Union take back decision to cover President’s legal fees

first_imgFollowing an open extraordinary Standing Committee Meeting held at 16.30 this afternoon, the Committee voted to withdraw a controversial motion passed on Monday, which agreed to cover £1,000 + VAT legal expenses for the Oxford Union President, Ben Sullivan. The original decision to cover the President’s legal fees was passed by a Vacation Standing Committee meeting last month, following an article published by the Oxford Tab which contained allegations which Ben Sullivan considerered “demonstrably false”. This decision was then ratified at the committee meeting held this Monday, where the motion was passed in camera by a vote of nine against two. Today’s decision to overturn the motion covering the President’s legal expenses followed the presentation of a Special Adjournment Motion — signed by 39 members — calling for the issue to be discussed openly in the Union chamber on Thursday evening. The meeting, which was overseen by the Senior librarian, Senior Treasurer and the Union Bursar, was also attended by members of the student press as well as prominent Oxford Union members, among them last term’s President Polina Ivanova, former Returning Officer Joshua Atkinson and President-elect Mayank Banerjee. At the meeting, Ben Sullivan admitted to members that he had “made a mistake” by allowing the motion to pass on Monday. Speaking to Cherwell he said, “the Standing Committee made the decision to withdraw the expenses claim this afternoon in response to opposition from a number of Union members. We stand by the fact that, in principle, covering these expenses is something the Union should be able to do, but the standing committee is always happy to listen to members’ concerns”. Today’s decision to withdraw Monday’s motion was passed with only three votes against, in a heated meeting held in the President’s office. The original motion to cover the President’s legal expenses was passed by a margin of nine votes to two. The Special Adjournment Motion was proposed under Rule 45h of the Union’s Rule book, which claims that “Any decision by any Committee … may be reversed by the House by means of a Special Adjournment Motion, signed by at least 30 Members, notice of which must be given to the President in writing at least 50 hours before the time of moving.”However, some members expressed concerns at the meeting that the Standing Committee are not entitled under the Rules to withdraw the original motion before it has been openly discussed by the house. According to the Rules, “Any decision by any Committee which is challenged by means of an Adjournment Motion under this Rule of which notice is given within 24 hours (excluding Sundays) of such publication shall be suspended from operation until such time as the Motion has been discussed by the House. No Member may withdraw a Special Adjournment Motion moved under this section after notice has been given.” (Emphasis ours)Speaking after the meeting, an anonymous member of the Union claimed that “Ben Sullivan effectively abused his office and used his position of power to interpret Rule 45h in his favour. He packed out the Standing Committee meeting with people on his slate and former allies in order to break the rule and reject the motion that was backed by over 30 Oxford Union members.“The Union at the moment is not a healthy working environment, with committee members being targeted for their moral principles” This criticism was challenged at the meeting by the President and members of the Standing Committee, who claimed that once the original expenses claim was withdrawn, the Special Adjournment Motion did not need to be discussed by the House. However, they stressed that any member is free to open a public discussion by following the appropriate procedures.last_img

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