OPPOSITION Senator Lambert Brown is calling for legislation to be put in place to govern how the Government establishes tribunals, as he believes there are too many of these bodies with varying compositions and purposes.
He was contributing to the debate on the National Compliance and Regulatory Authority (NCRA) Act, 2023 in the Senate on Friday, where he questioned Clause 18 which speaks to the establishment of an appeals tribunal.
"There's a whole set of tribunals and appeals tribunals that have been set up [and there] are different approaches to the composition and the approach to be adopted by these tribunals and I'm calling for maybe a national tribunal and appeal tribunal legislation, which can save us the need for every Bill to be putting in a unique appeal tribunal," he said.
He argued that there are appeal tribunals or tribunals which could be considerable in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. I also suspect elsewhere in agriculture; there's an appeal tribunal in health; there's a consumer appeals tribunal; there's an appeal tribunal in the firearm operations [at the] Firearms Licensing Authority (FLA).
"It's clear that there are just different appeals tribunals all around the place with different composition and arrangement, and there may be a reason for that, but I believe, the Government ought to pause and study the number of different appeal tribunals and see whether or not a template can be established to govern that," he said.
Government Senator Kavan Gayle agreed that the way in which tribunals are established could be examined.
"The area in relation to the tribunal is one that we both would have shared concerns over and we would have requested information in relation to examining the number of tribunals that are operating and for us to make a determination if it requires some level of consistency in terms of approach," he said.
Government Senator and Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Aubyn Hill, who piloted the Bill, admitted that the tribunal is an important issue. He argued however, that "you don't want to tribunal that is at FLA to be responsible for dealing with a tribunal with drugs, and so on, that a tribunal at the Ministry of Health will deal with".
Gayle said he wants to ensure that the minister will have some discretion in how he or she appoints that tribunal.
"I just want to make it sure and make it clear to my colleagues in this body and to Jamaica that the minister will reserve some discretion. He has to have some discretion and of course, the matters that Senator Brown raised, the minister will take it into consideration, and that's why he has the right to appoint the tribunal. He will take advice, but you cannot dictate every item that must happen in the Bill… no Bill can cover everything. We will see how it works and then make amendments, or the regulations can be amended to take care of that," he said.
The NCRA Bill seeks to shift the regulatory functions of the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) to an administratively created body – the National Compliance and Regulatory Authority (NCRA).
The passage of the Bill now puts into effect the legal separation of the BSJ regulatory division from the NCRA, seven years after the work was completed.