Records from the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel (OPC) indicate that a total of 31 Acts of Parliament and numerous pieces of subsidiary legislation were enacted between January and December last year.
Among the Acts passed was the Caribbean Court of Justice (Original Jurisdiction) Act, 2005. The passage of this Act established the Caribbean Court of Justice as the only court to which matters relating to the implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy can be referred.
Other legislation passed last year include the Early Childhood Act, the Consumer Protection Act, the Terrorism Prevention Act, and the Maintenance Act.Meanwhile a number of laws were amended including the Finger Prints (Amendment) Act, the Firearms (Amendment) and the Larceny (Amendment) Act, all of which will have bearing on national security. Deputy Chief Parliamentary Counsel, Albert Edwards, informed JIS News that before laws are enacted, they are drafted by the OPC, upon instruction from the ministries proposing the legislation.
He noted that primary legislation passes through a series of readings and debates en route to enactment. A draft Bill is transferred from the OPC to the Ministry proposing it. The Ministry submits it to the Attorney General’s Department as well as ministries and departments that will be affected by the new Bill and the Legal Reform Department, in cases of law reform matters, for comments.
At this point, the Bill is revised, if necessary, then passed to the Legislation Committee, with the mandatory approval of the Attorney General. In the event that no amendments are to be made, the Legislation Committee recommends that the Bill move to Cabinet for approval, and subject to Cabinet approval, the Bill will continues on to Parliament. The Bill is then debated in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Senate has the power to pass the Bill with or without amendments. In the event that the Senate makes amendments, the Bill will be returned to the House of Representatives for approval of those amendments.
Subsequently, the Bill is submitted to the Governor General for his assent. When this is given, it becomes an Act of Parliament with effect from the date on which notification of the assent is gazetted, unless the Act makes specific provision for its commencement, whether by prescribing a specific date or by requiring a commencement date to be gazetted by the portfolio Minister.
Clarifying the role of the OPC, Mr. Edwards stated that, “the OPC is the “principal agency responsible for the drafting of legislation.” A department of the Ministry of Justice, the OPC is the chief source of advice on legal issues relating to the drafting of legislation and also on parliamentary and legislative procedures.
Additionally, the Counsel of the department has the responsibility of “attending Legislation Committee, as well as parliament and its committees,” to give technical legal support to the legislative process, Mr. Edwards noted. The department serves all government ministries, their departments and agencies, as it carries out its functions.