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Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, has informed that the Government is compiling a "realistic" legislative programme for the remainder of the 2011/12 fiscal year, as well as the 2012/13 financial year.

In a statement in the Senate, on February 24, Mr. Golding said that Bills which were tabled by the last Government, but not passed, and Bills that were in an advanced state of readiness, are being reviewed to ensure that they are compatible with the policies and programmes of the new administration.

“We wish to avoid the time wasted by large scale amendments having to be made in Parliament to correct errors and omissions which ought to have been identified and resolved before the Bills are brought to Parliament. There have been far too many cases of this in recent years, with perhaps the most egregious example being the Special Prosecutor Bill that floundered in the Parliament under the weight of a huge number of amendments,” the Justice Minister noted.

He also informed that each Ministry has been asked to provide a prioritised listing of the legislation which it wishes to put on the legislative programme.

“The resulting list will be reviewed and if necessary, trimmed so that the legislative programme has a realistic chance of being passed into law during the coming fiscal year,” Senator Golding said.

In addition, each Ministry has been instructed to designate a member of its staff as the Legislation Liaison Officer, who will be the co-ordinator of the Ministry’s legislation programme and the point of contact for legislative matters within the Ministry.

Senator Golding explained that this is aimed at streamlining the flow of comments and responses between the Ministries which are responsible for policy decisions in relation to the preparation of legislation and the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel, which drafts the legislation, and the Attorney General’s Chambers which reviews the legislation from a legal and constitutional standpoint.

Meanwhile, the Justice Minister said greater emphasis will be placed on ensuring that the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel receives adequately detailed drafting instructions, so as to guide the draftsman in preparing Bills.

“Much of the delay in the preparation of legislation has been caused by inadequate drafting instructions, as Ministries gloss over important matters of policy detail and the draftsman is forced to send back for additional instructions,” Senator Golding pointed out.

He added that protocols are also being developed with the Chief Parliamentary Counsel to guide Ministries that wish to move forward quickly with major pieces of legislation by utilising expert resources to assist in this process, so that this is done in a way which enhances rather than stymies the work flow.

“We in Parliament will have to step up our game. The Senate may be asked, from time to time, to meet more than the customary once per week, in order to get through a body of legislation that allows the programme of the Government to be executed efficiently and expeditiously. I look forward to the co-operation and support of my colleagues on either side of the aisle in this regard,” Senator Golding said.

For his part, Opposition Senator, Thomas Tavares Finson, queried whether the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel is in a position to deal with “what would be an increase in legislation going to them for preparation."

In his response, Senator Golding said that the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel is in need of some additional resources.

“There is also a programme arising from the justice reform process that started in 2007, the JusticeUndertakings for Social Transformation (JUST) Programme, which is being sponsored by the Canadian Government, and one element of that programme is to strengthen the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel. So, I am hoping that with those resources we will indeed see that very important department strengthened,” he said.

Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, Arthur Williams, said that the Opposition will co-operate in ensuring that the legislative programme of the Government is dealt with in a timely manner.

                                   

By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter