VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS AND THE OFFICIAL REPORT
Hon Leader, there will be no Statements. Shall we now move on then?
Yes, Madam Speaker, with your kind permission, we move to Motion on item 4, that the intestate Succession Bill, 2009 be now read the Second time. Madam Speaker, I would also want to Respectfully apply for your permission to allow the on deputy Attorney -General and Deputy Minister for Justice, who is a Member of the august House to move the Motion for and on behalf of the Minister. He has taken part in piloting this Bill, and he is very conversant with the issues or the (principles of the Bill. So with your kin permission, I would like Hon Ebo Barton-Odro to move the Motion. Thank you.
This is an application for the Motion to be moved by the Deputy Minister for Justice and Deputy Attorney-General.
Madam Speaker, I believe, ordinarily, one should not have any problem with that but I thought the Majority Leader was going to tell us the whereabouts of the substantive Attorney-General and Minister for Justice. I understand Parliament has not been officially informed of anything. So he should tell us because it is the Minister who should be addressing us.
So, yes, it has been agreed -- as it not? T at he should move it -- Kindly speak a little louder into the microphone.
Madam Speaker, I think the Majority Leader heard me quite well. I said he knew that this role must be performed by the Minister. If the Minister is absent or whatever has happened, he needs to inform us before we grant permission for the Deputy Minister to perform the role of the Minister.
Madam Speaker, with respect, I thought the Minority Leader would appreciate the fact that the position of the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice is one of public notice. He is no more in office; the Attorney General and Minister for Justice is no more or no longer the Minister for Justice. I think that is in the public domain, that it did not need further announcement in this Chamber. The position is vacant as of now -- [Interruptions] Yes, I am talking about the substantive Minister. Dr Benjamin Kunbuor has been given an oversight responsibility - [Interruptions Yes, but as I indicated earlier - if you listened to me carefully - - I said that all along, it was the Hon Deputy Minister who had been piloting this Bill and therefore, he was more conversant with the issues and policies on the Bill. So Dr Kunbuor has an oversight responsibility but the Deputy Minister is more in tune with this Bill and Will inure better to the benefit of this august House and this country. So that is why he is doing so.
Madam Speaker, I believe the Hon Majority Leader should refer to the issues of governance in this country. There is something called "Minister responsible for", so that if the substantive Minister is not there and there is a Minister responsible for the office of Justice, then he is the substantive Minister de jure to come and appear before this House. Madam Speaker, but my problem is fundamental -- basically fundamental. I am giving notice because the last time we had this "Woyome" affair, the t Hon Deputy Minister was tangentially different from what the Hon Minister was saying. So what guarantee do I have that
I think before we come to your comment, let us stand your issue down. There is an issue that I have to bring the attention of the House to. That is a very basic mistake and I wish to correct it because even the delegation noticed it that what was brought to me to be read had -- Thank you. Hon Members, to get back to the position. I think Hon Owusu-Agyemang, you mentioned that the Hon Deputy Attorney- General and Hon Deputy Minister for Justice on an occasion had said a different thing from the Hon Minister. Was it in this House?
Madam Speaker, it is in the public domain and it is well known --
Yes, but it was not in this House. Was it?
Madam Speaker, it is well known that the Hon Deputy Minister's position was, as I said, palpably different from the substantive Ministers So we want to hear from the substantive Minister in this instance. This is an important Bill, lest it would be misconstrued. The Hon Minister is definitely responsible for policy by the President. Madam Speaker, I would want to suggest in all modesty, that we should bring the Minister responsible for the office of Justice to come to us. I really will take the strongest exception to the Hon Deputy Minister leading the debate on this issue. This is because now, experience has taught us in this nation, everybody knows and it is public notice that the Hon Deputy Minister's view is quite tangential to that of the substantive Minister and so we cannot proceed with him taking the saddle to lead the debate.
Hon Member, however as much as I sympathise with your position and the desire for all of us to know who the Minister is, which will come later, no doubt, the policy of Government is in the Bill -- the Intestate Succession Bill which would merely be read by the Hon Deputy Minister. So we are not too far from getting what we required in this House. The Bill is before us --
Madam Speaker, the Second Reading is where we debate the principles of the Bill and so, what is written here is only a guide as to the thinking of the Minister responsible for the office of Justice. But the substantive issues to be raised must be addressed to the person who has the constitutional right to respond to them. Madam Speaker, I am humbly suggesting that in this instance, the Hon Deputy Minister cannot be permitted to lay this thing because it would be contrary to our rules and regulations.
Hon Hackman Owusu-Agyemang, I will not let you go on. I do not agree with you and I think this would be a guide; he will not go outside the guide. it is written down; it is the Memorandum of the Bill which is for all of us and if he goes out of that, you would of course, bring him back because the Memorandum is before all of us. For that reason, as much as I sympathise with your position, I think we should allow him, if the Hon Minority Leader agrees that he should + This is because I do not agree with you that if he is not the substantive Minister, he cannot present a Memorandum or even talk on it.
Madam Speaker, in reality, by our rules, the President could even charge a Member of this House to do what is expected to be done by a Minister in this House. Madam Speaker, the issue however, is, the Hon Majority Leader informed us that as of now, there is no substantive Minister; that is When I posed the question and he said there was no substantive Minister. Now, a Deputy Minister by our Constitution exists to assist the Minister, and where there is no Minister as the Hon Majority Leader has said, who is he assisting? [Laughter]
Madam Speaker, until recently, when the substantive Minister left the office, the Hon Deputy Minister was assisting him. So as long as the Hon Deputy Minister remains in office, he will continue to assist the substantive Minister. [Interruptions] I think that we are unduly overstretching this matter. As I indicated, there is a Minister who is exercising oversight responsibility over" the Ministry of Justice. But my submission is that, the Hon Deputy Minister has at all material times been conversant with this Bill and therefore, he is more useful to the House as of now with regard to the Bill as compared to the Minister having an oversight responsibility. _So if this House is interested in policy, continuity and the rest of them, then he is the best fellow to assist us in that regard. Besides, as Madam Speaker rightly pointed out, the Memorandum is there for everybody; we are not bound by what the Minister or Deputy Minister tells us in his address. We are not bound by it.
I think what the Majority Leader was trying to say in short is that, the Deputy Minister has been there for a very long time and whether he will not, in fact, be in a better position to talk on this matter than a new Minister appointed maybe, today or tomorrow or even the former Minister who came in only a few months ago-- So if you agree, let us carry On, but I do appreciate the point you are making.
Madam Speaker, .the Majority Leader, if he had gone on this leg, that a Minister has been given that responsibility, the Minister is unable to be with us because of one, two, three reasons, and has appointed the Deputy Minister who is so far proved to be familiar with this piece of legislation, that would have been all right. But he chose to go on another path and said that there was no substantive Minister and that is where the problem is. Besides, Madam Speaker, when he says that it is just a Memorandum, I disagree with him. In the new Interpretation Act, the "Memorandum" is a tool of interpretation. So it is "not just"; it is not a mere Memorandum. Madam Speaker, when he says "it is just a Memorandum", inferentially, it means it is a mere Memorandum. Madam Speaker, it is a tool of interpretation. So we must know Whether the Deputy Minister is coming under the instructions of the Minister now responsible. That is what we need to know. So Madam Speaker, is that the case? That he is coming under the instructions -- [Laughter] - of the Minister responsible - we want to know; the expressed authority of the Minister with the oversight responsibility, that is what he should have told us. I want to know at this critical juncture before we may decide to open our doors to receive the Deputy Minister. The matter raised in this context by the Hon Member for New Juaben North is relevant. This is because if you have as he has alluded to, a Deputy Minister "who is talking at cross purposes with the Minister, then we need to be careful what kind of policy he is going to articulate in this House. But Madam Speaker, let us listen to the Majority Leader. Maybe, he may not only succeed in convincing us but perhaps, may go further to persuade us. For now, we are unconvinced and unpersuaded.
In other words, but you will allow him to carry on. [Laughter] I thank you, Hon Minority Leader for your co-operation in this matter and for that reason, Majority Leader, if that is so, shall We get the Hon Deputy Minister to move the Motion, having in mind all the things that have been discussed here.
BILLS- SECOND READING
Madam Speaker, with respect to the Chair and to my Hon Colleague, we asked for some assurance and some direction from the Majority Leader. So in order that it will not be seen and be said that when the Minority raised these substantive matters, they were shut out; we would want the Majority Leader to respond to the issues that we raised and if what he says is convincing and persuasive, we would go along. But now, Madam Speaker, we are at a cross road. Can he tell us something?
