Parliament has adopted the proposal for the enactment of the Private Members’ Bill which will make the introduction of bills in Parliament for consideration no longer the sole prerogative of the Executive.
The adoption of the proposal will now allow individual Members of Parliament (MPs) who are not ministers of state or non-government officials, as well as private citizens, to introduce or initiate bills on the floor of the House for consideration.
This is in sharp contrast with the culture where bills only emanate from the Executive, which introduces bills on the floor of Parliament through ministers of state and other government officials.
The motion for the adoption of the proposal for the enactment of the bill was moved by the Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, and seconded by the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu.
Order of the day
Following the adoption of the proposal, the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, said the motion moved by the Majority Leader and supported by the Minority Leader was a call in the right direction.
“It is time to appreciate the cooperation between the Deputy speakers, the leaders and the members of this House, which has made today possible,” he said.
He said throughout Commonwealth countries, such as New Zealand, Australia and Canada, and across many African countries, the enactment of Private Members’ bills was now the order of the day.
The Speaker noted that although Article 93 (2) of the 1992 Constitution vested legislative powers in Parliament, other provisions, including articles 46, 56, 106 (3), 127 (7), 187 (7), 225, 234 and 270(2), clearly set the limits of the legislative powers of Parliament.
“It is unfortunate that no Private Members’ Bill has been passed in this House, despite the fact that the Constitution and other relevant enactments permit members of the House to initiate and introduce bills for consideration.
“So long as a Private Members’ Bill does not offend Article 108 and will not be categorised as what the British call “a money bill”, Parliament should admit the bill,” he said.
Engagement of experts
Prof. Oquaye pointed out that it was imperative to indicate that Private Members’ bills required consensus building across the political divide in the House, saying: “In fact, we are about to see more of these very, very soon.”
“At this stage, I refer the matter to the leadership of the Standing Orders Committee and the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
“The leadership should report to this House on the appropriate procedure for the enactment of the Private Members’ Bill and the approach that this House should adopt in the implementation of Section 100 of the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921),” he said.
Private members bill
The Speaker added that as part of preparations towards Private Members’ bills, Parliament had engaged Nana S.K.B. Asante to provide research and draft bills in furtherance of the mandate of the House under the 1992 Constitution.
That, he said, would enable the House to enact legislation for the application of procedures for the regulation of international business or economic transactions under Article 181(5) and regulate the property rights of spouses under Article 22.
“I am happy to note that the Clerk’s Office has received two bills, with memoranda, from Nana Asante and his team and these can also be considered in our quest to ensure the passage of the Private Members’ Bill.
Moving the motion, Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu traced the history of frustrated attempts by previous parliaments to get the bill adopted, so that members could introduce bills for consideration.
He said the adoption of the proposal for the enactment of the bill would now create the culture for both individual MPs, private citizens, as well as the Executive, to introduce bills in the House.
Seconding the motion, Mr Iddrisu said the adoption of the motion had crowned the contribution of the Speaker and the seventh Parliament to enriching Ghana’s democratic jurisprudence.
He said the bill would now allow non-government members to introduce bills in the House, in compliance with Article 93 of the Constitution.
“The bill means an end to the situation of all bills emanating from the Executive. Now bills can emanate from MPs and this will dutifully give religious interpretation to the exercise of our legislative functions, practice and procedures,” he said.