Parliament is the law-making body made up of elected and appointed politicians who are responsible for making and repealing laws. It is not the same as the government, which runs the country or the province/territory or city/town. The government is usually made up of members of a political party which has elected the most seats in the legislature. Parliament’s responsibility is to ensure the government is running everything properly, including the passing of laws and debating of major issues. It is also responsible for examining government policy and administration.
In this section, we include resources related to the parliaments of each Caribbean country. We have included information on members of each chamber of parliament and the cabinet of each country.
What is parliament?
The term ‘Parliament’ is usually associated with the British system of parliamentary government, a system which has influenced the development of representative assemblies in many parts of the world. The concept of parliamentary democracy has roots that stretch back thousands of years. The word parliament is derived from the French word parler, which means to speak. The word democracy comes from the Greek word demos, meaning people, and kratia, meaning rule. Therefore, democracy literally means "the people’s rule". This concept dates back about 2,500 years ago to ancient Greece.
The Role and Function of Parliament
Parliament has three main functions:
- representation (acting on behalf of voters and citizens) - debating the major issues of the day and providing by voting for taxation, the means of carrying on the work of government
- making and repealing legislation
- scrutinising (examining) government policy and administration, including proposals for expenditure scrutiny
Parliament doesn't get into the business of running the country, but it is responsible for approving and changing the country's laws. The issues discussed in Parliament affect us all: health, the environment, transport, jobs, schools, crime.
One way members of Parliament 'scrutinise' the government is by regularly meeting in small groups called select committees. These committees can make recommendations to the government on particular issues such as education, health, and the environment.
By law, a general election must be held and a new Parliament elected, every four to five years. When Parliament is dissolved every seat in the respective house(s) becomes vacant. Members of Parliament immediately revert to being members of the general public and lose all the privileges associated with being a Member of Parliament. Until a new Parliament is elected, MPs do not exist. Those who wish to re-apply must stand again for election as candidates in their constituencies.