No oath, no salaries for Ministers
By Ria Taitt
Government Ministers should not be paid ministerial salaries until they have taken the parliamentary oath - that is the Oath of Allegiance taken by an MP after the Parliament is convened and a Speaker is elected.
This is part of an opinion submitted by the Solicitor General, Lynette Stephenson, in response to a written request by the Clerk of the House, Jacqui Sampson-Jacent for advice relating to the payment of salaries of persons who have not taken the parliamentary oath.
The question first arose with respect to Opposition Parliamentarians and the Solicitor General's opinion confirmed definitely that the UNC MPs cannot be paid, until they take their parliamentary oaths.
"In relation to being an 'employed earner' a member cannot be paid a salary until he takes the oath, or makes the affirmation required by law," the opinion stated.
But in her response, dated January 11, Stephenson went a bit further and drew attention to Section 84 which suggested that even Ministers, who have not taken the parliamentary oath, could not perform their duties and couldn't be paid, before both the ministerial oath and the parliamentary oaths are taken.
Ministers are required to take two oaths. The first oath - the oath for the due execution of office - is taken on their appointment and is administered by the President (at the President's House). The second oath is taken in the Parliament and is administered by the Clerk of the House, or the Clerk of the Senate, depending on which House the Minister belongs to.
Drawing reference to Section 84 of the Constitution, Stephenson summarised that "a Minister or parliamentary secretary cannot perform the duties of his office unless he has taken and subscribed to the oath of allegiance and the oath for the due execution of his office. Such person can only be paid as Ministers or parliamentary secretaries when both oaths have been taken".
Some sources noted that Stephenson's statement raised questions on whether the current ministers were legally competent to perform their duties, having not taken the parliamentary oath.
But one prominent Senior Counsel opined that the oath of office taken by the Minister was a "double-barrel one" - "it was an Oath of Allegiance as well as an oath to discharge his functions" - and as such satisfied the constitutional requirements as set out in the Section.
On the question of MPs and the payment of their salaries, the Solicitor General's opinion also noted that once the parliamentary oath was taken the payment should be retroactive to the day following the election.
"The salary of a member becomes payable when he takes the oath and makes the affirmation required by law, and begins from the day following that on which the poll is held," the opinion stated.
Referring to Erskine May's Parliamentary Practice, the opinion further pointed out that a member who had not taken the oath "within six months of the return of his writ to the Chief Election Officer was not entitled to claim any salary prior to the date when he takes the oath".
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