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Foul-up in tabling of Bankruptcy and Insolvency Bill

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, January 16, 2014    

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THERE is confusion in the nation's Parliament in the handling of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Bill, which was tabled in the Senate instead of the Lower House.

The Bill, which falls under the responsibility of Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton, a member of the House of Representatives, was tabled in the Senate on December 20 by the Minister of Justice Senator Mark Golding.

A notice from Parliament to the press yesterday said that the Senate is expected to give approval for the sending of the Bill to a joint select committee when it meets on Friday.

The Jamaica Observer was unable to get an explanation from Parliament for the reason the Bill is being handled by Senator Golding in the Senate, instead of Minister Hylton in the Lower House.

However, Senator Golding told the Observer that the decision to table the Bill in the Senate was taken in December because there was some doubt that the House would have been unable to meet on Christmas Eve, and therefore the tabling would have been delayed.

Senator Golding said that the Bill is to be sent to a joint select committee of both Houses, which would be chaired by Hylton. But there were concerns as to whether Golding can pilot a motion in the Senate to send the Bill to a joint select committee, when it really belongs in the House of Representatives which should take that decision.

Yesterday, Opposition spokesman on industry, investment and commerce, Karl Samuda said the situation was another example of the bungling which has been characterising Parliament's handling of a number of Bills being pushed through both Houses since late 2013 to meet Extended Fund Facility deadlines, or to lay the foundation for the four-year, medium-term economic programme agreed with the International Monetary Fund.

"These things are unprecedented in Parliament. They are breaking all the rules of the House," Samuda suggested. "We were discussing this Bill from we were Government under Prime Minister Bruce Golding, whose development committee met with all the stakeholders to discuss the issues. So there was no need for the delay," said Samuda.

Previously, the House had to stop debate on the Security Interest in Personal Property Bill after Parliament failed to get copies on the proper size paper, and just yesterday a meeting of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee, which should have started reviewing the Fiscal Policy Paper's (FPP) interim report, had to be postponed to January 29 because the FPP had not been formally referred to the committee by the House prior to the Christmas break.

It was agreed that there was need to consolidate the law relating to bankruptcy, insolvency, receiverships, provisional supervision and winding up; provide for corporate and individual insolvency; provide for rehabilitation of an insolvent debtor; and repeal the Bankruptcy Act; and to provide for matters connected with, or incidental to the foregoing, including the amendment of the Companies Act.

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