Chuck: It is my business - MP pushes back at proposal for declaration of expensive gifts
Lawmaker Delroy Chuck found himself a lonely man yesterday, as he argued for the right not to report to the Integrity Commission gifts made to him, unless they value more than half a million dollars.
At present, parliamentarians must declare gifts valuing above $20,000, a threshold which is to be moved to $50,000 in the proposed Integrity Commission Act.
If agreed to by Parliament, debt forgiven or gifts received, whether in property or any form of value of $50,000 or more, must be declared unless it is received by an immediate family member.
Chuck, the member of parliament for North East St Andrew, and member of the joint-select committee considering the bill, said the proposed $50,000 threshold is too low.
"It must be a figure that would materially affect the overall assets and liability of the declarant," said Chuck, who had proposed that it be "not less than $500,000".
He said that it would be unreasonable for a public official to be called upon to declare certain gifts.
"A lot of my clients know that I enjoy going to Las Vegas," the attorney-at-law said. "You are going to say that I must declare a trip to Las Vegas or to London?"
Chuck did not stop at the matter of being gifted a vacation, but went further to say that it would be unreasonable to ask a member of parliament to declare that someone has paid a medical bill on his behalf.
"I know of politicians who have been sick and they ask persons for assistance and the person will pay the bills - sometimes $100,000, sometimes a couple hundred thousand. Are you saying that every time they get this gift to pay the bills, they must declare the $50,000?" Chuck asked.
'A LOT OF MONEY'
Committee Chairman Mark Golding argued that the $50,000 threshold for gifts is "a lot of money". He said, too, that $500,000 was out of the question.
"That is more than a month's salary. For many people, it is more than two month's salary. That is a very substantial amount," Golding said.
He also said "if somebody pays your medical expenses for you to travel abroad and receive treatment, you should declare it. Otherwise, what is the point of making a declaration at all?"
Central Manchester MP Peter Bunting said there should be no issue in declaring contribution for medical reasons, arguing that "sunshine is the best disinfectant".
"I think the larger the figure, you will be making a mockery of the provision," Bunting said while arguing for a $50,000 threshold.
Chuck would eventually lower his proposed threshold to $100,000. This was only supported by Senator Lambert Brown, who argued that a smart phone may be given as a gift and that "they run near $100,000".
"All of us get smart phones," Chucked chimed in. "All of us in Parliament would have to declare that we got a smart phone from a service provider."