The Jamaican Parliament – History

Photo: JIS Photographer Education, Youth and Information Minister, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid (right) makes an address to the National Youth Parliament, held at Gordon House in Kingston on November 14.

The Jamaican Parliament is responsible for making the laws of the land.

The Jamaican Parliament has its history in the House of Assembly that first met on January 20, 1664 in Spanish Town, then called St. Jago de la Vega. At that time, Spanish Town was the capital of Jamaica and the seat of the Government.

However, since 1960, the official meeting place of the Government has been the George William Gordon House, more popularly called Gordon House, located on Duke Street in downtown Kingston. Gordon House is named in honour of one of Jamaica’s National Heroes.

The Parliament is comprised of the Upper House and the Lower House, together they are known as the House of Assembly (or Assembly).

The Upper House is the Senate which is made up of 21 senators who are appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister (13) or the Leader of Opposition (8). Of the 21 appointed officials, no more than four (4) can be members of the Cabinet

The Lower House is also called the House of Representatives. It is comprised of the elected representatives, known as Members of Parliament (MP), of the 63 constituencies in Jamaica.

Both Houses of Parliament must elect leaders upon first sitting or when there is a vacancy. The Senate is led by a President and a Deputy President. The House of Representatives has a Speaker who ensures that members observe the rules of the House, the rights of the Opposition are protected, and that every member gets a fair hearing.

The maximum life of a Parliament is five years, at the end of which it must be dissolved and a General Election held. Parliament can also be dissolved by the Governor-General at any time, upon the advice of the Prime Minister.

For more information on the Houses of Parliament visit http://www.japarliament.gov.jm/

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