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Jan 5, 2018

Can Belize Avoid Paying Debt?

Dean Barrow

The Prime Minister repeated in greater detail his earlier sentiments from the November twenty-second press conference which seemed to present a legal basis by which Parliament could decide not to pay the judgment. He cited cases, lawyer-style, from other Commonwealth jurisdictions facing similar issues, and even suggested means in which the Crown Proceedings Act or similar legislation could be presented to avoid the issue. But absent those devices, the P.M. said the coming vote would be based solely on the conscience of parliamentarians.

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Madam Speaker, as I said, in other jurisdictions where the same state of affairs existed – because we all inherited this Crown Proceedings Act from the U.K. and we, all of us, had written constitutions which as well adopted this principle of supreme parliamentary control over finances, over public spending – and they were faced with this same issue. A judgment could be delivered against the Crown; the Crown ordered to pay money, and if the parliament did not have the money or did not wish to find the money, the judgment would not be paid. In Canada, they therefore changed the law. Parliament surrendered its control and said, listen, we will legislate to say that whenever there is a judgment against the particular State – the Crown, in effect the government or a state government – it shall be paid out of the consolidated revenue fund. We will go around the proscription that formally applied that said you can’t pay it out of the consolidated revenue fund, except Parliament specifically votes for you to pay it out of the consolidated revenue fund. In another jurisdiction, there is a standing permanent appropriation: when you pass your budget, you have an item that says, described as monies for the satisfaction of debts against the government. And so you don’t have to go back and legislate on top of that, so that you don’t have to go back and get a vote from parliament when there is a judgment against the Crown; you satisfy it out of the permanent standing appropriation. The fact that those other jurisdictions have had to do that, underscores the point that with us, where the position remains the original position, it is opposite to that, and it is what I have been at great pains to set out for the House and for the nation this morning. Parliament and only Parliament can decide whether it will vote the monies to pay this debt.”

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