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Gov't MPs throw out Jackson's Banking Bill

Senior staff reporter

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

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THE Government yesterday used its majority to reject Opposition MP Fitz Jackson's Banking Services Bill after contending that most of the proposals were already covered in legislation passed by the previous and current administrations and in new law being studied.

Speaker of the House of Representatives Pearnel Charles Sr called a “divide” after Government MPs voted against the second reading of the Bill, which would have led to its approval.

The “divide” meant that each member was required to vote separately. It ended with 30 Government MPs voting against it and 29 Opposition MPs voting in favour. With this defeat, Jackson's proposals for regulating the banks, particularly in terms of implementing banking fees, were thrown out.

It seemed obvious from last week that the Government would not have supported the Bill, after Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Karl Samuda raised opposition to the proposals, pointing out that the issues they addressed were already being dealt with by the Government.

Samuda, who had chaired the Economy and Production Committee of the House where Jackson first raised the issues in 2013 after a public outcry against new fees introduced by the banks, said that the provisions were already being incorporated into a policy that would eventually be legislated.

The debate was suspended last week, and rescheduled at the request of the acting Leader of the House Everald Warmington. He promised that the debate would be completed yesterday.

Jackson at one stage accused Samuda of playing a “three-card” role, a suggestion which Samuda objected to, and which Jackson eventually withdrew.

Minister of Finance and the Public Service Audley Shaw, who opened yesterday's resumption, took up where Samuda left off.

Shaw showed that in 2014, and again in 2015, the previous Government, of which Jackson was a member, had introduced provisions bringing the banks under extensive regulations. He noted that this was complemented by the introduction of a banking code, which was approved under the current Government within six months of coming to power in 2016, adding regulations under which the Bank of Jamaica would increasingly regulate the commercial banking sector.

In closing the debate, Jackson accused both Samuda and Shaw of hypocrisy, claiming that they had supported his arguments in the previous debates.

Jackson also responded to Shaw's claim that nearly all the proposals in the new Bill are already addressed or being addressed, stating that his Bill was reviewed by the Government's chief parliamentary counsel to ensure that there was no “contradiction”.

Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips had also opposed the delay in passing Jackson's Bill, noting that the Government's actions to legislate the issue could take three to four years, while the matter was an urgent one.

Phillips contended that, in the meantime, “the fee structure is going to continue to take away poor people's money… (and) small business people [are] going to suck salt out of wooden spoon”.

After the Bill was defeated, Jackson insisted that it would not be the end of his efforts.

“The Bill will be tabled again in the next legislative year, and we are going to keep voting on it,” he said.

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