JIS News

Dr. Peter Phillips, Leader of Government Business in the House of Representatives, has suggested that a house committee immediately consider the need for new parliamentary building.
He said the committee, in its deliberations, should consider the need for improved physical facilities for parliamentarians to carry out the nation’s work, in addition to providing adequate support systems for staff.
Dr. Phillips was speaking in the House on June 22, against the background of a suggestion from Opposition Leader, Bruce Golding, that the government, rather than moving uptown, should explore the possibility of acquiring the lands adjoining Gordon House and erecting a completely new structure on this site with all the modern facilities and space that was needed. “We would satisfy the need for a building with adequate facilities but we would not be disrespectful to the history of this location and to the contribution that have been made by so many people, who pass through this chamber,” Mr. Golding explained.
In his presentation, Mr. Golding noted that there was no debate about the need for a new parliament building. “There is no debate about the inadequacy of this structure. It was never designed for the kind of workload that the parliament has to carry today. It was never designed for the kind of administrative aids that are available today,” he stated.
Parliamentarians have long pointed to the need for a new building, which will offer adequate facilities for members and staff and for the public to see and hear debates. Heroes Park has been proposed as a possible site, but Mr. Golding cautioned that the move uptown might encourage other businesses downtown to follow and result in a “denuding” of the business district.
“To contemplate a new parliament building on the Heroes Park site, as is the current thinking, is a mistake. Not only would it continue that trend, but it is going to disrespect the history of this particular place where we are. We are right next door to headquarters house, which really ought to be preserved as a centerpiece of our political history,” the Opposition Leader said.
Mr. Golding also proposed that an independent counsel be provided for the Houses of Parliament and be at the disposal of the speaker or president of the chamber at all times, so that when legislation is being enacted, that person is there to provide guidance when necessary. He noted that the Chief Parliamentary Counsel was essentially the “government’s craftsman” and perhaps should not be the person who advised Parliament.
Minister Phillips said the suggestion that had been made regarding a new parliamentary building represented “perhaps the first time that there is a consensus expressed at the level of the leader of the opposition that we need to make some deliberate steps toward identifying new facilities to allow the work of the parliament to take place. It is certainly something that is welcome”.
He suggested that the house committee review the brief of the discussion on the matter, which had recently taken place between Prime Minister P.J. Patterson and Mr. Golding.
Dr. Phillips noted, that there was need for adequate meeting space not only for the standing committee but also for the select committees as legislation had benefited significantly from the extensive use of the select committees.
He further informed that the Ministry of Commerce, Science and Technology would be making a webmaster available to provide continuous updates for Parliament’s website. Meanwhile, Dr. Phillips said, the question of having an independent Parliamentary Counsel was “also something that should be taken on board”.