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High Court


Civil Suits Nos. 99 & 101 of 1999

January 12, 2000

Saunders, J.

Constitutional law - House of Assembly — Quorum — Application for Speaker to convene House and
commence sittings — Whether and at which point Speaker can declare whether a quorum is present for
a meeting — Anguilla Constitution, s. 52 — Finding by court that eight members in addition to Speaker
constitute a quorum


Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and Mr. Thomas Astaphan for the applicant

The respondent in person

The Attorney General, Amicus Curiae

Saunders, J
Anguilla is in the throes of a political crisis. The crisis has paralysed the House of Assembly. That body
has not met since 30th March, 1999. Members of the Opposition have been absenting themselves from
sittings of the House. Meetings of the House were called in August and September, 1999. Neither took
place. On each occasion the Speaker, Mr. Leroy Rogers, took it upon himself to adjourn the meeting. The
House has since been prorogued.

These suits arise out of the actions of the Speaker. The Chief Minister, Mr. Hubert Hughes, has instituted
them. Mr. Hughes has asked the court to compel the Speaker to convene the House and commence the
sittings by taking the Chair. He has filed a constitutional Motion seeking certain Declarations. He has also
applied for writs of Mandamus and Prohibition.
The cases first came up for hearing on the 4 October, 1999. They were adjourned to the 8th November.
Mr. Rogers had not yet retained counsel. On the 8 November, the matters again came before me. They
were again adjourned, and for the same reason, to 29 November, 1999. As that was a date inconvenient
to the court, the matters were re-scheduled to 1 December, 1999.
On the 1 December, lawyers for Mr. Rogers applied for a further adjournment. At least five more weeks
were requested. Counsel for Mr. Hughes vigorously opposed this application. I listened carefully to both
sides. I retired for 30 minutes and then gave reasons in writing why I thought I should refuse the
application. I proceeded to hear the suits. Mr. Rogers' lawyers (retained only to request the adjournment)
excused themselves from the proceedings. Mr. Rogers himself, while present throughout the hearing,
explained to the court that without legal representation he was unable to make any submissions to the court
on the substantive Motions. At the invitation of the court, the Attorney General made very carefully
prepared submissions on the legal issues raised.

In support of these actions several affidavits were filed on behalf of the Chief Minister. The salient facts
are all matters of public knowledge. The Anguilla House of Assembly is comprised of eleven members in
addition to the Speaker. Seven of the eleven are elected. The other four comprise two ex-officio and two
nominated members. Following the last General Elections in March 1999, the Chief Minister's
Government was sworn in with four of the seven elected seats. In May, 1999, one of the four elected
members on the government side, Mr. Victor Banks, resigned his position. Mr. Banks is now in opposition
to the Government. At this time there are four elected members in opposition while the Government
continues in office with three elected members.
The House of Assembly was summoned to meet on 10 August, 1999. At 9.00 o'clock that morning the
Speaker entered the Chamber. He stood next to the Speaker's Chair and observed that there was not a
quorum present. The Chief Minister called upon him to take the Chair and commence the sitting. He
refused and gave reasons for his refusal. He stated that he was adjourning the House for half-hour in order
to enable a quorum to be obtained. When there was no quorum after that period of time, the Speaker
returned to the Chamber and stated that he was adjourning the House sine die.
The House of Assembly was again summoned to meet on 2 September, 1999. Much the same thing
happened as occurred on August 10 . That meeting too was adjourned by the Speaker for lack of a
quorum. It is not disputed that on each occasion, the maximum number of members available to constitute
a quorum was seven.
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On August 16 , Mr. Rogers explained his actions of 10 August via a Radio Address to the people of
Anguilla. His understanding of the applicable law and practice is that the Speaker must first satisfy himself
that there is a quorum before a sitting is commenced. Is the Speaker correct in this respect? Can he, of his
own accord, declare the absence of a quorum before the commencement of a sitting? Can a court of law
inquire into his decision to adjourn the meetings? Given the present membership of the House, how many
members are needed to constitute a quorum? Should the court disagree with the Speaker's interpretation,
are the remedies of Mandamus and Prohibition open to the applicant? These are the substantial questions
posed by these suits.

To a great extent, these issues hinge upon the interpretation of section 52 of the Anguilla Constitution.
That section states thus:

“52.(1) If at any sitting of the Assembly a quorum is not present and any member of the Assembly who
is present objects on that account to the transaction of business and, after such interval as may be
prescribed in the rules of procedure of the assembly, the person presiding at the sitting ascertains that a
quorum is still not present, he shall adjourn the Assembly.
52(2) For the purpose of this section a quorum shall consist of two-thirds of the members of the
Assembly in addition to the person presiding.”
I shall first dispose of the question relating to the number of members required to make a quorum. The
provisions of section 52(2) are clear. “…..a quorum shall consist of two-thirds of the members of the
Assembly in addition to the person presiding”. Simple mathematics will reveal that two-thirds of the
eleven members is 7 and one-third.

Mr. Rogers interpreted section 52(2) to mean that whenever two thirds resulted in a fraction, as it does
now, then the next highest whole number would represent the applicable quorum. Dr. Gonsalves advanced
a range of arguments designed to persuade me that I should hold that the framers of the Constitution really
meant, not “two-thirds” but “approximately two-thirds”. He submitted that, in the context of the current
membership, I should round down the quorum to seven.

With a requirement for two-thirds of the members, the framers of the Anguilla Constitution established a
large quorum for the Anguilla House of Assembly. That Assembly has one of the highest such
requirements in the Commonwealth. It appears that this has been done quite deliberately. The two-thirds
requirement in the present Constitution is also to be found in the previous 1976 Constitution. The Attorney
General submits that by this requirement it was intended that a majority of the elected Members should be
present in order to constitute a quorum.

No authority was given for the applicant's submission that the court can and should round down the
quorum requirement to seven. I am not surprised at this. To adopt such a course of action would be
contrary to precedent and good practice. In 1989 Australia amended the provisions pertaining to their
quorum. A quorum of the Australia House of Representatives is now “one-fifth of the whole number of the
members ….” There are 148 members. The quorum has therefore been set at 30. The argument that the
resulting fraction (three-fifths) is more than one half and thus amenable to rounding upwards rather than
downwards is futile, The quorum provided for in the original Australia Constitution was one-third of the
said 148. Yet, it was never doubted then that the quorum of 49 and one-third should be rounded upwards to
50. The concept of a quorum denotes the idea of the least possible for the valid transaction of business.
Rounding down to seven members would not illuminate the relevant constitutional provision. It would
undermine it. The Speaker was right to take the view that, given the current membership, the Anguilla
House has a quorum of eight members “in addition to the person presiding”.

In order properly to give effect to section 52 of the Anguilla Constitution and answer the other important
questions posed by these suits, it seems to me that the court should consider a variety of factors. These
would include the following:

a) the ordinary language of section 52;

b) the historical development of Parliamentary practice regarding a quorum;
c) the possible object or purpose of the section;
d) the manner in which the section relates to rules specifically sanctioned by the Constitution;
e) the inherent power of a House of Assembly to regulate its own internal proceedings and the
reluctance of the courts to inquire into what transpires within the walls of Parliament; and
f) the role of the SpeakerI now proceed so to do.
(a) The language of the section

Section 52 is very plain in its terms. The section stipulates a sitting of the Assembly, absence of a quorum
at such sitting and objection by a member during the currency of the sitting. The section goes on further to
assume the existence of rules prescribing an interval. Finally, the first sub-section directs the person
presiding on the steps he or she must take after the interval prescribed in the rules has elapsed and once the
above assumptions have been satisfied. The second sub-section gives a mathematical formula for arriving
at the quorum.

It is of some interest to note that, for its operational effect, the section refers to and relies upon something
(i.e. the length of the interval) “prescribed in the rules of procedure of the Assembly”. This reinforces the
notion that the section does not, indeed cannot, stand on its own. It has to be viewed within a much broader

Section 52 does not expressly address the matter of the raising of a quorum at the time of or prior to the
commencement of a sitting. The section is entirely silent on the issue of whether sittings may commence
without a quorum. The ordinary wording of the section gives no guidance as to whether cognisance should
or should not be taken of the lack of a quorum prior to a sitting.

