Legislative Assembly Repeals Landholding Act 2014

LITTLE BAY – Hon. Minister of Agriculture and Lands Claude Hogan called the Landholding Amendment Act 2014 “a minefield” that needed to be repealed rather than further amended.

In the Wednesday March 18th, 2015 sitting of the Legislative Assembly the minister supported by the rest of the ruling government voted to repeal the act which they said was hastily enacted prior to the September 2014 elections.

Minister Hogan told the House, the bill had not received adequate consultation and needed the views of the local bar association.

Hon. Leader of the Opposition Reuben T. Meade said the changes made to the bill were of critical importance to Montserrat as the previous version had caused the island to be blacklisted by France as it did not have adequate anti-money laundering controls.

A view of the Belham Valley from the Montserrat Volcano Observatory. (Discover Montserrat Photo)
A view of the Belham Valley from the Montserrat Volcano Observatory. (Discover Montserrat Photo)

Meade recommended the bill be amended rather than repealed so as not to jeopardize the island’s position in relation to land and financial transparency. He suggested that discussions be held with the legal fraternity as to the modifications they felt were needed and then move for further amendments instead of reverting to the old act.

The agriculture minister said the 2014 act did not adequately consider the non-nationals despite the opposition’s claim to the contrary.

Some of the amendments made in the 2014 Landholding Control Amendment Act were to adjust the definition of Montserratian and non-Montserratian to match that of the 2010 Constitutional Order and clarify their ability to own or lease land. Also included in the new act was a schedule of fees, which will now be removed. These fees, according to the 2014 law could be adjusted at the discretion of the Governor on the advice of the Cabinet.

According to Minister Hogan it is the intention to have the consultations with the stakeholders and reintroduce a new bill which will take into consideration what Montserrat needs to be on sound international footing while considering the needs of the residents.

“This bill was a “rush job which has created a minefield for this government. We must be guided by democracy and a rule of law which will give everyone the right to own and buy land on Montserrat,” Minister Hogan stated.

The Legislative Assembly is scheduled to hold a sitting on Friday, March 20th, 2015 to debate the Supplementary Appropriations Bill.