Young: National Insurance bill ‘is no Section 34’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minister of Energy Stuart Young. File photo/Ayanna Kinsale

THE National Insurance (Amendment) Bill, 2022 has no hidden agenda, said Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young.

He spoke in debate on the bill in the House of Representatives.

Young was supported by Finance Minister Colm Imbert when he concluded the debate and before the House passed the bill. When the vote was taken, the 18 government MPs voted for it while the 12 opposition MPs present abstained.

The House adjourned to Friday at 1.30 pm for private members day.

Young assured the population that the bill was for their benefit, saying law-abiding citizens would be comforted that it is not Government’s policy in any form or fashion to provide any benefit to people who breach or break the law.

“Not a single person. There is no Section 34 by this government. This is not a piece of legislation that was passed, that was specifically, carefully crafted by those on the other side to benefit a handful of people who are the noisemakers today attacking the Attorney General (Reginald Armour. SC).”

Young added, “That is not that. That is not what that is. This is to benefit the small people in Trinidad and Tobago.”

Section 34 was a clause introduced to the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Bill 2011 by former Justice Minister Herbert Volney which allowed for charges to be dropped if a trial had not started ten years after charges had beenl aid. UNC financiers Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson, who were charged in the Piarco International Airport corruption case, went to the courts calling for the matters to be dismissed after the legislation was proclaimed.

Rural Development and Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi joined Young in debunking claims by UNC MPs Dave Tancoo and Rudranath Indarsingh that someone would benefit improperly when the bill becomes law.

“Do not confuse UNC policy with PNM policy. It does not apply.”

As he concluded the debate, Imbert responded to Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee’s question about who would benefit from the bill’s passage.

“Thousands, Hundreds of thousands of persons. Little people who are in the NIS (national insurance system) that have asked for this.”

Imbert rejected claims by Oropouche West MP Tancoo that the bill would give a bligh to people who refused to pay their national insurance.

‘What absolute nonsense.”

He told opposition MPs that between 2010 and 2015, the UNC-led People’s Partnership government gave “amnesty after amnesty.”

Imbert asked how it was a dangerous precedent now “to give an amnesty and it wasn’t a dangerous precedent then?”

This bill is superior to its 2012 predcessor, he continued, because it allows unregistered employers to register with the National Insurance Board within a sixmonth amnesty period.

He dismissed UNC claims of political inteference: “What nonsense.”

Imbert again reminded the opposition it had supported legislation passed during the covid19 pandemic which gave government ministers “the power by order to extend a timeline.”

He declared, “In fact, the last tax amnesty which was supported by members opposite gave the minister of finance the power to extend the deadline.”

Imbert said he did so. “I didn’t hear any of them complaining when I did that.”

He also said as chairman of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Tancoo knows there is no figure of the quantum of debt owed by government to the NIB. because that matter is still being discussed. Imbert said the NIB told PAC members this during a public inquiry in February.

Under the Constitution, the PAC and Public Accounts Enterprises Committee are the only two parliamentary committees which must be chaired by opposition MPs.