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of next Parliament announced & Acts assigned to President's
Office - Bill Watch 49/2012
October 22, 2012
Opening of the Next Parliamentary Session will be on Tuesday 30th
House is sitting this week
to Open Fifth and Final Session of Seventh Parliament
Gazette of 19th October contained the President’s proclamation
proroguing [ending] the current Parliamentary session on 29th October
and fixing the following day, Tuesday 30th October, as the first
day of the next session.
will perform the official opening at 12 noon on 30th October in
the chamber of the House of Assembly. There will be all the pomp
and circumstance customary on this annual occasion. After the President’s
speech outlining the Government’s programme for the session,
both Houses will adjourn to a later date still to be notified. The
adjournment after an official opening is usually for at least two
weeks, but it may be for a shorter period this time, given the long
delayed opening of this next session and the amount of work that
needs to be done by Parliament before the end of the year. [More
details of the opening will be available nearer the date.]
Parliamentary business lapses - Neither House will sit again, unless
summoned, before the end of the present session on 29th October.
At that point all uncompleted business will lapse, as laid down
in Parliamentary Standing Orders. On the 30th October both Houses
will start the new session with a clean slate. It is, however, possible
in the next session for either House to pass resolutions restoring
lapsed items to the Order Paper.
of Seventh Parliament -The new session will be the fifth and last
annual session of the present Parliament – Parliament’s
five-year life-span will expire at the end of June 2013. The constitutional
Referendum is due during the session. So if, after a Yes vote
at the Referendum, Parliament
adopts a new constitution, this session may also be the final Parliamentary
session under the Lancaster House constitution.
Office Takes Over Radiation Protection Act from Minister of Health
has removed responsibility for the administration of the Radiation
Protection Act from the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare and
assigned it to “the Office of the President and Cabinet”.
Contrary to a sensationally headlined article in one of the Sunday
papers, this is the only change to the pre-existing situation made
by two statutory instruments in the Government Gazette of 19th October:
- SI 162/2012
– a list of Acts assigned to the Office of the President
and Cabinet [replacing and repeating SI 49/2010 with the addition
of the Radiation Protection Act]
- SI 161/2012
– a list of Acts assigned to the Minister of Health and
Child Welfare [replacing SI 66/2010 and omitting the Radiation
Protection Act, which dates from 2004, establishes the Radiation
Protection Authority and contains provisions designed to protect
the public and workers from dangers resulting from the use or abuse
of equipment or materials capable of producing ionizing radiation.
All the other
Acts on the latest President’s Office list [see below] have
been assigned to the President’s Office since at least 2010.
These include the Interception
of Communications Act, the National
Security Council Act and the Procurement Act incorrectly highlighted
in the weekend press as Acts newly assigned to the President’s
Office in a sinister new concentration of power in the President’s
MDC-T is also
complaining that the President acted without consultation with the
parties. In fact the only new complaint on this score can be directed
towards the assignment of the Radiation Protection Act. They complained
about the unilateral assignment of the other Acts when the President’s
allocations of all Acts was gazetted in March 2010 [see Bill
Watch 8/2010 of 6th March 2010. But this complaint was apparently
never followed through.
of Administration of Acts to the President’s Office
and SI 49/2010 available from email@example.com]
This is the
full list of Acts assigned to the Office of the President and Cabinet
in SI 162/2012:
The only new
item on the list – see previous paragraph]
list of Acts allocated by SI 49/2010
Legal Point Needing Clarification
As Bill Watch
pointed out in 2010 when the Acts were originally assigned –
there could be a legal objection to the assignment of responsibility
for administering Acts of Parliament to the “Office of the
President and Cabinet”. Under section 31D(1)(a) of the Constitution
the President may appoint Ministers and assign functions to them,
including the administration of any Act of Parliament; section 31C(2)
allows him to assign similar functions to the Vice-Presidents. Both
these sections envisage assignments to people — Ministers
and Vice-Presidents — rather than to an amorphous organisation
such as the Office of the President and Cabinet, which does not
even have corporate personality in law. A Minister or a Vice-President
is an identifiable person who is responsible to the President and
answerable to Parliament for the proper administration of legislation
that has been assigned to him or her, and who can be sued if he
or she acts illegally. But if an Act is assigned to an organisation
that is not even a corporate body, who can be held responsible?
Some of the
Acts that have been assigned to the Office of the President and
Cabinet contain references to “the Minister” and confer
decision-making functions on that “Minister”. In those
Acts, quite obviously, the Legislature envisaged a ““Minister”
making the decisions, not an anonymous functionary in an amorphous
office – the “Office of the President and Cabinet”.
Hence the legality
of the “assignment” of these Acts is doubtful and could
probably be challenged in court.
of Assigning Acts to Unaccountable Bodies
Apart from the
legal aspect, assigning an Act to an “Office” is undesirable.
One of the assigned Acts is the Interception of Communications Act,
which allows government agencies to tap phones and intercept communications
if they are authorised to do so under a warrant issued by “the
Minister” [originally the Minister of Transport and Communications].
Now, it seems, warrants are to be issued by a nameless bureaucrat
or securocrat in the “Office of the President and Cabinet”.
Ministers are identifiable and answerable to Parliament. Bureaucrats
and securocrats are not. This has grave implications for protection
of privacy of communications and freedom of expression.
of Bills as at 22nd October 2012
Bills held up pending Supreme Court decision
Watch 20 and 21
of 15th May 2012]
Bill being considered
by Parliamentary Legal Committee
and ready for presentation in Parliament
Bill [gazetted on 31st August] [not yet available]
Gazette of 19th October
available unless stated as available]
of Parliament and Start of New Session SI 166/2012 [Proclamation
4/2012] [see note at beginning of bulletin]
of Acts SIs 161 and 162/2012 [see note above] [copies available]
Courts Civil Jurisdiction SI 163/2012 is a set of rules made by
the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs increasing the monetary
jurisdictional limits of the magistrates courts in civil cases.
The limits set by SI 21/2009 are replaced.
agreements SIs 164 and 165/2012 spell out wages and allowances for
the years 2010 and 2011.
statements GN 481/2012 announces the publication as separate supplements
to the Gazette of the consolidated statements of financial performance
for July and August 2012, as required by the Public Finance Management
makes every effort to ensure reliable information, but cannot take
legal responsibility for information supplied
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