I - COMPOSITION
17 senators appointed by the Governor General based on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.
In the event of a senator's seat becoming temporarily vacant due to non-attendance, suspension or illness, the Governor General may nominate a replacement to take the senator's seat on a temporary basis.
II - SYSTEM OF APPOINTMENT
Term of office : 5 years.
Most recent appointments : 27 April 2009.
Criteria for eligibility : 21 years of age, British Commonwealth citizen, residence for at least twelve months prior to the elections, proficiency in spoken and written English.
Ineligibility : citizen of a foreign power, undischarged bankrupt, suffering from mental illness, sentence to death, sentence to prison for one year or more, conviction of electoral fraud, conviction of certain crime in the ten years prior to the appointment.
Incompatibilities : those who hold certain public offices, electoral responsibilities, and ministers of religion. (parliamentary secretaries (secretaries of State) are appointed by the Governor General with the agreement of the Prime Minister from among members of the House of Representatives or from the senators. Similarly, a senator or member of the House of Representatives may be appointed on a temporary basis as a minister (in the event of absence from Antigua and Barbuda or illness).
The Supreme Court has jurisdiction over the appointment of senators.
III - ORGANIZATION OF SESSIONS
The Governor General decides on the opening and closing date for senatorial business.
No parliamentary sitting may be suspended for more than three consecutive months in the course of a parliamentary session (nor more than six months following the prorogation of Parliament, or four months following its dissolution).
A parliamentary sitting must adjourn unless there is a quorum of six members (excluding the Speaker).
IV - RELATIONS WITH THE OTHER CHAMBER AND THE EXECUTIVE
The Parliament of Antigua and Barbuda consists of Her Majesty the Queen of England, the Senate and the House of Representatives.
A - LEGISLATIVE POWERS
General restrictions on the powers of the Senate in legislative matters.
1) The right to propose legislation
Members of the Parliament have the right to initiate legislation, except on financial matters. Financial legislation is defined, according to the judgement of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as matters such as taxation, fiscal policy and public debt.
Moreover, except with the agreement of the Government, it is not permitted to propose any private bills which have the effect of levying public taxes, or reducing government resources, or which relate to the public debt.
2) Right of amendment
The House of Representatives may, following the second reading of a Bill by the Senate, put forward amendments which, if adopted, will be deemed to be the Senate' amendments approved by the House of Representatives.
Without the Government's agreement, it is not permitted to introduce any amendments that have the effect of reducing government resources, or which relate to the public debt.
3) Legislative procedure
Bills may be placed before either of the two Houses of the Parliament; an exception is made in the case of financial legislation, which is only considered by the House of Representatives.
a) Normal procedure
If a Bill has been approved by the House of Representatives in two successive parliamentary sessions (whether or not Parliament has been dissolved in the meantime) and if, despite being sent to the Senate and rejected by it on each occasion at least one month before the end of the parliamentary session, the Bill is nevertheless be sent to the Governor General for promulgation.
The House of Representatives may disregard the Senate's opposition providing that three months have elapsed between two consecutive readings of the bill.
b) Legislation relating to financial matters
Draft financial legislation is considered in the first instance by the House of Representatives.
Examination of the finance bill: if the bill is not adopted by the Senate during the month after it has been sent there from the House of Representatives, and even if it has not been sent within the prescribed time limit, it will nevertheless be deemed to be approved unless the House of Representatives decides otherwise, and it will be sent to the Governor General for promulgation.
B - SUPERVISORY POWERS
The President of the Senate may require the presence of the Minister of Justice to a sitting if he considers his presence might assist proceedings.
He may also require the presence of a minister who is also a senator to provide explanations on any matter concerning his area of competence.
C - DISSOLUTION AND PROROGATION
The Governor General may at any time, with the agreement of the Prime Minister, dissolve Parliament or prolong its term.
V - SPECIAL MEASURES
A - REVIEW OF THE CONSTITUTION
Depending on the particular article of the Constitution, a majority of two thirds or three quarters of members of Parliament is required to amend an article of the Constitution.
B - PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE
The President of the Senate is elected for five years.
He chairs joint sittings of the two chambers.
As soon as the Senate is constituted following a dissolution, it elects a President, who may not be a member of the Government.
C- EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES
The Governor General can proclaim a state of emergency for a period of a seven days during a session of Parliament, and for a maximum of 21 days or other times for a period of three months, unless Parliament in the meantime has passed a declaration of a State of Emergency. Parliament also has the right to do so on its own initiative.
A vote for a State of Emergency requires a simple majority in each of the two parliamentary chambers.
The assumption of emergency powers is taken in the case of war (periods of 12 months renewable) or if there is a vote of two thirds of the members of each chamber declaring that the democratic institutions of Antigua and Barbuda are facing a threat of subversion (hostile action from outside or as a result of a natural disaster).
D - SPECIAL POWERS OF PARLIAMENT
Parliament takes decisions relating to :
- the opening of Parliament in recourse to a call before Her Majesty or her representative (except for cases provided for in the Constitution) ;
- the composition and powers of the local Council of Barbuda ;
- arrangements governing the local government of this constituency.
E - OMBUDSMAN
An officer of Parliament is appointed Ombudsman by a vote of each of the two chambers of Parliament; he performs these duties exclusively and cannot be removed from office. Parliament has the power to define the Ombudsman's role and responsibilities.