(b) The historical development of a House of Assembly quorum

The House of Commons in Britain did not always have a quorum requirement. It was in the 17 century,
under the Speakership of Lenthall, that the present quorum of forty members was established. This was
done in response to the conduct of Honourable Members who sometimes preferred the playhouses and
bowling alleys to punctual attendance to their weighty responsibilities in Parliament. On 5 January, 1641
the House therefore resolved ‘that Mr. Speaker is not to go to his Chair till there be at least forty in the
House’. See: “The Office of Speaker” by Philip Laundy, 1964, at page 206.

Traditionally, the matter of a quorum appears to have been bound up with this duty or responsibility of the
Speaker. Thus, at page 54 of the same Volume, Laundy states:

“It is a customary duty of the Speaker to ensure that the House is properly
constituted before it proceeds to its business………..Formerly he did not take the
Chair until he had satisfied himself that at least forty Members were present, and
in the absence of a quorum he waited until one had assembled……… and, if a
quorum had not been constituted, [he] adjourned the House to the next sitting day
without putting the question…….”
May's Parliamentary Practice, 18 Edition, is to the same effect. It is stated there at page 299:

“Formerly at the meeting of the House it was the duty of the Speaker to ascertain
whether a quorum was present: but when he had taken the chair, that
responsibility rested upon the House. Accordingly, the only occasion when the
Speaker took the initiative in this matter was immediately after prayers. At that
moment, if the necessity arose the Speaker refrained from taking the Chair and,
standing in the place which the Clerk of the House occupied at the table, counted
the House. The Speaker announced that the House was made by taking the Chair,
if he ascertained that forty Members were present; but if that was not the case, he
waited, seated at the Clerk's Chair, or retired from the House, either until a
quorum was present, or until four o'clock, when, standing on the upper step of the
chair, he again counted the House; and, if a quorum was not present when he had
ceased counting, he adjourned the House, without question put, until the next day
of sitting……”
Two distinct procedures developed. Firstly, The Speaker saw to it that sittings were not to commence
without the presence of a quorum. Secondly, a sitting having already begun, the responsibility rested with
the House to address the matter of a quorum if, during the sitting, the membership fell below what was
required for a quorum.

The manner in which the matter of a quorum was addressed in some of the earlier Commonwealth
Constitutions differs from the way in which it is dealt with latterly. The learned Attorney General drew my
attention to certain provisions in the Constitutions of Canada, India and Australia. Section 48 of the
Canadian Constitution, in relation to the House of Commons, provides:

“The presence of at least twenty Members of the House of Commons shall be

necessary to constitute a meeting of the House for the exercise of its
Section 100(3) of the Indian Constitution states:

“Until Parliament by law otherwise provides, the quorum to constitute a meeting

of either House of Parliament shall be one-tenth of the total number of members
of the House”.
This formulation varies from the Canadian one only in that Parliament is specifically afforded the
opportunity, by law, to otherwise provide.

Section 39 of the Australian Constitution states:

“Until the Parliament otherwise provides, the presence of at least one-third of the
whole number of the Members of the House of Representatives shall be necessary
to constitute a meeting of the House for the exercise of its powers”.
This formulation is similar to the Indian provision. Interestingly, the Standing Orders of the Australia
House provide that at the commencement of the day's business no member may leave the Chamber until a
quorum has been made. It has been suggested that the reason for this particular Standing Order is to
facilitate the making of so large a quorum. See: An Encyclopaedia of Parliament by Norman Wilding and
Philip Laundy (1958) at page 482.

The practice of the Speaker satisfying himself of the presence of a quorum before the commencement of a
sitting was gradually relaxed in Britain over a period of time. Britain, we must note, has an extremely
small quorum requirement; just about six or seven percent! The British Speaker presumed that the House
was made at the beginning of a sitting unless his attention was drawn to the absence of a quorum. Further
development of the Standing Orders of the British House of Commons has now resulted in a modern
practice in Britain whereby the Speaker is prohibited from taking cognisance of a quorum unless a division
is called.

A comparison of section 52 with the position in most other Commonwealth Caribbean States (save that of
Barbados), reveals that the position in those territories is similar or identical to that of Anguilla. In some,
the matter is covered by the Constitution. In others, the Standing Orders of the House address the issue.
Either way, only one procedure is specifically addressed, that is the manner in which the House deals with
the lack of a quorum during a sitting.

Dr. Gonsalves argues that it must therefore be taken that in all these cases, the Constitutions, or the
Standing Orders as the case may be, have legislated the modern practice in England. The former practice
of the Speaker first satisfying himself as to a quorum has been rejected by implication. This argument is an
attractive one. Especially when juxtaposed against the relevant provisions of the earlier Constitutions of
Canada, India and Australia. I cannot be unmindful of the fact however that such a construction of section
52(1) would require a court of law to give effect to that sub-section by reading into it an implication that
touches upon the manner in which the House should conduct its internal affairs.

(c) The object or purpose of the section

It is important to point out that provisions akin to those of section 52(l) can harmoniously exist alongside a
procedure that the Speaker ought to assure himself of the presence of a quorum before the actual
commencement of the sitting. The Barbados House of Assembly has, for example, determined that it
should embrace a provision similar to section 52(1) together with a provision that prohibits the Speaker
from taking the Chair unless a quorum is present. Thus, in Barbados, rule 9(2) of the Standing Orders
states: “If at the time of sitting, a quorum is not present, the Speaker shall not take the Chair of the House.”
Rule 9(3) then states:

“If after a quarter of an hour, no quorum is present, or if at any time during a

sitting, any member draws the attention of the Speaker in the House………to the
fact that a quorum is not present, a bell shall be rung by the Clerk at the direction
of the Officer presiding to summon Members to the Chamber.”
According to rule 9(4):

“If the Speaker is then presiding, he shall, after the expiration of two minutes,
count the House. If a quorum is not present, he shall adjourn the House without
questions put. “
Similarly, in Australia, notwithstanding section 39 of their Constitution (which would require the Speaker
to satisfy himself of a quorum before a meeting commences), during a sitting, the responsibility for
ensuring a quorum rests not with the Speaker but with the House. See: “House of Representatives
Practice” 2nd Edn. edited by A.R. Browning at page 301.
The rationale for section 52(1) is understandable. The purpose of the section is to address the matter of a
quorum during the course of a sitting. The sub-section is saying that, provided everyone else present
agrees, a meeting having been duly constituted, the business of the House should not be impeded if during
the sitting one or more of the members leaves the Chamber for some temporary respite.

d) The manner in which section 52 relates to Rules of Procedure specifically sanctioned by the

Prior to the making of the 1982 Anguilla Constitution, Rules of Procedure were formulated and approved
to regulate the proceedings of the House. These rules have been specifically saved by the Constitution.
Rule 73 of the Procedure Rules is in the following terms:

“In all cases not provided for by the Constitution, or in these Rules, the practice
and procedure of the House of Commons of the Parliament of Great Britain and
Northern Ireland shall be followed so far as the same may be applicable to the
Counsel submitted that section 52 contains the final word on all matters relating to the raising of a quorum;
that because the provisions of section 52 have been inserted in the Constitution, the Supreme Law, one
cannot look elsewhere for any guidance on this issue. But here we have it that Rule 73 recognises that the
Constitution may not necessarily have provided for “all cases”. I have already held that the plain or literal
interpretation of section 52(1) does not speak to the procedure to be adopted where there is the absence of
a quorum prior to the commencement of a sitting. I therefore see no reason to impeach the judgment of the
Speaker that in such an event resort should be had to Rule 73 to fill this lacuna.

e) The inherent power of a House of Assembly to regulate its own internal proceedings

This proposition and its corollary, namely the circumstances in which the courts will interfere in the
Parliamentary process, are matters that have troubled the courts over the years. There are several reported
decisions. The 19 century cases of Kielly v. Carson [1841] P.C. 4 Moore, P.C. 63; Fenton v. Hampton
[1858] 11 Moo.P.C.C. 347; and Doyle v. Falconer [1866] L.R. 1 P.C. 328 are examples of cases where the
court has intervened because the Speaker purported to exercise a power that he did not have. In much the
same vein is our own Court of Appeal's judgment in Sabaroche v. The Speaker, Dominica Civil Appeal
No. 20 of 1997.

The Zimbabwean case of Smith v. Mutasa [1990] L.R.C. 87 affords an instance of Parliament interpreting
its powers in a manner that would cause a collision between the exercise of these powers and the
Constitution This was naturally adjudged to be impressible. Similarly, in the South African case of The
Speaker v. de Lille [1998] C.A. Case No. 297/98, the court set aside a Resolution of the National
Assembly that conflicted with the Constitution.

A common thread runs through all of these cases. It is this. The courts are entitled to enquire into the
existence and extent of any privilege claimed by the House of Assembly. Moreover, the courts will
intervene where Parliament, or the Speaker, has exceeded its powers, or has claimed for itself powers that
it did not have, or has acted in a manner clearly inconsistent with constitutional provisions.

On the other hand, there are those cases that illustrate another principle whose application is subject to
what has just been said above. These latter cases include Burdett v. Abbott (1811) 14 East, 148; the well
known case of Bradlaugh v. Gossett (1884) 12 Q.B. 27 where the principle was trenchantly underscored;
and the more recent case of R. v. Graham Campbell [1935] 1 K.B. 594, which some think has stretched the
concept even further. This principle is that what is said and done within the walls of Parliament cannot be
inquired into in a court of law. The House is the sole judge of the lawfulness of its own proceedings.

Does this principle apply to a colonial legislature such as Anguilla's? In Kielly v. Carson, the Privy
Council laid down the general rule that at common law, colonial legislatures were entitled to exercise no
privileges other “than such as are necessary to the existence of such a body, and the proper exercise of the
functions which it is intended to exercise”. That case, like many of its ilk, concerned the penal jurisdiction
of the House.

The issues involved in the instant suits do not in the slightest degree concern disciplinary action by
Parliament against anyone. They relate purely to the internal business procedures of the House. In this
regard it is noteworthy that in Kielly v. Carson, the Privy Council felt

“No doubt that [a colonial] Assembly has the right of protecting itself from all
impediments to the due course of its proceeding. To the full extent of every
measure which it may be really necessary to adopt, to secure the free exercise of
their legislative functions, they are justified in acting by the principle of the
common law”.
In the Guyanese case of Jagan v. Gajraj (1963) 5 W.I.R. 333, Chief Justice Luckhoo noted, at page 341,

“Nothing said in the judgments delivered in….. Bradlaugh v. Gossett provides

any foundation for the submission that the immunity of the House of Commons
from control of the courts in its administration of that part of the statute law
which has relation to internal procedure is one which Colonial Legislatures do not
in like regard enjoy.”
The Australian case of Browne v. Cowley as referred to in Enid Campbell's “Parliamentary Privilege in
Australia” is interesting. I have not seen that case but in her book, at pages 81 - 82, the writer intimates that
the issue there related to whether the House had observed its own Standing Orders in suspending one of its
members. The writer quotes Chief Justice Griffith (later Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia) as
concluding that the correctness of the House's determination was not subject to review in a court of law.
Among other things, the learned judge is reported to have said:

“the dignity of a colonial Parliament, acting within its limits, requires no less than
that of the Imperial Parliament that any tribunal to whose examination its
proceedings are sought to be submitted for review should hesitate before it
undertakes the function of examining the administration of the law relating to its
internal affairs”.
Ms. Campbell continues in her book that:

“Chief Justice Griffith's decision was upheld, but on different grounds. Standing
Order 335 of the Assembly had adopted for the House the ‘Rules, forms and
usages of the House of Commons’, so far as they were applicable and not
repugnant to any other standing order. The effect of this, so the Full Court
reasoned, was to confer on the assembly so much of the House of Commons’
‘privilege of regulating its internal concerns as related to orderly conduct’. Hence
the Assembly had exclusive cognizance of its internal proceedings”.
In these suits before me, there are two specific matters falling for consideration under this head. They are i)
whether the Speaker's decision to adjourn the meetings (and the circumstances giving rise to that decision)
can be said to be an internal proceeding of the House and ii) whether the court can enquire into that
decision and those circumstances. For the Chief Minister it was argued forcibly that because the sitting had
not yet commenced, the principle in Bradlaugh v. Gossett is entirely irrelevant. No Parliamentary
proceedings are being challenged, counsel submitted.
This brings us to the meaning of “Proceedings”. The 19 edition of May's Parliamentary Practice
discusses this term at page 87:
“the primary meaning, as a technical parliamentary term, …..(which it had at least
as early as the seventeenth century) is some formal action, usually a decision,
taken by the House in its collective capacity. This is naturally extended to the
forms of business in which the House takes action, and the whole process, the
principal part of which is debate, by which it reaches a decision”
The authors go on to state that “Officers of the House take part in its proceedings principally by carrying
out its orders, general or particular”.