Majority Leader --
Madam Speaker, the procedure in this House is very simple. I think the Hon Minority Leader knows it very well. If you make a request, the request is to Madam Speaker, and Madam Speaker has the inherent authority either to make a ruling suo motum or to ask me to respond before she makes her ruling. She took the first one, that she decided that having regard to what we have said, it is time for the Hon Deputy Minister to make his submission. What is his problem about that? It is in consonance with the rule of the House. [Interruptions ]-- Yes.
That he has to take into account the feelings of the House when he comes to present the Motion? So Minority Leader, we thank you. These concerns are legitimate but to help us to expedite our work, can you allow us to carry on?
Madam Speaker, with this pleading from the Chair and certainly, not from the entreaties of the Majority Leader, I believe we will allow my Hon Colleague to attend to the Motion listed as item number 4.
Hon Deputy Minister, can you move Motion number (4)?
Madam Speaker, may I now move, that the Intestate Succession Bill, 2009 be now read a Second time. In support of the Motion, I submit that the object of the Intestate Succession Bill is to provide the distribution of the self- acquired assets of a person who dies intestate.
Unfortunately, I do not know what Hon Kan-Dapaah is going to say. That is the problem when you are in the Chair. If I know he is going to push the matter forward, I will call him but Hon Dapaah if --
No, Madam Speaker, I certainly agree with your ruling but I thought in the light of the discussions, it would have been very useful if the Majority Leader had responded to the specific question of whether the Deputy Minister is here under the authority of the acting Minister. It is important that we have that on record, Madam Speaker.
I would have agreed with you if each time somebody is acting for a Minister or head, he has to justify and to tell us that it is under the authority; it is a foregone conclusion that he is acting for the person.
Madam Speaker, I think under normal circumstances, that will be too much, we will not be asking for that. But in the light of the discussions that have gone on today --
Unfortunately, you came too late when he had started. So let us continue. I had already asked him - so let us continue. --
Madam Speaker, as I was saying, the Bill seeks to remove the anomalies in the present law relating to intestate succession and to maintain the uniform intestate succession law that is applicable throughout the country irrespective of the inheritance system of the intestate or the type of marriage contracted as provided for in the law that is being revised. Madam Speaker, the present law on intestate succession appears to be overtaken by changes in the Ghanaian family system. The nuclear family is gaining an importance, which is not reflected in the current laws of succession. There is often tension between the nuclear family and the traditional family unit as to the appropriate line of devolution of property upon the death intestate of a member of both units. Customary law provides very little protection for a surviving spouse. Neither spouse has a right to the property of the other. Further, the customary law concert of marriage did not regard the wife as part of the husband's economic unit. As a result, the Wife's claim on the husband's property was limited. Currently, there is a movement towards the involvement of the wife in the husband's economic activity with a consequent weakening of the extended family. The Intestate Succession Act, 1985 (PNDCL TH) at the time it was enacted, was hailed as a source of relief for spouses and children who were often victims of ejection and other forms of persecution when the breadwinner of the family, usually the husband died intestate. The law was intended to prevent members of the extended family taking over the assets of the deceased for their own use to the detriment of the surviving spouse and children of the deceased. Some of the provisions of the law have however, proved inimical to the interest of the immediate family of the deceased. The provisions of the fractional distribution of the estate of the deceased have been difficult to implement. No provision was made for polygamous marriages where the deceased is survived by a number of spouses. So they are all compelled to share the same fraction that the law stipulates for the surviving spouse. The requirement that the matrimonial home be shared between the surviving spouse and children of the deceased, some of whom may not be children of the surviving spouse, has often resulted in acrimony. Furthermore, PND CL III is silent on the issue of joint acquisition of property and how this should affect the fraction of the estate that the surviving spouse is entitled to. The surviving spouse may therefore, lose out on any investment made in the property. The Intestate Succession Bill recognises the problems with the customary law and existing law in relation to succession and thereby protects the interests of the surviving spouse or spouses, the children of the deceased as well as the dependant parents. It goes further to make provision on how the property should be distributed in various circumstances. In the case where the intestate is survived by a spouse in a matrimonial home, it provides that fifty per cent of the estate devolves on the surviving spouse or spouses, thirty-five to forty per cent on the children, five per cent on
Hon Members, the Motion has been moved. Chairman of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, you may present your report. Question proposed.
Madam Speaker, I rise to support the Motion and present the Report of the Committee. 1.0 Introduction 1.1 Parliament was seized with the Intestate Succession Bill on November 3, 2009 when it was presented and read the First time in the House. Madam Speaker, pursuant to article 106 (4) and (5) of the Constitution and Standing Order 179 of the House, referred the Bill to the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for consideration and report. 2.0 Deliberations A 2.1. The Committee held preliminary consultative sessions and meetings with relevant stakeholders and also conducted public hearings in five regional capitals, namely -- Tamale, Kumasi, Cape Coast, Ho and Accra to solicit public input on the referral. Ms Edna Kuma of the African Women Lawyer's Association (AWLA) and Mrs Barba1aAyensu of LAWA Ghana Alumni Incorporated (Leadership and Advocacy for Women in Africa), both participated in the regional public hearings conducted by the Committee. The then Hon Minister for Justice and Attorney-General, Mrs Betty Mould - Iddrisu, Director, Legislative Drafting of the Attorney-General's Office, Mrs Estelle Appiah, were also among others in attendance at the deliberations of the Committee on the Bill. 3 .0 Acknowledgement 3.1 The Committee is grateful to the Above-mentioned persons for their participation in the deliberations and GTZ-Ghana in particular for co-funding the public hearings on the Bill. 4.0 Reference documents 4.1 The Committee had recourse to the underlisted documents during the deliberations: a. The 1992 Constitution; b. The Standing Orders of Parliament; c. Intestate Succession Bill; and d. Intestate Succession Act, 1985 (PNDC Law 111).
5.0 Background 5.1 The application of the present law on intestate succession continues to pose challenges emerging mainly from the changes in the nature of the system of inheritance and the family law system. The focus of the family law system and inheritance generally, now seem to be shifting from the extended to the nuclear family as obtains in other parts of the World. This development continues to gain important recognition which needs to be adequately reflected in the law on intestate succession. Meanwhile, the well-entrenched customary law system has provided very little protection for surviving spouses and children. Indeed, such class of persons particularly within the matrilineal system of inheritance have no more than a right to maintenance by their father's customary successor and a right to reside in their father's house subject to good behaviour. There is also very little provision for additional spouses in polygamous marriages where the deceased is survived by more than one spouse. The need to remove the anomalies in the present law relating to intestate succession and to provide a uniform intestate succession law applicable across various customary jurisdictions irrespective of the inheritance system of the intestate and the type of marriage contracted necessitated the introduction of this Bill. 6.0 Object of the Bill 6.1 The Bill seeks to provide for intestate succession and to particularly make the law in this regard, more responsive to the needs of the nuclear family of a person who dies intestate. 7.0 Provisions of the Bill 7.1 This Bill provides for 29 clauses: 7.1.1 Clauses 1 and 2 Clause 1 provides for the devolution of the estate of a person who dies without making a Will and the provisions of clause 2 relate to cases of intestacy and partial intestacy. Clause 3 This clause confers on a surviving spouse or child or both as the cases may be absolute right to the household property of the intestate. Clauses 4 This clause indicates that where there is one house and the surviving spouse made contributions towards the acquisition of the only house of the marriage, he/she is entitled to more than 50 per cent of the estate. Clauses 5 and 6 . Under these clauses, provisions are made for the apportionment of the estate of an intestate who is survived by a spouse and a child and for the devolution of the estate of an intestate who is survived by more than one spouse. Clause 7 This clause deals with a surviving spouse who is estranged from the deceased and has been living separately for three years or more. Clause 8 Clause 8 spells out the interest of a surviving spouse in the matrimonial home.
