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PROGRESSIVES REJECT PARLIAMENTARY CODE OF CONDUCT CALLING IT FLAWED

Government 06 Jan, 2023 Follow News

PROGRESSIVES REJECT PARLIAMENTARY CODE OF CONDUCT CALLING IT FLAWED

The Hon. Leader of the Opposition Roy McTaggart has rejected the version of the Parliamentary Code of Conduct signed by members of the ruling coalition PACT administration saying it is flawed.

The code was signed by members of the government and independent member former Speaker Hon. McKeeva Bush between November 11th and 26th according to a press release by Hon. Premier Wayne Panton dated January 3rd.

But Opposition Leader McTaggart of the Progressives party says there are major shortcomings in the code and it falls short in two important respects.

“First, there are significant failures in process that violate the principles of good governance that the Premier claimed would characterise his government. Secondly, and more significantly in the long run, there are significant failures of substance which mean that the proposed Code would be ineffective and inappropriate.”

According to the Progressives leader, the Parliamentary Code of Condict in its present form “fails the basic test that such a Code should both ensure that Parliamentarians are properly held to account for their conduct and also guarantee an impartial process through which that accountability should be achieved.”

Against that background, Mr McTaggart said the member of the Progressives opposition will not sign the Code as currently drafted.

He said their misgivings were raised with the Premier and the Council of the Parliament Management Commission (the Council) directly in March 2022 in a letter to Premier Wayne Panton and subsequently to the media and the public in September last year.

Quoting from correspondence he highlighted this extract: "The Opposition is concerned that the Parliamentary Code of Conduct has not progressed, but any delay is not on the part of the Opposition. The Opposition certainly does support a code of conduct that is fit for purpose. However, we have told the Government that we will not support a Parliamentary Code of Conduct that does not stand up to serious scrutiny, is ineffective and does not include an independent body to investigate and make a determination of any potential breaches of the Code of Conduct.”

Mr McTaggart also said commitments by the Premier to meet with the Opposition to discuss our concerns have not occurred. “But we have made suggestions, and I am aware that the Constitution Commission has also provided the Government with useful input. These could help speed this process along, should the Government see fit to consider them and if the Premier can get agreement in his Caucus and with the Honourable Speaker."

Commenting on the necessity of the Parliamentary Code of Conduct, Mr McTaggart said it must also be a permanent part of the architecture which governs the conduct of the House and Parliamentarians. It should formally be adopted by a Resolution of Parliament and bind future members of Parliament. Of course, like the Standing Orders, it could be amended by further Resolutions of Parliament.

However, the Leader of the Opposition said the Council has not met since March 17, 2022 and thus has not sanctioned any final version of a Parliamentary Code of Conduct. He said the version of a Code of Conduct that the Premier has had his Government sign “is therefore invalid procedurally in addition to its other failings” and that “the Premier needs to go back to the drawing board.

The Progressives leader is urging Premier Panton to utilise the Constitution Commission's guidance on what a Code of Conduct for Parliament should contain and consider using a body such as the Commission for Standards in Public Life as the independent investigator. He also suggests that the UK House of Commons Code of Conduct could be considered a good guide.

Mr McTaggart is also calling on the Premier to work with The Hon Speaker to arrange for the Council to meet and fully consider appropriate options for a genuinely effective Code of Conduct and to have the Code debated and approved by Parliament.

“My colleagues and I in the Opposition stand ready to work with the Premier and the Commission to get the Code right,” he stated.

When he published the signed Parliamentary Code of Conduct by members of the PACT government and independent member McKeeva Bush on January 3rd, Premier Wayne Panton hailed the document as outlining the minimum ethical standards of behaviour that Caymanians can expect from their MPs. “This is an important milestone in our democratic process, and I am proud that all Government members have demonstrated their commitment to the Code and to abiding by the Nolan Principles, central to the Standards of Public Life,” Premier Panton said then.

For the code to take effect it must first be adopted in Parliament. A Code of Conduct is already in place for ministers of government.


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