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BERMUDA: ASSESSING PARLIAMENT


ASSESSING BERMUDA’S PARLIAMENTAGAINST THE CPA BENCHMARKS


In July 2013, a Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary Governance and Reform was established to ensure that Bermuda’s Legislature met the standards detailed in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures. A Member of the Committee and Government Whip and House Leader summarizes the recommendations presented to the Parliament of Bermuda, in order for it to be effective and efficient in providing parliamentary services in an information age.


Hon. N.H.Cole Simons, JP, MP Mr Simons was elected to the House of Assembly in 1998. He has served as the Opposition House Leader, Opposition Whip and Shadow Minister of Government Estates and Information Services, all positions he held until 2012. He has also served as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Minister of Youth, Sports, Cultural and Community Affairs. Mr Simons currently serves as the Government Whip and House Leader.


Parliament therefore is the only appropriate forum for the introduction, discussion and dissemination of matters affecting the sovereign rights of the people, and those who do not support this point of view are not true Parliamentarians.


Hon. N.H. Cole Simons, JP, MP


The former Prime Minister of Barbados, The Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow, PC, QC, made a simple but profound statement during his term in 1974. He said: The meaning of Parliamentary democracy is that the people themselves because of their preoccupation with such vital matters, as earning a living, lack the time, to devote to proper studies to this and other matters. They delegate that exclusive right and duty to pass laws in their Parliament for the good governance of this country, and for the betterment and improvement of the society.


He went on to state that 162 | The Parliamentarian | 2014: Issue Three


Using this as a backdrop, the aforementioned views are encapsulated in the majority of our constitutions. Parliament exists to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of our respective countries. An effective and efficient parliamentary service therefore is one that allows the elected representatives or Senators to carry out that overarching mandate provided to them by their people. I stand by that for a parliamentary service to achieve the aforementioned objectives, there must be some independence and autonomy. This view was supported by the 2005 CPA study group on the Financing and Administration of Parliament. The study recommended under the theme “Governance of Parliament”, that Parliaments should either by legislation, or resolution, establish corporate


bodies responsible for providing services and funding entitlements for Parliamentary purposes and providing for governance of the parliamentary service.


The Parliament of Bermuda Bermuda is amongst the world’s oldest Legislatures in the Western Hemisphere. It is a bicameral Legislature, exercising parallel functions to those of the House of Commons and the House of Lords in the United Kingdom. Our Parliament first met in 1620 and is currently housed in a building which began as a simple two-story edifice in 1819. Parliament moved into the building in 1826 and a clock tower and Florentine façade were added in 1893. There have been many additions over the years, the most recent, to provide elevator access to the second story. It is a very attractive building, but wholly inadequate to the current needs of Parliament in terms of infrastructure. The House of Assembly consists of 36 elected Members. 19 Members represent the One Bermuda Alliance Party, with the remaining 16 seats filled by the


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