The Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, has called for a critical look at lapses and gaps in the laws of the country which could be filled with the Private Member’s Bills.
He said the Private Member’s Bills covered areas that were limitless and a number of issues could be resolved though it provided opportunities for individuals and civil society organisations to help Parliament to promulgate laws.
At an Editors Forum organised by the office of the Speaker with funding from the STAR-Ghana Foundation at the Parliament House in Accra, the Speaker, therefore, called on the media to expose the ills in society that would lead to the re-enacting of laws which had become docile.
He said for the first time in the history of Parliament the House had set up a legal department and a research section to assist and investigate the veracity in re-enacting archaic laws which were in the statute books and were serving no purpose for societal legal needs.
Bills under consideration
He also announced that Parliament was considering a number of Private Member’s Bills and which included the Public Order (Amendment) Bill, Electoral Offences and Related Malpractices Bill, Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill, Budget Bill and Reproductive Assisted Technologies Bill.
Professor Oquaye, therefore, made a passionate appeal to the media to help in reporting stories to unravel the grey areas in society to enable Parliament to tighten the laws, adding that as “influencers, you interact with the people and vividly see some of these gaps in your line of job”.
“I would like to crave your indulgence to cooperate as Senior Editors and media influencers to assist not only in identifying the lapses in our existing laws, but also promote this cause for citizens to contribute to the efficacy of the laws of Ghana,” he said.
According to the Speaker, many other countries including Australia, Canada, India, Norway, UK, South Africa, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Uganda all have a Private Member’s Bill as a good alternative to fill in the lapses in their national laws.
He indicated that progressive and social legislation required the corrective efforts of society as a whole and that was a reformist complement to the efforts of the executive.
“As you are aware of, the legislative function of Parliament is one of the important statutory functions of the institution. Laws enacted by Parliament affect every citizen of the land and as stakeholders, we should be interested at all times to assist in the procedures for law making,” he said.
He noted that in our part of the world, people had been accustomed to laws enacted from the propositions of the executive arm of government. These laws were essentially how government proposed to carry out socio-economic policies that would ultimately be accounted for.
The Speaker acknowledged that in the national jurisdiction, Article 108 had influenced the direction for the law-making procedure of the country.
“We have unfortunately misconstrued the expression ‘charge’ in Article 108 (a) (iii) to mean that all bills introduced in Parliament impose a charge, levy or tax on the people, thus, it is only the President and the Executive who can introduce bills to Parliament. Essentially, the Executive know what is in the public purse, hence, laws that require imposition of taxes should be left to them,” he said.
He asserted that the expression of a ‘charge’ to the public purse was a British practice that related to the House of Commons giving money according to what the monarchy requested for.
He said with time, the Private Member’s Bills had become very important and the British Parliament had been seriously considering it since 1983 and they had over 227 Private Member’s Bills which had received the Royal Assent.
“Indeed, there are so many areas that touch and concern the lives of the people. These areas could be well regulated by the people of Ghana through Members of Parliament, which cannot be seen in terms of a charge, imposing of a levy or tax on the public,” he said.
For his part, the President of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Mr Roland Affail Monney, expressed his appreciation to the Speaker for engaging the media to discuss issues of national concern.
He gave an assurance that the media, as the Fourth Estate of the Realm, would provide their constitutional duty by educating and informing the public.