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Government accused of ‘racing’ through poorly drafted laws

Fine-tuning: Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs (File photograph)

The Government has been accused of “racing” poorly drafted legislation through the House of Assembly which then has to be corrected by subsequent bills.

Craig Cannonier, of the opposition One Bermuda Alliance made the claim Friday, after the Government moved forward with two bills that “fine-tuned” omissions to recently passed Acts.

During the House morning session, Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, gave the Fuels Amendment Act 2022 its second reading.

The principal Act, which was passed in the House of Assembly last month, gave the Regulatory Authority oversight of the fuel sector, specifically to companies whose principal business is the importation and sale of fuel.

But Mr Roban pointed out that, because of the vague drafting of the Act, the regulations could apply to retailers that sell small amounts of fuel such as cigarette lighters and charcoal for barbecues.

Mr Roban said: “The Bill seeks to introduce a few clarifications to the recently passed Fuels Act 2022 to ensure that the responsibility and authority of the Regulatory Authority is appropriately applied to the fuels industry.

“The Bill seeks to fine-tune the principal Act before the hard work of creating the regulations begins in earnest.

“The Fuels Act is meant to apply only to those entities in the actual business of importing and selling fuels.

“There is a need that, for example, entities like hardware stores selling small quantities of fuels like butane for lighters or charcoal for barbecues would be exempted from regulation.

“Not making this distinction could have resulted in an onus to retailers and also a burden to the regulator, neither of which would be in the best interest of the industry.

“The Bill narrows the definitions to ensure that only those whose primary business is the importation or sale of fuels will be regulated under the Fuels Act 2022.”

Mr Roban pointed out that the Bill will also confirm that regulations under the principal act will not apply to renewable energy sources, which have their own regulations.

But Mr Cannonier argued that the amendments would not have been required if more time had been taken debating the original Act.

He said: “I wasn’t quite sure why we were racing through the substantive piece of legislation only to have to come back with amendments three weeks later.

“They certainly need to be done and I believe there are more amendments that need to take place as well. They need to be done and I’m glad that at least the minister is taking them on.

“But quite frankly this was a Bill that still needs much work to be done. There was no need to rush it through and get it done only to then have to come back with amendments.”

Mr Roban hit back, saying: “No rush, but this piece of legislation shows how the legislative process is supposed to work.”

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, also introduced legislative tweaking to correct “an oversight”.

Mr Rabain said that the Bermuda Educators Council Amendment Act 2022 was intended to ensure that members of an exemptions committee were paid and that previous payments were validated.

The principal Act created the Bermuda Educators Council – a watchdog that would oversee standards in education and set up a register of qualified teachers.

The BEC’s exemptions committee vetted educators who did not possess certain qualifications but still wanted to teach.

Mr Rabain said: “It is unfortunate that it was recently discovered that the fees that have been paid to the exemption committee since at least 2011 were not provided for by the BEC Act.

“It should be noted that these fees were paid over the years. This Bill seeks that the exemption committee fees are covered by legislation.”

Mr Robain said he was unable to confirm how much in fees had been paid but said that the committee met about nine times each year and that each of its five members were paid $50 per meeting.

Michael Dunkley of the OBA, said he was “pleased” that the error was finally being corrected.

He said: “I’m aware that these oversights can take place from time to time, and I’m glad that we’ve caught this one. We certainly have no issues with this amendment.”

Although the two Bills were supported by both sides of the House, they were not passed yesterday. The afternoon session ended abruptly before ministers were able to give the Bills their third readings.

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Published December 05, 2022 at 7:42 am (Updated December 05, 2022 at 7:42 am)

Government accused of ‘racing’ through poorly drafted laws

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