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BERMUDA: ASSESSING PARLIAMENT


Left: The flag of Bermuda; This page: The Parliament building in Hamilton


There is a difference between the two Houses, in that the President of the Senate can contribute during deliberations, and can vote alongside his/her peers. The Speaker, on the other hand, cannot take part in House of Assembly debates, and can only vote in the event of a tie.


All proceedings of both Houses are open to the public, and are also broadcast gavel-to-gavel on the radio. The House of Assembly meets once a week on Fridays; while the Senate meets once a week on Wednesdays. Both Houses of the Legislature meet together only on occasions of great significance such as the convening of Parliament, the twenty-fifth anniversary of Bermuda’s Constitution (1993); the 375th anniversary of Bermuda’s Parliament (1995); or to pay tribute to significant Members who have died while in office.


In Bermuda, expenditure on Parliament has always been viewed as expenditure on the Members of Parliament, who – it is widely viewed – should serve for free. When the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) first began looking at minimum Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures, we were immediately interested because we needed an independent platform on which to base the changes that were needed and in order to educate civil servants and the public about the basic needs and services of Parliament.


Assessing Bermuda’s Parliament against


Commonwealth parliamentary benchmarks


Progressive Labour Party. One seat is held by an Independent Member. Situated in a different building, is our Upper House, the Senate. This chamber has 11 Members: five government, three opposition and three independents.


The Presiding Officers of both Houses – the Speaker in the House of Assembly, and the President in the


Senate – are elected by their peers in their respective Chambers. Their roles are similar: to preside over meetings, regulate debate, arbitrate on procedural matters, make decisions on points of order and give rulings when and where necessary. The Speaker is usually elected from the majority party, while the President of the Senate has


always been elected from among the independent Senators. Once elected, the Speaker renounces party affiliation and does not participate in any of the debates. A Deputy Speaker and a Vice-President are also elected by their peers to assist the Presiding Officers in the event of illness or absence, or to provide relief during lengthy debates.


In 2006, Bermuda hosted a CPA Benchmarks Seminar, and underwent the process of measuring itself against the Benchmarks. The exercise allowed Parliamentarians to see that their parliamentary practices were dated and did not adhere to best practices, thus marking the start of a new transition.


In 2008/09 Bermuda launched its assessment by reviewing the Rules and Standing Orders. According to the former Premier, Dame Jennifer


The Parliamentarian | 2014: Issue Three | 163


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