Chief Minister of
The Act in question was an amendment to the Legislators’ Conditions and Service Act. In
The amending Bill provided, among other things, that:
Where a person, who at the time of coming into operation of this Act, has attained the age of 55 years, is in receipt of a pension under this Act, and has served as a Legislator for periods amounting in aggregate to not less than 15 years, again becomes a Legislator, he shall be entitled to receive his pension in addition to the allowances payable during the period he serves as a Legislator.
Once a member of the House of Assembly has attained the age of 55 and has served in the House for a total of 15 years, he would be entitled to a pension. As a result of this amendment, if he became a legislator again after he had begun to receive his pension, he would be entitled to his salary and other perks, in addition to his full pension! The members of the House were voting to enable themselves to earn a double salary! It cannot be doubted that it is not right or normal for a person to receive both pension and salary from the one and the same employer. That is true even if we were not speaking about the people of an impoverished, volcano-devastated island such as
A howl of protest went up in the press in
In an article of 23 November we learn that the Governor had refused to “assent” to the Act. The Constitution requires him to do so to bring the Act into full effect. He had sent the Act on to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office seeking advice. This was the first time in the modern history of
Am I hearing right?
What nonsense is this?
No Governor of a
The Constitutional improprieties of this episode did not end there. The Governor appears to have received instructions from the FCO. He indicated to the Chief Minister that he would not assent to the Bill. In an article dated 24 December in the Montserrat Reporter we learn that the Chief Minister has now announced that he accepts that introducing changes in Committee stage in the House of Assembly “was a significant variation from what was approved in Executive Council”. He invites the Governor to assent to the Bill “in the form approved in Executive Council”. He then requests that a Bill be introduced into the House of Assembly to repeal the Act once it comes into effect. According to the story, the Governor then writes back to him confirming that, if this were done, he would “assent to both Bills after they had passed through the Legislature”.
Let us accept that the Bill was corrupt. Let us agree that it was not proper procedure for Ministers to propose amendments to a finance Bill that would increase the burden on the public purse after they had agreed otherwise in Executive Council. The Governor of an
Never again must a West Indian Chief Minister invite a colonial Governor to pass a Bill in a form “approved by Executive Council”. Executive Council plays no role in deciding on the final wording of a law. That is for the House of Assembly to decide. The Governor’s duty is to approve a Bill in the form passed by the House.
Never again must the Chief Minister of an
I don’t care what the Constitution says in this regard. The Constitution needs changing to reflect the modern reality.
At the end of the day, it was the FCO that behaved with impeccable propriety. They did not use the powers reserved to them in the Constitution. They did not accept the invitation of the Chief Minister to revert to a barbaric and outdated form of colonial legislative procedure. Instead, they did the right thing. They put pressure on the local authorities to correct their own mistake. It was left to the Chief Minister to eat the unmentionable and to propose a proper solution. He will see to it that a Bill is placed before the House of Assembly to amend the wrong things that were done in passing the previous Bill. It has been left for the Montserratian legislature to clean up its own mess!