Clause 9. This clause gives the surviving spouse the option to buy out the share of other beneficiaries where the estate consists of only one house and the surviving spouse contributed to the acquisition of the house. Clauses 10 and 11 These clauses make provision for joint ownership of property other than the matrimonial home and for the sale or redemption of a mortgaged estate. Clause 12 Clause 12 stipulates that before the estate of the deceased is distributed, adequate provision should be made for dependent and incapacitated children first. Clauses 13, 14, 15 and 16 Under these clauses, provisions are made for the distribution of the deceased's estate depending on who survives the deceased. Clauses 17 Clause 17 addresses the situation where a foreigner makes Ghana his domicile. Clauses 18 and 19 Clause 18 makes provision for succession by family under customary law and clause 19 provides for situations where the intestate is not survived by a spouse, child or parent. Clause 20 This clause makes provision for significant contributions to the intestate's family under small estates. Clause 21 This clause enables the Minister responsible for Justice to amend the value of small estates under the previous clause. Clauses 22 and 23 Clause 22 stipulates that where two or more persons are entitled to a share of the estate of the interstate, the beneficiaries will equally divide it among themselves. Clause 23 stipulates that where spouses died for purposes of which it is not clear who died first, the older will be presumed to have died first. Clauses 24, 25 and 26 Clause 25 provides for the maintenance of a grandchild of the intestate who is a dependent of the intestate. Clauses 25 and 26 prohibit the ejection of a spouse from a matrimonial home and unlawful deprivation by a person of a spouse or a person entitled to the use of the property. Clauses 27, 28, 2.9 and 30 Clause 27 relates to other offences and clauses 28 and 29 provide respectively for power to make Regulations and Interpretation, while clause 30 relates to repeals and savings. 8.0 Observations 8.1. The Committee observed that intestate succession and its attendant socio-legal issues continue to pose challenges largely due to the plural legal nature of the family law system of the country. After over twenty-five years of the coming into force of Law 111, there are still difficulties in its implementation and the gaps in the law have become more evident due to the increasing importance of the nuclear family. Consequently, the essence of the existing law seems to be withering.
The Committee, having regard to a number of concerns which emerged during deliberations, particularly during the public hearings noted a number of key issues, some of which in the view of the Committee have been addressed by the Bill. These include the need for_ enhancement of provisions for children of school-going age, the need to put a cap on the amount of cash to be treated as household property, the need for enhancement of entitlements for the longest serving spouse within the context of a polygamous marriage, status of additional spouse married under customary law in relation to the spouse under the ordinance and vice versa, the legitimacy of the rights, if any, of an estranged spouse, possible double inheritance by a customary successor both as a customary successor and a family member and the silence of Intestate Succession Act, 1985 (PNDC Law 111) on the issue of joint acquisition of property and how such acquisition should affect the fraction of the estate that the surviving spouse is entitled to. 8.1.1 The need for enhancement of provisions for children of school going age The cumulative view of the public during the hearings in all the four regional capitals on the subject matter called for adequate provision to be made under the Bill to cater for children of school-going age. 'While appreciating this concern of the public, borne out of the absence of any such provision in Law 111, which has resulted in practical challenges in its implementation over the years, the Committee noted with satisfaction that clause 12 of the Bill remedies the defect by making special provision for dependent children of school-going age. It is the expectation of the Committee, that upon the passage of the Bill, the Minister would, as soon as practicable, initiate appropriate measures to enable affected beneficiaries to be availed of their entitlements under the law. 8.1.2 The need to put a cap on the amount of cash to be treated as household property The public advocated that as household property has been defined in the Bill to include cash and moneys in bank accounts, a ceiling should be placed on such moneys deemed as household property. In the absence of such ceiling, they argued that, where the deceased died, possessed of only household property, the effect would be that aged and dependent parents who may have survived the deceased are entitled to nothing from the deceased estate. The Committee is, therefore, of the considered view that the House critically considers this concern and make provisions for children of persons dying intestate according to their ages and status in life and also provide for surviving parents who may have solely depended on the deceased. 8.1.3 The need for enhancement of entitlements for the longest serving spouse Within the context of a polygamous marriage . The public also advocated the need to enhance the entitlements of a longer or longest serving wife in a polygamous marriage. This concern, the Committee noted, is born out of objective realities associated with the potentially polygamous nature of the Ghanaian society in which some male spouses are used to devoting more attention and care to their younger wives to the neglect of
the older wives, a situation which eventually leaves them in a deplorable state. The Committee notes that even though clause 6 of the Bill provides for a situation Where the intestate is survived by more than one spouse, there is no specific provision to compensate a longer serving spouse except that the Bill, recognises the interest of a joint owner who is a surviving spouse and makes provision in respect of that in clause 10. The Committee, while recognising the legitimacy of the case of a perceived inequity against a longest serving spouse, which may arise out of equal distribution of property among all the spouses, the committee is unable to make a recommendation to remedy the perceived inequity and therefore, invites the House to consider the matter and give some direction in that regard. 8.1.4 Status of additional spouse married under customary law in relation to the spouse under the ordinance and vice versa The case of a male spouse married under the customary law ignorantly taking on additional Wives under the Ordinance and vice versa also featured prominently throughout the public hearings as a major concern for Women in particular. The Committee observed that even though any such subsequent marriage by the man within the above context would be illegal and therefore, voidable, majority of women who fall victim to such cases tend to be either ignorant of the remedies available to them in law or afraid of the consequences of opposing their husbands in that regard. The Committee is of the considered view that effective public education and strong advocacy in this connection, is the right direction to pursue. In addition, the appropriate State agencies in charge of social Welfare and legal aid need to be empowered to provide requisite assistance to persons who may suffer in this regard. 8.1.5 The legitimacy of the rights if any of an estranged spouse Sections of the public also resented The provision for an estranged spouse captured in clause 7 of the Bill. They argued that this provision could occasion injustice to lawful beneficiaries and also lead to unjust enrichment of such spouse, particularly Where the estranged spouse may not have rendered support in any form to the deceased or the children who may also not be her biological children and yet make gains upon the husband's intestacy. Without prejudice to a spouse's right to initiate divorce proceedings if that spouse feels strongly dissatisfied with the attitude of the other spouse who may have become an estranged spouse, the Committee considers the concerns of the public justifiable and accordingly recommends the deletion of the clause. The Committee observed that Where spouses are estranged and have been separated for a period of three years or more, the legitimacy of the rights of the estranged spouse should be determined and a percentage of the estate be apportioned to such spouse. 8.1.6 Possible double inheritance by a customary successor both as a customary successor and a family member The issue of possible double inheritance by a customary successor both as a successor and as a family member was raised. The Committee
observed that a customary successor who constitutes part of the larger family under customary law should not be allowed to inherit twice as a family member and as a customary successor -- as by virtue of being a successor, he is a member of the family. 8.1.7 The silence of Intestate Succession Act, 1985 (PNDC Law 111) on the issue of joint acquisition-of property and how such acquisition should affect the fraction of the estate that the surviving spouse is entitled to A cross-section of the public raised an issue about the fact that where a surviving spouse jointly acquires property with the deceased spouse, the surviving spouse should be entitled to a percentage more than the fifty per cent share that a spouse is entitled to by law. The argument they espoused is that, having contributed to the acquisition of that property, the surviving spouse is an automatic fifty per cent owner of that property. In addition to this, by virtue of being the surviving spouse of the deceased, that surviving spouse is entitled to another fifty per cent share of the deceased's property. This concern, the Committee observed, has been catered for in the Bill. Upon the passage of this Bill, a surviving spouse who owns property jointly with the deceased other than the matrimonial home is entitled to an additional twenty-five per cent share of the property by virtue of being a spouse in addition to the fifty per cent share that a spouse is entitled to by law as a joint owner of the property. 9.0 Proposed Amendments 9.1 The Committee proposes the following amendments for consideration by the House: i. Clause 5 (1) -- amendment proposed -paragraph (b), delete "forty" and insert "forty-five"- Clause 5 (2) --- amendment proposed - paragraph (a), delete "forty-five" and insert "thirty-five". Clause 5 (2) -- amendment proposed - paragraph (b), delete "forty-five" and insert "sixty". iv. Clause 5 (2) - amendment proposed -- paragraph (0), delete "ten" and insert "five". v. Clause 7 - amendment proposed - delete the clause. vi. Clause 10 - amendment proposed - delete the clause. vii. Clause l2 - amendment proposed --- Head note - after "school- going" insert "and other". viii. Clause 12 (2)(a) -- amendment proposed -- after "fees" insert "up to the university level or its equivalent". ix. Clause l2 (3)(a) - amendment proposed -- define "incapacitated" in the interpretation section as follows: " ‘incapacitated' means a person who suffers from a mental disorder, is physically challenged or is vulnerable". x. Clause 12 -- amendment proposed -- add a new sub clause (5) as follows: "(5) For the purpose of this section, educational needs include vocational ' training, apprenticeship and other forms of skill acquisition".
