FFR law misses LA deadline
(CNS): The most recent expectation for Premier McKeeva Bush to put the agreement he signed with the UK, the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility, into law was at the next sitting of the Legislative Assembly. However, this is not likely to be met as the 21 day constitutional deadline for bringing the legislation to the parliament for the next meeting has passed. Government must circulate and gazette all the bills it intends to put before the LA three weeks before the sitting opens. Members are next scheduled to meet on 5 November and government has gazetted a number of bills that it will be presenting at that meeting but the FFR law is not one of them.
Bush has missed several deadlines given to him by the UK this year and the latest indication had been that the new UK minister with responsibility for the Overseas Territories, Mark Simmonds, expected the premier to bring the relevant bill in this forthcoming parliamentary session.
However, if the premier is to bring the bill in this sitting he will need to suspend Standing Orders to overcome the issue of the 21 day constitutional requirement of public notice and consultation. If he does so after the 6 November, when the country’s Bill of Rights is finally implemented, it could open government to potential for legal action by the Caymanian public for passing an unconstitutional bill that did not involve the public’s right to consultation on new legislation.
Ezzard Miller, the independent member for North Side, said Tuesday that he believed the premier was about to miss another request by the UK to implement this agreement into law as no one had yet seen a copy of any possible draft legislation that could be brought in time for the next sitting.
“The FFR law should have been distributed to members on Monday 15 October and published in the gazette if the premier had intended to bring the law,” Miller said. “Of course, he could suspend Standing Orders but he cannot suspend the constitution. But I suspect he will not be bringing it anyway and, going by history, it appears Bush is going to defy the UK again. My concern about this is that the UK will get tired of this and simply send it down by Order in Council in the exact form as it is in the agreement without the LA being able to amend anything to suit us locally or to have a discussion about the best way to implement the agreement into law.”
The North Side MLA said he could not see any justifiable reason that this law wasn’t drafted because Bush has had the agreement for almost a year. “Really, it’s not that difficult,” Miller added.
The agreement was signed by McKeeva Bush with the former OT minister, Henry Bellingham, almost a year ago and he has admitted doing so reluctantly. Although he was asked to pass the law in June this year, when he failed to do so the UK made it a condition of the budget approval that it was enacted by the end of September. However, the premier revealed last month that he had told the new UK OT minister, Mark Simmonds, during a 20 September courtesy call while Bush was in London that he needed to consult with the business community about the FFR before he brought the bill.
The governor’s office said at the time that Simmonds was under the impression that the premier had made a commitment to bring the FFR into local law no later than 9 November, which would be at the next scheduled meeting. However, the premier denied that he had made any such commitment and said that the governor’s office had created a misleading picture of what was discussed. The premier claimed he never intended to pass the entire agreement into law and had not given a specific date, but had alluded to it taking only a few days once the legislation was drafted.
CNS contacted the governor’s office for comment when it became clear by Tuesday morning that the FFR bill was not being circulated in time for next legislative sitting but the office said it had decided not to comment yet on the on-going issue.
However, sources close to the FCO told CNS that the UK minister has made it clear to the Cayman Islands premier that he expects the FFR to be passed into local law shortly after the LA meets on 5 November. The enactment and ratification of this agreement formed part of the conditional approval by the UK of the Cayman government’s 2012/13 budget and is one of a number of commitments that the government has made to the UK in connection with the budget and addressing the country’s increasingly problematic public finances, which it appears to have failed to keep.
It is not clear at this point what will happen if the FFR is brought after the 21 days and the constitutional issues are sorted nor is it yet clear what will happen if Bush does not bring the bill at all in this forthcoming session. The only thing that is clear is that the premier will either be forced to defy the country’s own constitution with a later submission or defy the UK by not making one at all.
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