Bill on ‘shaky legal ground’

In an hour-long maiden speech as Opposition Leader in the House of Assembly yesterday, Ralph Thorne questioned whether new legislation was ascribing punitive powers to ministers that belonged with the courts.

The Christ Church South Member of Parliament, who switched over the weekend from Government backbencher to Opposition Leader, was responding to the introduction of the Labour Clauses (Concessions) Bill, 2024. He challenged the right of a minister to punish a citizen and whether the concession described in the legislation was property and therefore unable to be legally taken away once promised.

The King’s Counsel was concerned that powers were being assumed that the separation of powers, under the Constitution, did not provide for as Government attempted to make hoteliers conform.

“I wonder whether the minister is not trespassing beyond the Constitution . . . and there’s the political point. A government has to be wary of the public perception that it is becoming tyrannical. That it is assuming powers that really are unlawful and powers it really ought not to have. That it is assuming powers of the judiciary and that it is usurping judicial function. That is my difficulty with this legislation and that is not anti-workers,” he said.

In relation to the separation of powers under the Constitution, Thorne said the three bodies constituting the State – the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary – had specific roles. (AC)

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