19 July, 2007

Parliamentary Secretary

Constitutional Discussions 8: Parliamentary Secretary. The post of Parliamentary Secretary was invented in 1990. It is a sort of “junior minister”. It is a form of patronage. It exists for the Chief Minister to be able to give a high salaried executive position to a party supporter who will be of ministerial rank, but not have the right to attend Cabinet meetings. It is a relatively new invention in the Anguilla Constitution. Sir Emile Gumbs, who was Chief Minister at the time, wanted it to reward David Carty. David was our first Parliamentary Secretary.

When the government bench in the House of Assembly is limited to four members, with the other three elected members in opposition, it has been used to reward a non-elected party supporter with a sort of junior minister position. In this respect, it is essentially anti-democratic. It permits a non-elected person to be given the rank of Minister. When there are five elected members sitting on the government side in the House of Assembly, it permits the Chief Minister to reward the fifth party-supporter. He can give the elected non-minister a salaried position as a reward or substitute for not being a Minister. That is the role presently being played by Albert Hughes. Its main utility has been to ease the work-load of one of the Ministers. The Chief Minister can spin off some of his work onto a junior minister who does not hold Cabinet rank. It is a sort of safety valve. It is needed because of the shortage of Ministers.

Representations made to the Commission revealed that the majority of Anguillians who had a view on the subject, took the position that this office was now redundant. It was demeaning to the office holder. In future anyone who the Chief Minister wanted to make a Minister must have been elected to the House. Never again should he be able to appoint a non-elected member to hold such high executive office. Now that the Commission was recommending that Cabinet increase from four elected members of the Assembly to six, there was no justification for keeping the position of Parliamentary Secretary. The Commission recommended at paragraph 42 of its Report that the post be abolished.

The members of the House of Assembly meeting in caucus at the Limestone Bay Café took a different view. They agreed that they would prefer to keep the position, but to call it “Junior Minister”. They gave no reason. The only one that occurs to me is based on the reality of politics. Chief Ministers, like Presidents, require as much patronage as they can get to reward supporters. This is just one more tool to reward party stalwarts at the expense of the public purse. If that is the real reason, it is just not good enough. Six ministers with Cabinet rank will do us quite nicely for the foreseeable future. There will be no need for a Junior Minister.

1 comment:

  1. David Carty did the work and did it well. Since then, these appointments have not been Anguilla's proudest moments. Our leaders have taken serious opportunities for justice and progress and used them as toys. Toys should be taken away from them until we have grownups in office - something that is not on our horizon in the foreseeable future.


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