May's also quotes from a Report of the Select Committee on the Official Secrets Act in session 1938-39 in
which some idea of what the term embraces was given. The Report states:

“It covers both the asking of a question and the giving written notice of such
question, and includes everything said or done by a Member in the exercise of his
functions as a member in a committee of either House, as well as everything said
or done in either House in the transaction of Parliamentary business”.
May's refers to a United States court as treating “every act resulting from the nature and in the execution of
the office” as falling within the protection offered to “deliberation, speech and debate”. Moreover,
O'Connor, J. in the Canadian case of R. v. Bunting, 7 Ontario Reports (1884–5), p.563, is quoted as stating
that a Member of Parliament is not amenable to the ordinary courts

“for anything he may say or do within the scope of his duties in the course of
parliamentary business, for in such matters he is privileged and protected by lex et
consuetudo parliamenti.”
These various authorities suggest that if the acts of the Speaker in resorting to Rule 73 and then adjourning
the meetings were within his powers or duties, then those acts ought properly to be regarded as
“proceedings”. We should therefore examine the role and powers of the Speaker in the Anguilla House of

f) The role of the Speaker

The office of Speaker is an essential feature of the parliamentary system. In the 16 edition of May's, page
247, the office of Speaker is defined in the following manner:

“The Speaker of the House of Commons is the representative of the House itself
in its powers, proceedings and dignity. His functions fall into two categories. On
the one hand he is the mouth or representative of the House in its relations with
the Crown, the House of Lords and other authorities and persons outside
Parliament. On the other hand he presides over the debates of the House of
Commons and enforces the observance of all rules for preserving order in its
The authority of the Speaker is based on the traditional practice of the House. This authority is
supplemented by the Standing Orders. Browning, in “House of Representatives Practice”, 2nd Edn., says
at page 207:

“…….The Speaker interprets the standing orders, deals with points of order when
they are raised and gives rulings when called upon to do so……….A Speaker
should not look to the standing orders for authority to do something that needs to
be done or as a reason for not doing something. If the standing orders are silent or
do not place a limitation on the Speaker, the Speaker should assume the authority
to make any ruling or decision which the Speaker thinks is appropriate, and leave
it to the House to challenge that ruling or decision if it does not agree with it. This
is how the practice of the House is developed.”
Referring to the role of the Speaker in the Indian Parliament, Kaul Shakdher in “Practice and Procedure of
Parliament”, (1982) 2nd Edn. at page 95, notes:

“Though his powers and duties have been laid down in the rules and, to some
extent, in the Constitution, the rules which he has to administer are of an elastic
character and in some matters he has to exercise his discretion. His duties are very
arduous, and in their discharge he must be actuated by a sense of justice and
fairness, uninfluenced by passion or prejudice. He has to impress the House
generally with confidence in the soundness and impartiality of his judgments,
with the conviction that he considers himself the conscience and guardian of the
It is interesting to note that the Speaker may make rulings even while he is not in the Chair. Browning at
page 225 notes that private rulings

“may occur for instance when a Member seeks the Speaker's guidance on a point
of procedure relating to future proceedings in the House. Private rulings in effect
serve to clarify points of practice and procedure and have the same authority as
rulings from the Chair…….”
The Rules of Procedure of the Anguilla House of Assembly expressly confer certain powers and impose a
variety of duties upon the Speaker. To cite a few examples: the Speaker determines which days the
Assembly shall meet. He or she is the sole judge as to when a case of emergency necessitates an
abridgment of time for notice of a meeting. See: Rule 2. The Speaker is given power to adjourn or suspend
meetings of the House. See: Rule 3. On his own Motion, the Speaker has a duty to preserve order and to
enforce all Rules. See: Rule 44. Far from being a mere slave to the peremptory dictates of statute, the
Speaker of the Anguilla House of Assembly is invested with wide discretionary powers.


In light of all the foregoing, I have come to the following decisions. I would give to section 52 of the
Anguilla Constitution a literal interpretation. In my judgment, the first sub-section addresses only the
circumstances arising during a sitting. Nothing in that section touches upon the question of a quorum prior
to the commencement of a sitting. I decline to import that circumstance into the section.