xi. Clause 13 (2) -- amendment proposed -- after "surviving", delete "and child". xii. Clause 14 (1) -- amendment proposed - before "devolves", delete "estate" and insert "residue". Clause 15 - amendment proposed - delete "estate" and insert "residue". xiv. Clause 15 - amendment proposed - paragraph (a), delete "fifty" and ' insert "forty". XV. Clause 15 - amendment proposed -- paragraph (b), delete "thirty- five" and insert "forty". Xvi. Clause 15 -- amendment proposed - paragraph (c), delete "ten" and insert "fifteen". xvii. Clause 17 - amendment proposed - line three, after "residue", delete and insert "shall devolve the following manner". (a) to the surviving, (b) where there is no child, to the surviving spouse, and (c) where there is no surviving spouse, to the surviving parent". xviii. Clause 20 - amendment proposed - paragraph (a), line 1, delete "... one" and insert "ten" and repeat same in paragraph (b). xix. Clause 20 - amendment proposed -paragraph (a), line 3, after "both", delete. xx. Clause 21 -- amendment proposed --- delete the clause- xxi. Clause 22 --- amendment proposed -- delete the clause and insert "Subject to the rules of customary law related to a member's interest in communal property, where two or more persons are entitled to share a portion of an estate under this Act, they shall divide it among themselves in equal shares." Clause 24 -- amendment proposed - in line 5, insert "grand" before "chi1d". xxiii. Clause 25 (1) - amendment proposed- line 2, after "estate of', delete "a deceased person whether testate or interstate" and insert "an intestate where the matrimonial home is". XXiv._ Clause 25 (1) - amendment proposed -- paragraph (a), delete "where the matrimonial home is" and repeat same in paragraph (b), (c) and xxv. Clause 25 (2) -- amendment proposed - delete and move to the interpretation section. xxvii. Clause 26 -- amendment proposed- line l, after "estate of', delete "a deceased person whether testate or" and insert "an" and repeat same in clause 27. xxviii. Clause 29 -- amendment proposed -- "residue", delete "and" between "3" and "4" and insert "8, 10 and 12" after "4". xxiii. Clause 29 -- amendment proposed - "spouses", delete "polygamous" and insert "polygamous" and after "marriage" delete all the words.
Hon Members, pursuant to Order 127, a full debate shall arise on the principle of the Bill on the basis of the explanatory Memorandum and the Report of the Committee. Hon Members who wish to speak may make their contributions.
Madam Speaker, when the Bill was referred to this Committee with the public hearing round the country, certain concerns raised by the public are reflected in this Report and are recommended to the House to consider in reviewing the Bill. Madam Speaker, some of them for example -, the need to enhance the provision for children of school-going age. Throughout the public hearings, it came out that the public concern was that not much emphasis has been placed on children of -school-going age and probably, children -who are still quite young and studying a trade. For that reason, the public call was for specific provisions to be made to enable special care to be taken of children of school- going age and those studying a trade. There is also the call for a need to put a cap on the amount to be treated as household property. It can be observed from the Bill that if appears on died intestate and he had no immovable property, virtually every cash he had, would be considered as a household chattel, which would have been distributed without regard to people like the aged parents if they were dependent on the children. There was sufficient public outcry to commend that the Committee reviews that and 6I1SurB.that adequate arrangements are made that when people die intestate and they have surviving parents who are dependent on the intestate, adequate provisions are made to cater for the dependent intestate. Madam Speaker, there are very controversial ones regarding spouses in polygamous situations. There were interesting public discussions as to which of the spouses should get more and all those have been captured in the Report and which recommendations have been made that the longer a spouse had served or had been married to a deceased, the spouse should be considered for an enhanced benefit as against those who may have joined in very recently. Madam Speaker, what is interesting is that, throughout the public discussions, it came out that there had been sufficient public dissatisfaction with the operations of the existing law, which clearly demonstrates the need for the current law to be passed. With these few words, Madam Speaker, I support the Motion.
Thank you very much, Madam Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to this debate and to note that, well, after so many years of the operation of the Intestate Succession Law, the time is ripe to reconsider it. Madam Speaker, but just to make a very important point.
Page l of the Report, bullet 11 says that "The Bill was referred to the Committee on November 3, 2009." That is over two years now. Madam Speaker, I wish to draw the attention of the House to article 106, clause 14 of the Constitution and with your permission, Madam Speaker, I will read it in extenso: "A bill introduced in Parliament by or on behalf of the President shall not be delayed for more than three months in any committee of Parliament." Madam Speaker, I wish to_ state that it is inexcusable that the Report of this Bill is being submitted to Parliament over two years. I believe the Committee itself may have been faced with certain challenges. However, on any occasion, where a committee finds itself unable to report on any Bill within three months, that committee ought to bring this to the attention of the House for the House itself to extend it further. Unfortunately, there is no provision in the Constitution for failure to comply with this particular provision. But of course, as a House, we should be very, very careful when it comes to the observance of the spirit and letter of certain provisions of the Constitution that affect the work of the House. I believe three months was stipulated only to serve as a guide to this House for the House not to unduly delay referrals of Bills presented to this House. Having said this, I know there are a couple of other Bills that are in breach of this particular clause of the Constitution and the Committees would be well advised to submit a report indicating their inability to conclude their work, so that the House would be apprised of these problems if any and then take necessary action. Madam Speaker, having said that, I believe the Report is comprehensive. But there is one matter that also worries me. Madam Speaker, a committee of the House is given a referral - the committee is supposed to make recommendations as a guide to the House. If it has no recommendation to make, then probably, it needs not make any comment. And I refer Madam Speaker to bullet 8.1.3 of the Report, that is the last paragraph, page 8; it says: "The Committee while recognizing the legitimacy of the case of a perceived inequity against a longest serving spouse which may arise out of equal distribution of properties among all the spouses, the Committee is unable to make a recommendation to remedy the perceived inequity ..." I believe if the Committee had stopped there, it would have done the House a lot of service. But to continue to state, ". . . and therefore, invites the House to consider the matter and give some direction in that regard."
Yes, is it a point of order?
On a point of order: Madam Speaker, my very respected Hon Colleague from Sekondi, I believe, is misleading the House. Madam Speaker, I am the Ranking Member of the Committee and he is saying that what we said in our Report indicates that the Committee is inviting Parliament, this House, to give it directions. The statement does not say that and I beg to quote:
Yes, Hon Member, let us look at the sentence again. Hon Papa Owusu-Ankomah did say that you should have ended somewhere and then you went on to say: ". .. and therefore invites the House to consider the matter and give some directions in this regard." Were you expecting the House to refer it back to you, because that is What it implies? Is it not? Is it done?
Madam Speaker --
You are saying that it is the Whole House, which will come to consider the Bill clause by clause and in doing so, of course, they will find answers, but you are unable to give the answers. But your last sentence, the part of the sentence he is complaining about is where you said: ". . . and therefore invites the House to consider the matter and give some direction in that regard." I am asking you, the direction that you wanted in that regard from this House, is it to go back to the Committee? What Was it supposed to do, because that is What the complaint is about.
Madam Speaker, when a Committee submits are port to the House, ordinarily, as we are doing in this case, the report is discussed by the House as a whole. So what we said there was never intended to have the House send the matter back to the Committee. What we said there, the intention was to red-flag the issue, so that the House -- and it is good that since we red-flagged it, Madam Speaker, my learned and senior Colleague has brought it to the attention -- and in that Way, we have achieved our aim, that other Members of the House, in discussing this Report and in looking at the proposed amendments, would pay attention to this. Madam Speaker, we had a long debate about this clause; we could have kept quiet on it. We were under no obligation with the greatest of respect to comment on it. Our comments are not restricted
When you say "to give some direction to you," so you are saying that, that is not really what you meant in your Report?
Madam Speaker, I am a member of the Committee and I believe that what is captured there is right.
If a committee is able to make a decision on an issue, it comes in recommendations as an amendment. In this regard, we could not come to a conclusion on that. So, we raised it as an issue, so that if what the House decides, if somebody wants to file an amendment to it, so be it. So, what it means is that - the Committee, if you go to the Report, page 11, "Proposed Amendments -" On these sides, we were able to decide that this is the way. But with regard to this, we could not. So we are inviting the House to decide on it. This will prompt other Hon Members to propose amendments to it. Madam Speaker, humbly, we are not saying that, please, the House should give us new directions to go back and reconsider it.
But Hon Osei- Prempeh, the reason this House sends matters to the committees is to report back to this House -- make your suggestions and if you find that there was a case which needed some amendments in respect to who has been married for longer than who, when you come to polygamous marriage, why were you unable even to help us once you had detected that there is a problem there? You did not try to help us but you are telling us that you have given us some amendments. That does not cover that situation. That is what he is complaining about. You have said that you did not come to a conclusion. So, what was the different views on the matter for which you did not come to a conclusion? At least, help us with the different views. You did not mention them. It is a very important matter, you know.
