Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Legislative counsel stretched to the hilt - Cooke

Published:Tuesday | July 11, 2017 | 7:00 AM

Clerk to the Houses of Parliament, Heather Cooke, says she has not ignored the request from opposition Member of Parliament Fitz Jackson to redraft a bill to amend the Banking Services Act.

"We have a single officer and the duties are multifaceted and we have tried to lobby for an additional legal counsel without success," she told The Gleaner yesterday.

"I have never told Ms (Camika) Facey that she is not to focus on the bill. What I have said to him (Jackson) and also in Ms Facey's presence, is that she has to prioritise and it is not that his bill is not important, but when she has things that have a more immediate demand, she works on those."

Cooke pointed out that she has had to take on some of the duties that are usually assigned to the legislative counsel "because she is stretched to the hilt".

On the question of the role of the legislative counsel as intended by former prime minister Bruce Golding, who introduced the post during his tenure, the Clerk to the Houses said that the attorney would act as an independent counsel for parliamentarians, including ministers of government.

 

INDEPENDENT OPINION

 

She insisted that the legislative counsel's assistance to parliamentarians is not restricted to backbenchers only, but to ministers of government who want an independent opinion outside of that provided by the attorney general's chambers.

Cooke said she discussed the matter with Jackson in the presence of Facey and again during a telephone conversation.

The parliamentary counsel provides assistance to joint select committees of parliament dealing with issues such as the Zones of Special Operations Bill, which was passed by the Senate on Friday, and the review of the Sexual Offences Bill and related laws. In addition, the legislative counsel provides advice during the sittings of Parliament, among other duties.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com