NI Assembly Speaker: “They are treating the House with contempt…”

Despite changes to the Standing Orders in June 2009, the Northern Ireland Assembly Speaker was forced to crack some heads together in the chamber today over MLAs’ attitudes to Question Time –  as UTV reports here.

Hansard records what the Speaker, Willie Hay, had to say [permanent link]

Mr Willie Clarke is not in his place for question 1; that is another issue that I intend to deal with. Departments and Ministers spend a great deal of time and resources on Question Time and on getting answers to Members, yet Members from all parties put their names down to ask questions and then do not come to the House to ask them. That is totally wrong, and I am considering what sanctions I can apply to the Members who do that. They are treating the House with contempt, and that practice must be condemned. Furthermore, those Members give no reason for their absence. The problem is becoming more frequent, as is the practice of Members coming to the Table during Question Time to withdraw questions, again with no reason. I am looking at all of that and considering what sanctions I can bring to bear on Members who deliberately treat the House with utter contempt.

[Hmm…  Does that “great deal of time and resources” produce genuinely informative and direct answers? – Ed]  You might well think that, I couldn’t possibly comment.

But if MLAs are treating the NI Assembly with contempt, they can hardly complain when others agree.

Personally, I blame the lack of better informed elected Stormont representatives…