Madam Speaker, there were different views on this issue and the Committee, after listening to them - in fact, this Report could not capture everything that was said in any of the fora. There were volumes of issues which came up.
But important matters like this must be captured in view of the topic. But we did not hear what the public view was. You heard everything. They came to your Committee and they stated their position and you heard it all. Instead of even telling us that this was the position, that was the position but you did not come to a conclusion, you said there was no conclusion without letting us even know what was discussed there.
Madam Speaker, just an observation. This morning, we were talking about the Hon Minister for Justice and Deputy Attorney- General disagreeing with the Deputy Hon Minister for Justice and Attorney-General. Now, we have the former Hon Deputy Minister for Justice and Deputy Attorney-General disagreeing with the former Hon Attorney-General and one Attorney-General disagreeing with an Hon Attorney-General -- [ Laughter. ]
So, it is not a one- sided difficulty?
I do not know whether there can be any guidance on this. It is becoming the practice.
Madam Speaker, I would want to agree with the last two Hon Members who spoke on this subject. Madam Speaker, even though we make laws here, this is not a court of law. So, I think that the paragraph should be read together and the simple meaning there is that on this controversial matter, the Committee could not take a positive decision and leave it to the House as a body to decide. Madam Speaker, the English language is flexible.
Then you should say so. Hon Leader, what you are saying is not what has been captured.
It appears, Madam Speaker, that some of us who are lawyers are being taken in by this phrase here "give some direction" as we normally do in court that the court or somebody should give direction. I think that-- that is why I started by saying that we make laws here but this is not a court. So, this "direction" that they should give, should be interpreted to mean that the House will take a decision on the matter. That is the beneficial interpretation; nothing else.
Hon Leader, when documents are presented to us, we read. them to get the meaning and the meaning here was that "give us a further direction" and that is what we wanted to thrash out. It is not we are holding them or saying that because they had said that the House cannot make its own decisions. But what you understand is not what they put here. Is that not it, Hon Leader?
Madam Speaker, my understanding and many of us here is that, the Committee could not take a united decision on this controversial matter and they will leave it to the generality of this august House to decide. This is the way I look at it.
Hon Leader, we are not saying that this is not the way it should read. All we are saying is that the wording: "give us some direction"; we Wanted to find out what they meant by that.
But we are debating on the policy issue involved, not the narrow technicality of giving direction. We are belabouring the point, with due respect.
Madam Speaker, those of us who are not lawyers would not want the Hon Majority Leader to think for us. I went to Achimota and they thought us English Language - [An Hon Member: Where is Achimota?] - "Give some direction" means give some direction. I do not know what the law says, but this is simple English. So, I have been wondering what type of direction they want -- to go back after two and a half years?
I think we should allow Hon Papa Owusu-Ankomah to finish with his submission.
Madam Speaker, but from the points canvassed by Hon Members, it is clear that the point made by the Hon Member for Esikadu/ Ketan was a point of argument. Those were my views I was expressing. He held a contrary view. I am sure, when the time comes for him to contribute, he can say so many things. Madam Speaker, I thank you for appreciating the point that I have raised, which is that committee reports that come to the House must be clear and unambiguous, particularly when it comes to sections that may evoke some controversies. Madam Speaker, there have been occasions where we have had reports that say that majority of Hon Members took this view, minority took a contrary view and for these reasons - and my point is that, as the Hon Majority Leader said, we are debating on policy based on the Report - based on the Report. So the Report is very important. So, I would urge committees, henceforth, as much as possible, to be definitive in their position. If you are not in a position to propose an amendment, then do not say that well, any Hon Member could propose; after all, that is what this House is for, any Hon Member can propose an amendment. If the committee itself cannot propose an amendment, then he should not throw a red-herring to the House, so that we come and re-argue all the matters that were before the committee. Having said that, Madam Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity.
Thank you, Madam Speaker, for giving me the opportunity. I rise to support the Motion and ask that we all support it. Madam Speaker, I Would also want to urge all our, Hon Colleagues that we should do Well to prepare our Wills. The reason we have Intestate Succession Law or Bill is that those who die did not have Wills and therefore, we would have to depend on this law for the distribution of their properties. I would also want to urge Hon Colleagues that when we go to our various constituencies, we should encourage our constituents to prepare Wills and update them as time goes on. In addition to that, Madam Speaker, I would want to urge the Hon Minister who would be responsible for Justice and Attorney-General to make provision as soon as the Bills come into effect, that is, clause 12 - "care of children of school- going age", just as my Hon Colleague on the other side has mentioned. It is very important that in this country, when people die intestate, their children who are of school-going age do not have the people to look after them. But if you die intestate or you die without a Will and you have property, it behoves the family and those who are taking care of the children to take care of
Madam Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to contribute to this debate on the Report and to say that I urge Hon Colleagues not just to support the proposed Bill but also participate actively when it comes to the House. Madam Speaker, even the law that we are seeking to repeal, that is the PNDC Law 1 l 1, at the same time that it was hailed by some as a far-reaching law, there were also very many who felt that a law to deal with intestate succession, which had always been decided according to customary law or according to the personal law of the person in our country was retroactive. There were people who Said that the law favoured matrimonial societies and there were others who said the law favoured patrilineal societies. Madam Speaker, indeed, it is the sensitive nature of this subject that has kept it at committee level for what has been told to us, perhaps, is an unconstitutional length of time. The Committee has done extensive work and has received evidence and memoranda before a wide range of people. Madam Speaker, the Standing Orders, Order 202 describes everybody who is not a member of the committee who appears before it as a witness. And Order 202 (1) says that the evidence of every witness shall be taken down and a copy of it sent to him, and it goes on and on about that fact. So Madam Speaker, at the end of a committee's sitting, it has all the evidence that it took from various people and it then synchronizes them and presents a report to the House of a few pages. Madam Speaker, my concern has always been that perhaps, what is given to the House is inadequate. You would recall that there was a time that with your permission, Parliament was recalled and a matter relating to the District Assembly Elections was discussed by a special committee that was established by you. In doing the report, some of us argued that all the evidence before the committee should be brought to the House. There were others who argued strenuously that it is the practice of this House to, as it were, summarize or give an executive summary of the Reports. Madam Speaker, the point you raised this morning is very, very correct and true, because indeed, if people give different views, it would have assisted every Hon Member of this House who was not at that meeting to see the different views that people had expressed and see which ones we agreed with or did not agree With. Madam Speaker, perhaps, it brings into sharp focus the way committees report to the House. Perhaps, instead of this
I agree with you; this is a very important Bill. It affects the whole of the society. Marriage is very important and this House may not know what you, the Committee, heard and their proposals. So we come here, we make amendments without really knowing the feeling of the people. So I think you have a point there.
Madam Speaker, apropos the point made by the Hon Member for Esikadu/Ketan (Mr .Joe Ghartey), relating to evidence from witnesses or whatever. I just wanted to draw his attention, to Standing Order 212(2). Madam Speaker, with your permission, I beg to quote: "The minutes of the proceedings of a Committee shall whenever possible be brought up and laid on the Table of the House with the report of the Committee by the Chairman or Vice Chairman or any Member of the Committee nominated by the Committee." Madam Speaker, so our Standing Orders make provision for what the Hon Member is suggesting, so that probably, henceforth, when they have controversial matters, we may decide to have minutes which we never really have at committees. We never really have minutes, but minutes of proceedings of committees are supposed to be kept.
Madam Speaker, I think this matter came up when we were interviewing clerks and I pointed it out to them; in fact, at the interview, we asked those people whether they knew this provision in the Standing Orders. Unfortunately, all those who came before us did not know of that provision in our Standing Orders. Indeed, as the Hon Member for Sekondi has said, it is Order 198(3) that expressly makes that provision. Order 198(3) provides and Madam Speaker, with your permission I beg to quote: "The Clerk of a Committee shall record the minutes or proceedings and all proceedings upon consideration of any report or Bill in the Committee ..." Madam Speaker, so there is that expressed provision there. Unfortunately, they do not comply at the level of committees. So they should provide the guide. Once the report is laid, it should be accompanied by the minutes. We do not conform. So from hence, the Chairmen should insist that this be done, so that when controversial issues arise, then we could refer to the proceedings at the level of the committees.
On a point of order. Madam Speaker, I take exception. I am not formerAttorney-General. I am former, former, former --- [Laughter] -- former times three. All of us exited differently. My Government. lost power, some resigned, some were fired; please -- [Laughter] -You call me former, former, former Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, please. Thank you.
