JIS News

The Senate on Friday (Dec.16) passed a Bill amending the Pensions (Prime Minister Act) to provide enhanced benefits for retired Prime Ministers and their surviving spouses or children.
The adjusted provision serves to ratify a 1992 Cabinet decision, which permitted the payment of specific allowances to the surviving spouses of Prime Ministers and former Prime Ministers, even though the necessary provisions had not been approved by the Houses of Parliament.
Leader of Government Business in the Upper House, Senator Burchell Whiteman, who piloted the Bill, said that the legislation was to be seen as giving legal backing to a policy, which had been acted upon even prior to the legislation being passed.
He said that, “while it was agreed that this was not the right way to do business, the issue was a substantive one for which there was justification as it spoke to regularizing something, which was already in force. It is not about any individual, it is about the office of Prime Minister.”
Prior to January 1992, a retired Prime Minister’s salary was two thirds of the annual salary being accorded to the office of Prime Minister, with no allowances.
The amendment allows for the pension of a retired Prime Minister upon retirement from office as a legislator, to be the annual salary being accorded to the office of Prime Minister, or two thirds of the annual salary applied to the office of Prime Minister, if the individual is no longer the Prime Minister, but has not retired from office as a legislator.
The Bill further allows for the payment of specific allowances to the surviving spouse of a Prime Minister or former Prime Minister and also for the standardization of the eligibility of a child of a Prime Minister or former Prime Minister.
Opposition Senators Christopher Tufton and Anthony Johnson took issue with the fact that the Government had continued to make the payments without seeking the approval of Parliament.
Furthermore, the Senators said it was more laudable to give pensioners, who were at the bottom of the social ladder an increase in their benefits at this time, instead of the 100 per cent pension being approved for Prime Ministers.
Responding, Government Senators pointed out that what was being proposed paled in comparison to pensions and remunerations given to other heads of government elsewhere.
On the matter of the delay in ratifying the provision, they said that while it was agreed that the matter should have been regularized before now, it would have been worst to continue without amending the provision.
The Bill was subsequently passed without amendment.