The Prime Minister, at the time of comment, was speaking on his weekly radio programme, “Ask the PM” (10th May, 2011) and indicated that the bill “is an important piece of legislation” and added that “if the intention is honourable and noteworthy, it will come and have the appropriate discussion and debate and I am sure whatever the parliament decides must happen to it in the end, will happen. So we have no problem there at all.”
Addressing concerns and talk that the bill – which was proposed by Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition – was “aborted”, Dr. Douglas stressed that it was not aborted and reminded that the Opposition failed to follow the proper procedure in having the bill tabled before Parliament.
“No it was not aborted at all. There are people who go around and create sensationalism in the press. A Member of Parliament submits a bill to the Clerk of the House to come to the House and because our people may not be informed as to the proceedings of this kind of submission from the Opposition, the Opposition went about and making people believe that because it was submitted, the next sitting, it is going to be heard. That’s nonsense. It doesn’t work like that, and that is what the speaker was trying to explain.
“You submit a draft piece of legislation that you would want the Parliament to debate as it becomes part of our laws, it has to be properly processed. It has to properly looked at by the Parliamentary Council; that is their job. They have to look at it to make sure that the language is consistent; they have to make sure that if it is committing government to spending money; it has to be such that all those preliminary matters are dealt with before it can come into the parliament for debate. But because, as I said, the Opposition is bent only on creating sensationalism, they would think that because a bill is submitted last week Tuesday and the House is to meet next week, it must come on the agenda. That is absolute nonsense. It does not work like that in any country at all around the world. And the speaker was right in explaining to the parliament, procedures must be followed.”
The Integrity in Public Life Bill was first tabled in Parliament in 1996 by the Douglas-led administration where it got a first reading and recently – 15 years later- the Prime Minister indicated that the bill was not part of his government’s legislative agenda.
The Opposition, sensing the need so to do, submitted a draft Integrity in Public Life Bill dated 18th April, 2011 which was received on 19th April, 2011, with the hope that it would be included on the Order Paper for debate during the next sitting (28th April, 2011) of Parliament.
It was not included and when members of the Opposition rose in Parliament to have the Order Paper amended to include the draft bill, the Speaker of the House indicated that specific procedures would have to be followed in submitting the draft legislation and thus, did not allow for the Order Paper to be amended.
He invited the Leader of the Opposition Mark Brantley, however, to “meet soonest with the Leader of Government Business and the Attorney General to discuss and clarify issues relating to the existing short comings of the draft submission of the Integrity in Public Life Bill, 2011. By so doing, it can be duly introduced, read and passed at the next best convenient sitting.”