Well, point appreciated. The Hon Member for Esikadu/Ketan has revealed to us that this Bill has been with the Committee for over two years. Madam Speaker, that certainly, cannot be acceptable. The Constitution is very clear on this, that Bills shall not stay at committee level for more than three months. And so really, if that is the case, then the Committee is not --
The Hon Member will count where the three months will be calculated from. When we are on vacation or we have had a break, it would not count or what?
When the matter is referred to the committee.
Then it runs from that day?
For three months, whether we are on vacation or not?
That is another matter. Yes, Hon Member--
Madam Speaker, I am surprised very old Hon Members of this House are bringing this matter up. There used to be a time when Bills referred to committees elapsed after the Meeting and they had to be relaid. But this ‘House took a decision that notwithstanding that, they should be allowed to go on. At that time, Hon Owusu-Agyapong was the Leader of this House; we took a decision. In fact, when referrals were made and they could not meet the time, the deadline, the three months elapsed, they had to be relaid; we realized that some had spent time before committees, work had been done, and if they were withdrawn and relaid, it sent the committees back. So this House took a decision that, notwithstanding the fact that they stayed beyond the mandatory terms, they be allowed to proceed. I believe that the Hon Owusu- Ankomah and the Hon Minority Leader were in this House when that decision was taken.
Madam Speaker, we should always be guided by the Standing Orders of this House and I am even surprised at what the Hon Member for Nsuta/Kwaman/Beposo is saying.
"Every Committee to which a matter is referred shall report to the House before the end of each Session of Parliament. If a Committee finds - itself unable to complete any investigations, enquiry or other matter referred to it before the end of the Session it shall so report to the House." That is the governing Standing Order. So in my opinion, to say that this House could take a decision that a referral to a committee elapses after a Meeting, can never be founded on any constitutional provision, Standing Orders or Conventions of this House. So I beg to state that I am surprised; I am wondering. I mean, I was not here at that time. I may not have been in the Chamber. But What the Hon Member is saying would totally be contrary to the Constitution and Standing Orders.
Madam Speaker, we are masters of our Standing Orders. So if this House decided that notwithstanding that provision, this is how we would go because that procedure retards our work, and we took that decision when we were in the Majority her.- I mean, how can he say that it does not conform --
But that decision is in conformity with what Hon Papa has just read. All it says is, you should not withdraw from the committee; it says you should report it to the House. Does that mean withdrawing it? So what you are saying and what Hon Papa Owusu-Ankomah is saying are the same. You have to report it to the House.
He did not say that it would be withdrawn and re-sent to you. Is it not? So the two of you are right; both are right. Yes, former, former, former--
Madam Speaker, with regard to the various comments that have been made, especially the Standing Orders-- Order 198(3) and Order 212(2) that have been pointed out to the House, and with regard to the fact that this is a very important matter, all jokes aside- Madam Speaker, would it not be usefUl, and I look for your direction, that some Order is made, so that the minutes are laid on the Table as it is said -- [Interruption] - Yes, I am saying, as the Standing Orders say. The Hon Member for Sekondi is needling me today but Madam Speaker, I will not say I will treat him with contempt because he is my senior. I will just quietly ignore his needling.
Yes, I have just been informed it is a voluminous thing; it has to be prepared, nobody is against laying it. In fact, the rules say you must lay it. There is nothing wrong with it but in this present state, maybe, after today, it could be laid before we get on to the Consideration Stage. If you agree, Leaders -- In any case, the fact that the rules are not complied with, does not mean that when we come across them and it is necessary - This is because there is a purpose for the rules. And this particular thing like was said-- marriage, death or intestacy -- they are things that society is very interested in; they make or break a society. So if the Committee has the report of people who have come there to express their views, we need to know before we sit here and unknowingly pass certain amendments. And I will agree that we lay it but we should continue with our work. What do you think, Hon Majority Leader?
Madam Speaker, I entirely agree with you. My intervention is to this effect: while we appreciate the technicalities with regard to the Constitution and Standing Orders associated with this matter or proceedings in the House, I think that this is a very, Very important and delicate Bill, that at the end of the day, we might be digressing and the central issue as to the contents, the policy of this Bill, would be lost while we spend valuable time debating on the Standing Orders, when to lay the report, how long it should last at the committee and how it should come here. We appreciate that one. But I wanted to agree with you that given the serious nature of this Bill, it is migration from some of our traditional and cultural practices to the modern concepts; we should address our debate to the central issues of the Bill rather than the Standing Orders and all those matters. We can have another day to look at them. I appreciate that very much but I think We should talk on the substance of the Bill.
Madam Speaker, this House makes laws. Laws that we make are meant to be obeyed. The issue about maybe, it is tangential, let us restrict ourselves to the policy. In my opinion, any minute matter may have some consequences on even the allocation of resources. This is not even a matter of Standing Orders. It is a constitutional matter and article 106 (14) provides: "A bill introduced in Parliament by or on behalf of the President shall not be delayed for more than three months in any committee of Parliament." As simple as that--[Interruption.] The Hon Majority Leader is asking me what happens. Is he obliging Parliament to trample over the constitutional provision? Is he inviting us as a House to trample over the constitutional provision?
What happens has been stated in the Standing Orders. Is that not it? That when we fail to do it Within that time or after the Session, it should be brought back to the House. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu: Precisely. Madam Speaker, that is the point. So it cannot be at the say-so of whoever in this House, be that person the Majority Leader or Minority Leader or the Leader of the House to say that we do not need to report. Let us proceed. We cannot go on doing business in this House like that. Madam Speaker, but having said that, I have recognized that the details, what happened at the level of the Committee, may have to affect the amendments that people may come up with. So for that reason, we may need the minutes, so that in proffering any amendment, we would be guided by what the witnesses who appeared before the Committee said. For now, we agree that we are debating the principles and I believe that we can still go on but let it not be said that because it has not been done in the past, we may have to go on this way. I think it is unacceptable to recognize your own deficiencies and however, insist that, yes, it has been done in the past, so let us remain in that quagmire. It cannot be acceptable. So Madam Speaker, I believe we can still go on to debate the policies but when it comes to considering the amendments, at the Consideration Stage, we may need to inform ourselves, that those of us who were not at the Committee, we may need to inform ourselves With what transpired at the level of the Committee to be guided by the various representations that were made before it.
Madam Speaker, I do not know whether this debate is going to take a very long time. Unfortunately, it is personal but I have one or two little comments and I have an appointment to see a doctor. I wonder whether I could ask for a little explanation on one or two items and once we have finished with the procedural matters -- because Madam Speaker, I just looked at the title of the Bill and it says, at clause 1 (2): "This Act applies to matters pending before a court at the time of its commencement." Does it mean that the law is to have retrospective effect and then again it says in clause 3, "Devolution of household property". It talks about where the intestate is survived by a spouse and a child. Now, I go to the interpretation and a child is a natural child. I would have thought that they should say, "children". I wanted some explanation from the Chairman of the Committee.
Hon Member, I am afraid we are discussing the principles of the Bill and I thought you were even going to say that we are wasting time on these orders and things which I was going to disagree. You are jumping to the Consideration Stage now.
Madam Speaker, I have not jumped. I said, unfortunately, I have an appointment with a doctor and I wanted to know --
But can you come back when we get to the Consideration Stage?
Madam Speaker, it is not an amendment.
Yes. But I am saying that what you are saying will be discussed at the Consideration Stage. So let us finish with the principles.
I had wanted to understand from your goodself and the Attorney-General whether that particular clause-- and then I will come back if tomorrow we are debating it, I continue- - whether it is tantamount to the law having a retrospective effect.
I am afraid I want to deal with the principles today. So I will not grant your request today except a few more contributions to the principles of the Bill and to finish with the laying of the Report; why not? In any case, I think anybody wanting to see the Report will see it from the Clerk's Office, even if it is not ready as at this stage. On this point, one could just go there and look at the Report because the orders permit us to lay it. So if you will permit me, let us take two more contributions.
Madam Speaker, I would need to seek your guidance. You have discussed very crucial constitutional and Standing Order matters. I hope that we can go the next step and suggest to Leadership that since there are no sanctions in the Constitution or the Standing Orders, they propose a way forward, so that all committees can be subject to that rule. This is because as of now, we have practised it. It is not only this Committee, other committees have done it and we have not done anything. So I am hoping that Leadership will take a cue, give directions so that we move to the next step. What happens if the minutes are not brought? What do we do, so that all of us would be properly guided?
If I have ruled -- Yes, I agree -with you that the Leaders should take note and give directions but if I rule that before, not today but some time before we finish with this, then it will not be disobeyed. But then the first point that they should take note and inform the committees and draw their attention to these various legal matters, is in order. I hope the Leaders have taken note? Let us have two more contributors to the principles.
