May 8, 2018
Attorney General’s Reference Bill put on hold until May 24

The Opposition has asked the Government to put a pause of the passage of the Attorney General’s Reference (Constitutional Questions) Bill 2018 to allow for public scrutiny.

Government had intended that the Bill go through all three readings last Thursday, but only the first reading was completed, with the second reading just started, when the remainder of the process was postponed to May 24, when Parliament resumes.

It is a Bill for an Act to provide for the referral to the Court of important questions of interpretation of the Constitution and the constitutionality of legislation enacted by Parliament.
During debate of the Bill last Thursday, Member of Parliament for Central Kingstown St Clair Leacock, who was deputizing for Leader of the Opposition Dr Godwin Friday, said the Opposition had not been given enough time to study the Bill.

He said the public had expressed concern that the Bill could change aspects of the Constitution without a referendum. He asked that time be given for reflection on the Bill and for other stakeholders such as the Bar Association and civil society to weigh in on the matter.

The Prime Minister in his contribution to the debate, said the Bill does not have a hidden agenda.

He said it does not change anything in the Constitution but rather aids in its interpretation.

Three months ago, when attempts by the opposition New Democratic Party to have Parliament debate a No Confidence Motion failed, it was agreed that a legal opinion on the interpretation of Section 47 of the Constitution be sought from the Court.  (See Bill below)