I refer to your issue in September 2013 in which was published correspondence from the Clerk of the National Assembly concerning the obtaining of the President’s assent to Bills passed by the National Assembly. A controversy seems to have arisen involving the Attorney-General and the Clerk of the National Assembly over the process. I, therefore, consider that it might be of interest to some of your readers for me to express an opinion (albeit belated) on the matter, having held the position of Chief Parliamentary Counsel for a number of years during the period of constitutional advance for this country from the time of the grant of internal self-government.
During the period prior to 1961, Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom was vested with the power of disallowance of legislation passed by the former colonial legislature. There was also the power of the governor to reserve legislation passed by the legislative body relating to defence and foreign affairs. With the attainment of independence of this country on 26 May 1966, the powers of reservation over, and disallowance of, legislation by the National Assembly no longer applied.
It is my opinion that the continued requirement of obtaining the assent certificate of the Attorney-General is now in the nature of a precautionary measure only to ensure that the Bill represents what was actually passed by the legislative body before it is transmitted to the President for signification of his assent, and is certainly not a constitutional or other legal requirement. Only grammatical or typographical changes can be made to the Bill before it is transmitted for the assent of the President. Any other changes to the legislation passed by the legislative body can be made subsequently only by substantive amending legislation.
It is my expectation that this letter will facilitate a better understanding of the reported issue.
Brynmor T I Pollard, SC