As I have pointed out, section 52(1) is equally compatible with either a procedure that the Speaker should
not take the Chair unless there is a quorum present or a procedure that the Speaker should not count the
House at the commencement of a sitting. I see no reason why the court should stretch the plain words of
the section so as to impose one or the other alternative on the House. If I were to interpret the sub-section
in the manner that the applicant wishes me to, then the natural consequence would be that the court would
be creating for the House a procedure or Rule that the House should properly make for itself.

The applicant has asked the court to compel the Speaker to take the Chair and to convene sittings of the
House each time a meeting has been summoned. If this court were to accede to that request, then startling
results could ensue, bearing in mind that the House only has eleven members. It would follow, for
example, that if only two or three members were able to attend a summoned meeting of the House, the
Speaker would still be obliged to take the Chair and commence the sitting. The Speaker would then have
to wait patiently in the hope that one of the members present draws his attention to the lack of a quorum. If
no objection were taken, then those members would be entitled validly to transact the business of the
House. If that is the way in which Parliament wishes to function, then that is a matter for Parliament. I
have grave doubts however that the framers of the Constitution could have intended to approve of such a

In my judgment, it was within the scope of the powers of the Speaker to have resort to Rule 73. The
Speaker did not exceed his powers in giving to Rule 73 the interpretation he thought fit, Rule 5 of the
Rules of Procedure grants to the Speaker the untrammelled power to adjourn meetings of the House at any
time. I see in the affidavits filed no circumstances that would entitle the court to truncate, undermine or
interfere with these wide powers of adjournment whether in general or in the specific manner in which
they were exercised by the Speaker in August and September of 1999.

It is my considered opinion that what occurred in the Anguilla House of Assembly in August and
September 1999 respectively formed part of the internal proceedings of the House. Since I can discern no
infringement of the Anguilla Constitution by the Speaker, who was acting intra vires his powers, the court
ought not to embark upon an enquiry into those proceedings or the propriety of the actions of the Speaker.
In these circumstances, the House, and by extension the Speaker's decision to adjourn the meetings, is
immune from scrutiny by the courts.

Where there is no breach of the Constitution, the High Court cannot be called upon to play the role of a
court of appeal in respect of rulings by the Speaker that fall within his jurisdiction and authority. To
perform any such role would open the courts to “a blizzard of applications relating to Parliamentary
procedure and invite conflict between the legislature and the judiciary”. See: Tong v. Takabwebwe Kiribati
High Court Civil Case No. 48/88.

The respect and prestige that the House of Assembly enjoys would be seriously compromised if the court
were permitted to exercise a supervisory role over or pass judgment upon the intra vires rulings of the
Speaker. It does not avail the applicant to argue that the Speaker was not in the Chair when he adjourned
the House. Rule 3 of the Rules of Procedure does not require the Speaker to be in the Chair for him or her
to exercise the power to adjourn meetings.

If I had any doubts on these conclusions, then the provisions of sections 22 and 23 of the Legislative
Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance would have put those doubts to rest. Section 23 of that
Ordinance states:

“Neither the Speaker, nor any officer of the Council shall be subject to the
jurisdiction of any court in respect of the exercise of any power conferred on or
vested in the Speaker………by or under this Ordinance.”
The previous section states: “The powers of the Speaker under this Ordinance shall be supplementary to
any powers conferred on him by……the Standing Orders.” The power to adjourn meetings of the House at
any time would consequently fall within the purview of section 23. Quite apart from the common law
therefore, the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance specifically enjoins the court from
assuming jurisdiction in respect of the exercise by the Speaker of his power to adjourn meetings of the
House of Assembly.

At the outset of this judgment I had formulated a number of questions that fell for determination in these
suits. It is obvious now that the conclusions I have reached have rendered otiose the answers to some of
those questions. I therefore do not consider further any such questions.

The Order of the court is as follows: Save that I do declare that the presence of eight Members, in addition
to the Speaker, constitutes a quorum of the eleven member House of Assembly of Anguilla, the
Declarations sought in Suit 101 of 1999 are all refused. The application in Suit 99 of 1999 for writs of
Mandamus and Prohibition is also refused.

In all the circumstances, it seems superfluous to make any order as to costs.