Madam Speaker, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to contribute to the Motion on the floor. I have just two short observations per your Committee's Report and it is in reference to 8.1.1, that is page 7, as captured under clause 12. It is in respect of "the need for enhancement of provisions for children of school- going age." Madam Speaker, we all know that children of school -going age form part of the vulnerable group. There may be other vulnerable groups who are not of school- going age but continue to be dependent on any of the spouses until their death and a category that I would want to mention here is that of especially, the physically challenged. Madam Speaker, especially, as per the Memorandum, that we have looked at the best practice and what is taking place in other jurisdictions where the emphasis today is on nuclear family- We all know that in those other jurisdictions, especially those advanced ones, there are adequate gadgets - I am referring to proper and Well-packaged welfare systems to take care of the physically challenged. But in our situation, many of these physically challenged continue to depend on the family or any of the spouses. Per the Bill, it appears this area has been eliminated and at the appropriate time, especially at the Consideration Stage, I think we should be addressing this issue that it should not only be of school-going age and that the vulnerable group that continue to be dependent on any of the spouses must be captured. Madam Speaker, another area of which I would want to draw your attention and Hon Members, especially, is in reference to page 9 of your Committee's Report, that is the legitimacy of the rights of an entranged spouse.
I thank you.
Madam Speaker, I would like to contribute to this Bill we have and look at paragraph 8.1.1 of the Report. The caption, "The need for enhancement of provisions for children of school-going age"-- My concern here is the Term "children of school-going age". In education, when we say children of school-going age, we are talking about children these days that the pre-school is part of the mainstream; we are talking about children of four years. They are children of school-going age but reading the paragraph, I have the impression that it wanted to talk about children in school of the deceased, irrespective of Whether they are of school-going age as, technically, I have defined. So, if we want to talk about children of the spouse of the deceased who are in school, it could even be at the tertiary level, then let us say so. This brings the point where we should have the minutes of the deliberations of committees because I strongly suspect that the Committee was not talking about children of school-going age as it is technically known to educationists but they wanted to talk about children of the deceased who are in school. I want us to take particular note of this, and if need be, make the necessary amendments to reflect what we want to say. Having said that, I would say briefly that Intestate Succession Law is about the most important law that this country needs, given the variety of customary ways of succession. I come from a tribe where, if a relative dies -- For instance, God forbid, if my senior brother dies, I am supposed to inherit the wife and the children and cater for them. This may not be so in other communities. I know it may be so in the Hon Majority Leader's tribe and it is important that when we are discussing such matters, the distribution of contributions should come from across the House, so that we can have various views. I observed with some amount of worry that this matter, as it came, whenever a contribution was being asked from the Minority side, it was concentrated behind the Hon Minority Leader. It does not make fair distribution and we do not by that get a cross-section view of the House. On this note, I end my contribution.
Hon Member, I do not agree with the last sentence". Your contribution was correct on the point but the last sentence, what are you implying? What are you really implying? It is against the Speaker, that I did not call you when you stood up? Others stood up before you and I noticed you but if I called Hon Members,'I called those who had stood up before you. I kept looking at the right hand side and there was none there. So, are you going to say that I should have forced people on the right hand side also to speak? I thought you were going to congratulate me for calling you rather -- but let us leave it. I did call you and I think I have been fair to you. Thank you for your views, though, they are very important.
Madam Speaker, I thank you for your intervention. I would like to use this occasion to Wish you a belated Happy Christmas and a New Year. It is the first time that I have had the opportunity to contribute when the House reopened; I was not here on the first day. I wanted to congratulate you earlier. So it has come belatedly but I congratulate you all the same.
I thank you.
Madam Speaker, I thank you.
I will do justice by you any day. Yes, I did say that there will be two more contributors and then we curtail it but it seems -- let us have the two of you. Hon Boafo, let us have a short contribution and then we will come to the Hon Leaders and finish with this. It is taking long. Do not be too long;. just state your point.
Madam Speaker, I am glad that this law is being considered today because it is going to serve a lot of purposes by meeting the challenges which have been facing the existing law. The challenges are mostly found at the district courts and then during the arbitrations in our various palaces and family meetings, they are not reported very much for people to be aware of the serious challenges. But it appears the law is taking care of some of these challenges and we are most grateful for the introduction of the law. I Would like to touch on the area of rewarding the longest surviving spouse. It appears that if we go this length of rewarding the longest surving spouse, we may be promoting litigation among the spouses. This is because it may not be reflective of the wishes or reflective of the relationship which existed between the deceased and the spouses at the time that he was living. It may equally be inequitable so far as the spouses may be concerned. Maybe, one of the spouses may have some responsibility for a number of children. So if he or she is discriminated against, it may not be equitable. It is, therefore, essential that we go by the maxim of equity, that equity is equality, so that we rather promote equal distribution among the spouses. If any spouse is not satisfied for any other serious consideration, he may take it up at any other forum. There is_also a reference to the spouses under customary law, and the one under Ordinance. They made a reference to the fact that we have to consider spouses under customary law, notwithstanding the fact that there is an existing marriage under ordinance. I think this is a dangerous area to tread because we will be promoting
Thank you, very much. Hon Prempeh?
Madam Speaker, one issue which needs to be taken note of is the definition or the remit of this law. Madam Speaker, during the rounds, most witnesses felt that this law was being made for women but for them "spouse" means a husband dies for the wife to inherit him. Madam Speaker, that is the preponderant view. And even listening to my Hon Colleagues debating, it seems that It is only men who will die for their wives to inherit them.
On a point of order. Madam Speaker, if the popular view, as he is saying, is that men will die for women to inherit their property, that popular view IS not based on nothing; it is based on practice and experience. The fact is that before a man marries- Men normally marry people who are younger than them, and all things being equal, the older one will die before the younger one. So if the popular view is that men will die before their wives, it is a truism and I think that should be taken as such. Thank you.
Madam Speaker, that wealthy woman was surprised when said that the law applies to both men and women and her words were that, "So this useless man is going to take my property?" At once, she was against the law. So Mr Speaker, let us educate people that this law is for both spouses. In fact, now, there are many women who are more well to do than their spouses, their husbands; they work harder, they are traders, they are everything. So let us educate them and let them know. The other issue which was not captured by the Report is expressed by Moslems - I remember in Kumasi, some ladies who were Moslems appeared before us and their concern was that ever since PNDC Law 111 was made, Moslems have always rejected it because in their opinion, the Quran is supreme and it says that the eldest son must take the property, so that they would not abide by any law which says anything to the contrary. Madam Speaker, that was the concern expressed by the lady there. So Madam Speaker, notwithstanding where one belongs to, whether we are Christians, Moslems or what, this law is a national law, which is to be obeyed, and applies to everybody in the country and therefore, we need to educate people to understand, so that they will not decide to breach the law because it does not conform to their religion or their tribal, marital laws. Madam Speaker, the other thing is on the status of additional married --
On a point of order. Madam Speaker, the Hon Colleague has said_that the Quran and Moslems say that on the death of a person intestate--
He said, some people came to say that--
Madam Speaker, the Quran does not say that. Indeed, the Quran clearly shows how the estate of a person must devolve on death intestate. And it is the only book of religion-that deals with succession on death intestate.
Madam Speaker, happily, he reienforces my point and the point I am making is that this is a national law, notwithstanding whatever the Quran says; this is the law which should rule every sphere in this nation. Madam Speaker, the next thing is on the status of additional spouses. We also need to educate people that in this country and in this law, there is no issue of a child being illegitimate, every child born under whatever circumstance comes under this law. When we were going round, some people came and asked this question several times -- "What about children? If my husband goes outside and have children, what about them? Do they have a share of his property?" Madam Speaker, people do not take the answer that they have equal share; like children born in marriage, they have equal rights. Madam Speaker, I believe that this law will come but there is need for a lot of education. Otherwise, the law will be observed more in breach than in compliance. Madam Speaker, with these few words, I support the Motion.
Yes, Hon Leader, finish with your contribution; it is almost 1.00 o'clock.
Thank you, Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker, let me-- [Interruption]
On a point of order. Madam Speaker, this is a Bill, which is very important to many people in this House, especially the women who are stakeholders but unfortunately, they are engaged in a very important assignment -- so I am not sure if this is the last discussion because the women have concerns that they want to raise.
This is the Second Reading --
So there will be a second debate --
Of course, there will be the Consideration Stage, which is the most important part.
Thank you, Madam Speaker.
