficed. Instead, he is trying to re-write history.
“Where is the recourse to challenge this, if at this point I accept that I cannot call him a liar in the Chamber? This is an important democratic point.
“I debate in a robust manner, but keep to issues. [The] First Minister of all people was haranguing me during the debate on the ministerial code.
“He quite clearly shouted out that I was a ‘coward’. If the comment referred to a political action of mine, I would accept it as knockabout.
“However, there was no political context for the remark. It was simple abuse. What do you intend to do about this?”
Much of the debate in the Assembly Siambr  has been ruined by the First Minister simply not answering a question or being evasive ,

 It is similar to the practice at PMQ's at Westminster where the Prime Minister very rarely answers a direct and factual answer to questions from the opposition.

Surely members of both legislature should be able to point this out .

Maybe care should be taken in the language used we don't want slanging match.

But we don't want Ministers hiding under rules designed to ensure respectful debate.

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