The Majority Leader and Leader of Government Business in Parliament Honourable Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu on Thursday, 16th July 2020 moved a motion for Parliament to adopt a proposal for the enactment of Private Members’ Bill to fill the lapses and gaps in the laws of the country.
A Private Member’s Bill in a parliamentary system of government is a Bill or proposed law introduced into a Legislature by a lawmaker who is not acting on behalf of the Executive branch, hence the adoption of the motion would mark a defining moment in the annals of Ghana’s Parliament where a Member who is not a Minister can initiate a Bill to the House.
Bills have usually originated from the Executive arm of Government since the advent of Ghana’s democratic dispensation but a Private Member’s Bill would mean a departure from the old tradition which stipulates that the initiation and subsequent introduction of legislation in Parliament was the preserve of the Executive.
The Private Members’ Bills will cover limitless areas and a number of issues and provide opportunities for individuals and civil society organisations to help Parliament promulgate laws which would need the support of all before passage and will need building a stronger consensus from within Parliament and the co-operation between the Executive and the Legislature.
The Majority Leader in moving the motion for the adoption argued that Article 93(2) of the 1992 Constitution vested legislative power in Parliament and Article 103(3) in particular provided that Parliament used its Committees to generate proposals for Bills adding that the combined effect of those two Articles was that Members could initiate the passage of laws by submitting proposals for Bills.
Hon. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu explained that though Article 108 made it clear that no Bill introduced in Parliament should be at any cost to the government, it did not impose an omnibus prohibition on the initiation of all legislation by a Private Member and that MPs are perfectly entitled to introduce any legislation which did not have the specific financial implications spelt out in the Article.
He indicated that the legislative function of Parliament is one of the important statutory functions of the House and that laws enacted by Parliament affect every citizen of the land, therefore, MPs as stakeholders should be interested at all times to assist in the procedures for lawmaking.
The House Leader admitted that progressive and social legislation requires the corrective efforts of society as a whole as a reformist complement to the efforts of the Executive and that Parliament’s Legal and Research Departments will assist in re-enacting archaic laws in the statute books and no purpose for societal legal needs.
The Minority Leader and the Member for Tamale South Hon. Haruna Iddrisu seconding the motion described the proposal as significant and indicated that introducing the Private Members’ Bill in the current Parliament would be historic and add to the country’s democratic credentials as a State.
He recalled that the Rt. Hon. Speaker at his swearing-in had stressed the need for the controversy over MPs initiating Private Member’s Bill to be resolved and if no Member other than a Minister could initiate legislation, it means that Parliament had virtually ceded a substantial part of its legislative power to the Executive hence the adoption of the motion will resolve that controversy.
The Tamale South MP also lauded the Speaker for his courageous effort to see to the realization of the Private Members Bill and his contribution to enriching the country’s democratic jurisprudence since the adoption of the motion would mark his contribution as Speaker and the contribution of the 7th Parliament to enriching Ghana’s democratic credentials.
The Speaker Professor Mike Oquaye admitted that Article 108 had influenced the direction for the law-making procedure of the country and people had been accustomed to laws enacted from the propositions of the Executive arm of government which were essentially how the government proposed to carry out socio-economic policies that would ultimately be accounted for.
He, however, clarified that Members of Parliament should not live under the erroneous impression that the Constitution actually prohibits the introduction of Bills by private Members and that the enactment of such Bills was critical to enhance democratic governance which could serve as means by which Parliament might use the law as a tool for social engineering.
The Rt. Hon. Speaker informed that many other countries including Australia, Canada, India, Norway, South Africa, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Uganda have a Private Member’s Bill as a good alternative to fill in the lapses in their national laws adding and that the British Parliament had been seriously considering it since 1983 and that they had over 227 Private Member’s Bills which had received the Royal Assent.
He was grateful to the House for the motion and consequently referred it to the Leadership of the Standing Orders Committee and the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee for the determination of appropriate procedures for its enactment in relation to the Public Financial Management Act 2016, Act 921 and report to the plenary within ten days.