THE outgoing mayor of Newport says the quality of debate in the council chamber depends on the people there.

Cliff Suller, who stands down as mayor on Tuesday and who for the last year served as chairman of meetings of full council, says rules that govern how meetings are run do not affect the quality of debate, as claimed by opposition Tories.

Under changes to council standing orders made in May 2012, questions to the leader and cabinet at full council meetings have to be made in writing, days in advance.

“The quality of debate depends on who is sat around in the council chamber,” the Labour Caerleon ward councillor told the Argus.

He was asked if he felt standing orders affected the quality of debate: “No, I don’t. The standing orders are there to make sure democracy clearly stands well within the council chamber and that the order required for a proper debate to take place.”

At the last full council meeting, Cllr Suller intervened to stop councillors putting questions to Bob Bright on the proposed improvement plan – claiming they were there to debate, not ask questions.

The Argus put it to Cllr Suller that councillors should be able to ask questions during debate: “No,” he said, “standing orders say a debate is to be what it is, a debate on the subject before you.

“The opportunity of asking the questions was when the matter came to light.”

The Argus previously reported comments from senior Tory councillor and soon-to-be leader David Fouweather critical of theset up, saying nobody listens to Q and A sessions, restricting debate.

At the last full council meeting Tory councillors attempted to move a motion for a return to an older system where councillors should be able to ask questions without notice.

With Labour in majority, the move failed.