Amendments will be accepted and introduced--
Madam Speaker, to all intents and purposes, this is a very popular Bill. I had the opportunity of interacting with my constituents during the recess and I informed them about the presence of the Intestate Succession Bill in Parliament together with its sister Bill, the Property Rites for Spouses and it attracted a lot of enthusiasm, particularly from the women- folk who, as the Bill has demonstrated, have been on the receiving end for some time now. So it is important that this august House looks at this Bill dispassionately and then make an informed contribution during the Consideration Stage. Madam Speaker, it is also important that this Bill provides a lot of radical approach
or intrusion into our customary system, be it matrimonial or patrilineal system of inheritance. The provision of this Bill, to a large extent, affects these systems of inheritance. So it is important that we should look at it very soberly. I think that a wholesale implementation of this Bill into law will have to bring about a lot of public education through the Houses of Chiefs- national, regional and traditional houses -- and also through the District Assemblies, so that people can appreciate and understand the rationale behind the Bill that has come into law and the provisions of the law. If we do not do that, we are going to have a lot of chaotic developments in our communities because of the radical departure from the traditional system of inheritance to the system that we are going to have. Madam Speaker, even though it has a popular appeal, the challenges to this Bill becoming law are enormous too. We have grown as a society because of certain traditional values, cultural values that we know of and that is why some people envy us. Madam Speaker, our tradition has it that one is one's neighbour's keeper; one is one's brother's keeper but the effect of this Bill will mean we are limiting this responsibility to the core of the nucleus family. and that is why I think it is a challenge. We have seen examples already in the system--relatives who are dis charged from hospitals, mental hospitals or other areas have been abandoned and that is because of the collapse of the traditional or the cultural values of our society. So if the introduction of this Bill and its implementation at the end of the day will lead to further neglect of our compatriots, I think that there must be some moderation or there must be some intervention somewhere along the line where we can still have the benefit of our traditional values while at the same time, ensuring that we bring some equity in the inheritance system that we have in the country. It is important to do so, otherwise, the law might become un- implementable. It is easy to pass a law in this House but the question of implementation is going to be a challenge to us. If we do not actually let people understand-- Yes, admittedly, the inheritance system has normally been advantageous to the male sex; no doubt about that. That is why, if my brother dies, I take responsibility of his wife and his children in the patrilinial system; I know in the matrilineal system, there is another arrangement. But this law that we are trying to, put in place is a complete departure of this and it is a challenge to all of us. That is why I would want to urge that there must be serious and intensive education at all levels of our society so that people can understand and appreciate it, otherwise, it will be an exercise in futility. Thank you. very much.
Hon Deputy Attorney-General, would you like to add something before I put the Question?
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank Hon Members of this august House for the very meaningful and. thought-provoking contributions that they have made. We have taken note of all these things and I believe that when we debate it in this august House, these concerns would be taken care of and as much as possible, We would want to know the feelings of people generally.
Thank you, Hon Deputy Attorney-General and Deputy Minister for Justice. Question put and Motion agreed to. The Intestate Succession Bill, 2009 was accordingly read a Second time.
Hon Leader, any other business?
Madam Speaker, we have virtually exhausted the matters on the Order Paper. We had earlier deferred the item numbered 5 on the Order Paper to another date and some committees have been scheduled to meet. The committee that is undertaking the winnowing on the Presidential Transition Bill will meet today at one o'clock. It is five minutes to one o'clock. Hon Members who have filed amendments and members of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and ParliamentaryAffaiIs will meet in my office at one o'clock to winnow the amendments filed with regard to the Presidential Transition Bill, 2010. We could not meet yesterday because we did not have the complement of the Attorney-General's staff, but I have been informed that they have been contacted and they would be available this afternoon to assist us- So Madam Speaker, I would want to plead with Hon Members to try to let us meet today, so that We can do the winnowing and tomorrow we can start the debate on the Consideration Stage. I thank Hon Members for the lively debate on the principles of the Intestate Succession Bill, 2010.
Madam Speaker, before the "available Leader" seconds the Motion for adjournment, just to note that the Hon Majority Leader says the College of Education Bill has been deferred; item 5 on the Order Paper has been deferred. I am just drawing his attention to the fact that presently, as far as I know, there is no Minister for Education and in the absence of a Minister, it would be difficult for a Deputy purporting to be acting for a non-existence Minister to transact any business before the House.
He has done it.
I am not aware. He normally makes a public statement. [Interruptions.] So, who is acting?
Hon Enoch T. Mensah.
Yes. I think I read it in the papers.
But in a matter of good governance, it is important, even though he is required by the Constitution, to inform Madam Speaker and the House -- to communicate this to Madam Speaker for purpose of the House. It is not for the House to --I did not know because it was in the newspaper; it was a public announcement and so we should take due cognizance of it--
Hon Leader will take note of it.
Yes, Madam Speaker.
Madam Speaker, we take note of that but Ministers acting on behalf of other Ministers do not need vetting and therefore, approval of this House. We should also note that.
Madam Speaker, my attention has come to Motion numbered 5 and it reads: "That the College of Education Bill, 2011 be now read a Second time." Madam Speaker, "the College of Education", which of the colleges of education are We referring to? Is there a particular one of the 3 8 colleges? I suppose it should be: "The Colleges of Education Bill." There is "s" missing, other than that, it may mean that out of the 38 colleges, we are making a Bill for one of them.
Hon Leader, do you have an answer to it? He is proposing you make it" Colleges of Education". I think the Bill said College of Education?
Yes. That is what the Bill captures -- "College of Education Bill". We will examine that one and if it is more prudent to make it "Colleges of Education Bill", we will amend it accordingly when we are doing the Consideration Stage.
All right We are not going on with item numbered 5; What about item numbered 6? That one too, no - so it is now --
Madam Speaker, that is why I indicated that we are going to do the Winnowing in respect of item numbered 6; so it will not be taken today.
Madam Speaker, in the circumstances and with your kind permission, I beg to move, that we now adjourn the proceedings of this august House to tomorrow at ten o'clock in the forenoon.
Hon I. B. Aidoo, can you second the Motion then?
He has moved the Motion for adjournment.
Madam Speaker, I am being informed that there is tsunami already. [Interruptions] There is tsunami to the effect that there has been some reshuffle. It is important because we on this side would want to know which Minister will be here to deal with the College of Education Bill. This is a very important matter which was raised. [Interruptions]
Madam Speaker, when it comes to that stage, we will let you know. I beg you. [Interruptions]
Hon Leader, the Hon Member is saying that in view of what we have said that Hon E. T. Mensah will be acting - Hon Member, are you saying that there has been an appointment?
Madam Speaker, there has been a reshuffle just this afternoon. This is just about ten minutes ago.
So who is going to be the Minister?
Madam Speaker, I have moved a Motion for adjournment until tomorrow -[Laughter] - The issue of which Minister comes tomorrow or next, is another matter. It is a Motion for adjournment simpliciter. And with the greatest respect, let us deal with the Motion.
Madam Speaker, I would appeal to my "available Leader" to support the Motion for adjournment. These matters are not matters to be dealt with lightly. Madam Speaker, if you have never been in government, you will never know the travails of being a member of government. Please, if there has been a public announcement, it has not been brought to the attention of the House. Let us just wait So if my respected "available Leader" would support the Motion, so that the House is adjourned.
Hon Member, like the Hon Member said, let us confine ourselves then to the seconding of the Motion for an adjournment.
Madam Speaker, much as I will agree with him, it is also important that we look at some of these aspects. This is because today we are going to meet to do winnowing. Yesterday I was at the office of the Hon Majority Leader and prepared to go through the winnowing on the Presidential Transition Bill, 2010 and he told me that we did not have the full complement of members who were to deal with this particular issue. Madam Speaker, to day, I have seen the chief architect of the Bill in the House; he is ready to meet us. But the point is, which Minister is going to meet us today? Even with the Presidential Transitional Bill,2010, the chief architect is here but we do not know which Minister is going to meet us for the winnowing.
Madam Speaker, my very good Friend is clearly out of order. We have moved a Motion for adjournment until tomorrow; what has that got to do with Bills? He is clearly out of order. He is either seconding the Motion or not seconding it. Madam Speaker, you should give him that direction. [Pause]
Hon Boahen, these are matters -- But maybe, in a few minutes, when we leave this House, things would be clearly for us. So let us go according to supporting the Motion and then we adjourn and then tomorrow will be another day. So can you please -
Madam Speaker, on that comforting note that you have given, I beg to second the Motion.
I thank you, Hon Member. Question put and Motion agreed to.
The House was accordingly adjourned at 1.04 p.m. till Thursday, 26th January, 2012 at 10.00 a.m.