Wed | Dec 12, 2018

The Gavel: Don't take long to revive dead bills

Published:Monday | February 8, 2016 | 12:00 AMDaraine Luton
Dayton Campbell
Dr Peter Phillips
Johnson Smith

As Dr Peter Phillips said this past week, 'all good things must come to an end'.

Dr Phillips, who was speaking on the motion for adjournment in the House of Representatives last Tuesday, was commenting on the successes of the Parliament in its just-concluded life.

One cannot disagree with Dr Phillips that the last Parliament - January 2012 to February 2016 - did a good job in terms of passing bills and resolutions, which ultimately led to an improvement in the lives of Jamaicans. But there were shortcomings. There were just too many things that have been left unfinished; too many bills and motions have been left to die on the Order Paper.

The following are some of the bills left on the table, which have now fallen into the wastebasket:

• The Building Act, 2016: This is an act to Repeal the Kingston and St Andrew Building Act and the Parish Councils Building Act and make new provisions for the regulation of the building industry; to facilitate the adoption and efficient application of national building standards to be called the National Building Code of Jamaica for ensuring safety in the built environment, enhancing amenities and promoting sustainable development; and for connected matters.

• Pension Reform bills: One of the bills is an act to establish a contributory pension scheme for the public service to be known as the Public Service Pension Scheme, from which payment of pensions, gratuities and other allowances are to be paid in respect of the service of pensionable officers, and to provide for other related matters. The other is an Act to amend the Constitution of Jamaica to provide for circumstances in which pensions, gratuities and other allowances may be paid out of a fund, established by law, other than the Consolidated Fund.

• Sexual Harassment Act 2016: To make provision for the prevention of sexual harassment and for connected matters.

• The Childcare and Protection (Amendment) Act 2016: Seeks to strengthen the provisions of the law and proposes harsher penalties for parents who leave their children unsupervised or allow then to live in adults in circumstances that expose them to substantial risk of sexual or other abuse.

• The Criminal Justice (Administration) (Amendment Act) 2016: Proposes the addition of 10 years' imprisonment sentence to the period that a person convicted of crimes against children such as rape, murder, assault, and incest must serve before being eligible for parole.

• The Road Traffic Act, 2016: This bill, which is a radical review of the existing law, had been before the Parliament since June 2014. It has been subject to a review by a joint-select committee, passed in the House of Representatives and was on the table of the Senate when the Parliament was dissolved.

• Caribbean Court of Justice bills: Intended to make provisions for the implementation of the agreement establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice, and to amend the Constitution of Jamaica to provide for the replacement of appeals to Her Majesty in Council with new provisions for appeals to the Caribbean Court of Justice as Jamaica's final appellate court. Passed in House but died in Senate when it became clear the Government would not get the required two-thirds majority to secure passage.

• The Customs (Amendment) Act, 2015: Critical piece of legislation needed in making Jamaica an important node in the global logistics chain.

In addition, there are motions that have been brought by several Members of Parliament that have died as a result of the dissolution of Parliament.

n Everald Warmington's motion brought in 2013 calling for nominated members of the Electoral Commission - those who represent the political parties and are paid some $9 million each - to be paid by the parties and not from the public's purse.

• Dr Dayton Campbell's motion brought in 2013 for the Parliament to urgently examine the adequacy and affordability of funding tertiary education in Jamaica.

• Raymond Pryce's motion brought in 2013 regarding the need for legislation in Jamaica that will require civil society groups - in keeping with emerging global financial and ethical requirements - to vouchsafe and protect Jamaica's democracy.

• Special Select Committee was revising the Integrity Commission Act, 2014.

• Special Select Committee was revising the operations of the Sexual Offences Act, relative to the review of the legislation, in accordance with the provisions of the Act and incorporating the review of existing legislation, being the Offences against the Person Act, the Domestic Violence Act and the Childcare and Protection Act, in relation to issues raised in Private Members' Motion brought in 2013 by Senator Kamina Johnson Smith.

One hopes that the Government which emerges after the February 25 general election will quickly retrieve the dead bills and motions from the wastebasket and find ways to revive them.

One will recall that it was more than 100 days after the PNP took power that it brought the first bill to Parliament. That bill allowed for a motor vehicle ticket amnesty to have been implemented.

Perhaps it would not be a bad idea for the next prime minister to appoint at least one person to lead the revision and to make sure that it does not take long before real attention is paid to the people's business in Parliament.