Categorized | Featured, National News

Mitchell Pushes For Select Committee

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A great deal is expected from politicians.
In fact, as Fox Hill MP, Fred Mitchell yesterday put it, they must use their mind, talent, intellect and intelligence to solve the nation’s problems.
But he strongly believes there is a great need for support commensurate with the work that must be done.
This would explain why he is pushing for a select committee, one that would make recommendations into the powers, privileges and immunities of MPs, their allowances and benefits and the feasibility of constructing a new parliament.
“I don’t like this building. I’m quite plain about this” Mr. Mitchell said referring to the present House of Assembly.
“It is inadequate, too intimate, not enough privacy, security, it doesn’t fit the image of a modern Bahamas and we simply need to build a new building. When this building was built, women were not members of parliament nor was it anticipated that they’d ever be members of parliament. There is no sensitivity to the disabled. All of that we now have to take into account.”
The foreign affairs minister made a number of suggestions to improve the situation.

“There ought to be a suite of offices for both the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, proper dining facilities and meeting rooms for MPs, the leader of government and opposition business and the party whips,” Mr. Mitchell proposed.

“We started before. A design was approved for the old Royal Victoria Hotel site, a contest held, a winner declared but the building was never built. Let’s see if we can get it done this time.”

Mr. Mitchell added there also should be power in incumbency.

“The incumbent ought to have things like a staff coordinator, mobile phone support, a constituency coordinator, a press attaché, secretarial assistance for the constituency office, a travel allowance for the entire Bahamas,” he said.

The minister admitted that while this all translates into additional costs, he has a formula for the committee to consider in terms of how the House and Senate can get such resources.

In terms of its structure and governance, the minister proposes that that House and the Senate run their own affairs.

“The House and the Senate would be run by respective committees of the House which would be a standing committee. They would be chaired by the Speaker or President made up of three members of the majority, two members of the minority and they will make the decisions for the day to day running of the House and its management, be responsible for relations with the executive, the House and the Senate and negotiate the annual budget of the House and Senate,” Mr. Mitchell said.

“Pensions ought to reviewed regularly and members ought to know what the status of their pension and how they can improve the worth of their pension. When a member of the House or Senate retires, it is the House or the Senate that should provide the services to that member to ensure that he/she is properly treated and dealt with such items as support for health care and pensions. Further, it is my view that when you become a Member of Parliament or senator, your work ought to be supported by some form of travel allowance.”

The PLP MP acknowledged that his comments may be contentious to some, but that he is simply ding what he believes is right.

“The problem has to be faced despite what is likely to be a heavy, political and perhaps personal cost. It must be done so that the next generation of people who come here will not have this battle to fight. Hopefully, and if we are artful and determined enough, we will have designed a system which would give us the flexibility to the next set of leaders in the country to determine the proper level of support for the work of members of parliament and senate, who come to serve in office,” he explained.

“The idea is to put in place a system which would allow for constant review in a transparent and objective context on a regular basis so that the work of a Member of Parliament or senator is properly supported.”

Mr. Mitchell is hoping for the minority’s support but said he will proceed nonetheless.

“I’m prepared to take the hit for and the risk,” he said.

But, Leader of Opposition Business, Neko Grant said “yes” the present parliament is not what he would wish to have, but he questioned the time minister’s timing.

“I confess the arguments advanced by the Member for Fox Hill for the allowance of benefits for Members of Parliament and the construction of a new parliament is not without merit. But, we question the timing,” Mr. Grant said.

“Now is not the time for this committee to act. People are hurting and we should be debating something more substantive…With the many issues that affect us today, I thought that we would have been giving focused attention on the foreclosures, the unemployment and the continuous rise.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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