Lawmakers on Tuesday began tackling reform of the Laws of Barbados, seeking to use a ‘law czar’ to root out statutes that are out of date and inefficient.
Government was moving to create a law review commissioner and establish a law review commission to help modernize the nation’s laws, said its chief legal advisor, Attorney General Dale Marshall.
Marshall led debate on the Law Revision and Law Reform Bill 2018 in the 379-year-old lower chamber, saying the new posts were necessary for Barbados to update its current statutes and regulations.
The 1994-2008 Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration had a law revision commissioner, whose task it was to meticulously go through every single statute and make sure that the final product was clear and expressed the full intent of Parliament, Marshall said.
“The law revision exercise is one that is very important and we have money in our budget this year for a law revision commissioner and the Attorney General’s chambers is anxious to advertise for that post to be filled so that we can recruit the kind of individual who has the intellectual . . . . We need somebody who can go into the minutiae of a statute and help us to make sure it is correct when it reaches the hands of the public and the practitioners.
“So upon the passing of this Bill in both chambers and it coming into law, we would expect to be able to invite applications to fill the post of law revision commissioner,” the attorney general said.
But the Attorney General suggested that while a law revision commission was an important step, a law review commissioner was even more important.
Owing to the Government’s limited finances, the office of Chief Parliamentary Counsel, responsible for drafting all of the nation’s acts and statutory instruments, was staffed by only 11 officers, Marshall told the House.
“With a law review commission and a law review commissioner we would be establishing an entity which will be tasked with keeping all of our laws, but we would expect them to deal with the major instruments and see what changes have been made and making recommendations including possible drafts to the policymakers.
“For small states like ours, this takes on tremendous significance. Small states are small in population and small in resource basis, but our society needs very much the same kinds of law and perhaps in some respects even the same amounts of law as England or the United States.”
The Attorney General maintained that Barbados needed modern laws to ensure that it remained competitive.
“Even though we are a small state we do not have the luxury of saying that as a small state we don’t need as much law. It doesn’t work that way because when you are dealing with a corporate climate, we have to have a Companies Act that embodies all of the current legal thinking that allows us to operate on the same footing as our trading partners that recognises the same commercial concepts as our trading partners and as people we want to trade with us.
“Just because we are a small country doesn’t mean our law can be second best or need not be as comprehensive . . . . We still need especially in this globalising environment to make sure that our legislative framework is on all fours with many nations across the board,” Marshall insisted.