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Editorial got it right, Mr. Simmons

5/5/2010

In his column published on May 2 in another section of the press, Mr. Peter Simmons takes to task the writer of this newspaper’s editorial for Thursday, April 29 on two fronts, gratuitously making the point that “we expect editorial writers to trade in facts, not fictions”. First, he asserts that, contrary to the editorial, the House of Lords has not been replaced by the Supreme Court. He claims rather that the Supreme Court has replaced the “Lords Appellate Committee”.

Of course, the House of Lords, the Parliamentary Chamber, has not been replaced, but the highest court in England, also known by that name, has indeed been replaced by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom on October 1 2009. It might easily be attributed to my ignorance, but I must confess that in 35 years of law study, I have never heard the highest court in England referred to by the name Mr. Simmons now suggests.

Second, he challenges the proposition made in the editorial that the Barbados Parliament may not be the third oldest in the Commonwealth, suggesting that it is in fact, after those of Britain and Bermuda. The editorial first sought to rebut the assertion, sometimes erroneously made, that our Parliament is the third oldest in the world. It is not. The Althing in Iceland, founded in 930 AD and the Faroese Parliament (900AD?) are principal competitors for the title of the oldest Parliament in the world, and there are several others which rank above us in terms of antiquity.

But in the Commonwealth, the accolade of the oldest Parliament is accorded to that of the Isle of Man, the Tynwald, which predates that of Great Britain by nearly 300 years. I suppose the objection could be made that the Isle of Man is not politically part of the Commonwealth, but it certainly is geographically so. Barbados’ Parliament, which postdates that of Britain and Bermuda could not then be the third oldest. Perhaps Barbados might take a leaf from Bermuda’s book and describe our Parliament not as the third oldest in the world or the third oldest in the Commonwealth, but truthfully as “the
oldest continuous Parliament of an independent Commonwealth country outside the British Isles”.

Jeff Cumberbatch

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