Premier eyes ‘Greedy Bill’ reset at next Cabinet meeting
The vexing issue of the Retiring Allowances (Legislative Services) Amendment Act, 2021, commonly referred to as the greedy bill by the public, will have to wait for some time before it can be addressed.
This is according to Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley, who told reporters at a press conference earlier this week, that the issue will be taken up at the Cabinet level once he returns from an official United Kingdom (UK) trip. That UK visit is expected to include meetings with the Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) and the coronation of King Charles III, among other things.
When asked whether the issue will be brought up at the first sitting of the new House of Assembly (HOA) as the first order of business, Dr Wheatley explained that this does not happen traditionally. He noted that during the first sitting, the Speaker will usually be elected, speeches will be made, and the session is then closed. Ordinary business will then resume at the next sitting of the HOA.
We don’t want to make mistakes or skip steps
With regard to amending the bill as he promised on the campaign trail, Dr Wheatley said: “Soon, at the Cabinet meeting, perhaps after I return from London, we’ll have a Cabinet paper which will put forward a decision to have the offending sections of that Act repealed.”
The premier was quick to qualify his response, however, cautioning that Attorney General (AG) Dawn Smith warned lawmakers about rushing through legislation when the House had to be recalled recently.
“So, we don’t want to make mistakes and we don’t want to skip steps,” Premier Wheatley stated. “But I can assure you that at the Cabinet meeting when I return from London – we won’t have any Cabinet meetings before – we will make a decision to repeal the offending sections of the [Retiring Allowances (Legislative Services)] Act.”
We can’t deprive anyone
When questioned as to what will happen in instances where lawmakers have already benefitted from offending sections of the Act, Premier Wheatley said this is another area for the AG to examine.
“That is something that we’re going to need legal advice on — persons who have already become entitled to benefits. We certainly don’t want to disenfranchise anyone from a legal perspective and take away rights which they have already earned,” he said.
Dr Wheatley explained that the ideal situation would be to have an independent body, such as PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), determine salaries for lawmakers that are commensurate with their roles and responsibilities. He argued that this should be fair and equitable and said lawmakers’ pensions should then be based on this determination.
Meanwhile, Premier Wheatley’s comments on the issue come days after Sixth District Representative Myron Walwyn urged that lawmakers should ensure that the bill be set as the first order of business once House sittings resume.
“A lot of promises were made on the campaign trail that must be held up,” Walwyn said. “I remember clearly bringing one issue, one main issue to the fore. That issue of the [Retiring Allowances (Legislative Services)] Act. That I made very clear that should be repealed.”
He added: “I recall the premier indicating that he would repeal it and I would like to see that as the first order of business in the House because the people of this country cannot afford to carry that burden with all the other social issues that we have.”