In the past couple of weeks, the issue of the narrow margin between the Government (32 seats) and the Opposition (31 seats) has come to the fore once again. This is because Member of Parliament (MP) Derrick Smith, who is Leader of Government Business in the House of Representatives, is currently overseas receiving medical care and if he were absent for the upcoming vote, the Government mightn’t have the votes to pass the Budget.
Mr Smith is quoted in an article in The Gleaner this week as saying, “I will be available for any parliamentary vote.” And one can believe it, as he is one of only five MPs who were present for 40 of the 41 sittings of the Parliament during the year. He is also the only MP recorded as present at the sitting scheduled for October 4, 2016, when there was no quorum due to the threat of Hurricane Matthew impacting Jamaica. (I am not sure if his attendance was due to his personal commitment or was in some way connected with his position of Leader of Government Business.)
Attendance in Parliament is only one of many measures of an MP’s performance, but it is a starting place for holding our representatives accountable. The table below sets out MPs’ attendance at the 41 sittings of the new Parliament which had its first sitting on March 10, 2016, after the general election in February. The table doesn’t indicate whether MPs were present for roll call at the start of sessions, though this is available in the records of the Parliament. Whether they stayed to the end of the sessions isn’t recorded, however.
One question to consider as you look at the table is – How much, if at all, does it matter to you whether your MP attends Parliament?
(Click to access table as PDF file: ATTENDANCE RECORD FOR MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT MARCH 2016 – JANUARY 2017)
The data for the table was taken from the following attendance records obtained from Parliament: