Gordon House
Photo by DJ Miller

Speaking in Parliament this week, Leader of Opposition Business in the Jamaican House of Representatives Delroy Chuck yesterday echoed a sentiment that many non-Parliamentarians have long expressed – that not enough business is being done in the Houses of Parliament.

At the end of a sitting which lasted less than an hour, Chuck said “enough business is not being done in The House, but let us hope that next week will be a full session. Apart from next week, let us make sure that we deal with these Private Members Motions and utilize the sittings of The House in a more fulsome way.”

The Gleaner’s parliamentary affairs column The Gavel also drew attention this week to what it called

the lacklustre manner in which the Parliament has been attending to the people’s business.”

This came a year after the Gleaner’s editorial which called for an end to the “doziness” in Parliament and expressed the optimistic wish thatwith its members having taken their oaths, the legislature will immediately get down to serious work, eschewing its laziness of the past. That is, we expect the House and Senate will sit more often, for longer hours and pass more laws than they did during the life of the last Parliament.”

The editorial writer’s expectations have surely been dashed!

CARIMAC lecturer Fae Ellington and Douglas Orane, former Senator and the chairman of Grace Kennedy, are among those calling for Parliament to sit more frequently, with Orane noting that there is a “direct correlation between the number of times that Parliament meets and the number of bills it is able to pass.”

Parliamentarians argue that they need more resources, including better research facilities . There have also been calls for a new Parliament building which I wrote about in an earlier post here.

We need more sittings of Parliament, better facilities and expanding physical facilities. Maybe even constitutional reform. There are a lot of possibilities and a lot to discuss.

Before all that, however, I would like to see us make better use of the time we have now. Sure, better research facilities would? should? result in more informed debates (assuming they are used).  But can our Parliamentarians, particularly those in the Lower House, really say they are doing all they can at the moment? Can they really say they read the Bills properly (or at all), try to digest and understand them? Reading the Bills and doing some basic research on the Internet would be a good start. The laws and policies of many other jurisdictions can be found online. That can be done from their living rooms and that alone would allow for more informed interventions in the House.

Why can’t they sit longer? Why can’t they have more debates on issues of national importance? Why can’t more of the Private Members’ motions be taken?

More sittings that last less than an hour won’t help solve that problem. I do think we need more sittings. But until we have a commitment from the Parliamentarians to sit longer and work harder, I am not sure that additional sittings will help.