PLP MP says AG is giving Premier ‘questionable advice’
Premier Craig Cannonier is being urged to evaluate whether Mark Pettingill should remain Attorney General.
Shadow Transport Minister Lawrence Scott said Government’s top legal adviser has given “questionable advice” to the Cabinet on at least three different occasions since taking office.
“It’s up to the Premier to look at this and make a decision as a leader as to whether or not this is the person he wants as his Attorney General and in his Cabinet,” said the Warwick MP.
“If you look at the fact that the Premier uses the AG as an adviser and, based on those pieces of advice, he has caused the Premier and other Cabinet Ministers to make questionable decisions, I would think that the advice being given is questionable advice.”
Opposition MPs first began to question the AG when Government asked parliament to approve legislation ending car licence fee exemptions for senior citizens.
During the House of Assembly debate, Mr Pettingill responded to Opposition concerns that cutting the benefit would mean hardship for many seniors by saying that if seniors need assistance they can apply for an exemption under the legislation. He criticised the Opposition for either not knowing or ignoring that aspect of the legislation.
But a week later Mr Pettingill admitted there was no provision in the legislation for seniors to apply for an exemption.
“It was a bait and switch where he said one thing and got what he wanted and then he took it back,” said Mr Scott. “It was to the detriment of the community.”
Mr Scott also pointed to the controversy dubbed as “jetgate” in which three Cabinet Ministers, including the Attorney General, agreed to be transported to a meeting in Washington DC by private jet, staying two nights — all at the expense of a potential investor.
The Premier told the House that he had consulted with the AG who had reassured him that no code of conduct was being violated.
But the Opposition charged that the AG did not appear to have been aware of the Ministerial Code of Conduct as he had recommended one for Bermuda before the controversy erupted.
And a decision by the Government to withdraw its own proposal to expand the definition of unlawful harassment because of a problematic clause was a third example of “questionable advice” Mr Scott said.
“Instead of taking out the clause he wanted to take out all of section 6. So they could be harassed,” Mr Scott continued.
“That’s why I say once is a mistake, twice is a coincidence, three times is a habit.”
We asked Shadow Attorney General Kim Wilson for her view. Ms Wilson agreed that there had been occasions when Mr Pettingill’s advice had been called into question, but would not be drawn on whether he should be removed from the position.
“It is a matter for the Premier,” she said.
Mr Cannonier and Mr Pettingill did not respond to our requests for comment by presstime last night.