Legislature Historical Perspectives PDF Print

Historical Perspectives of the Legislature of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines


In the second half of the 18th Century (1763) George III granted Saint Vincent a Constitution by which the first organised government was set up with a Council and an Assembly of Representatives of the people. In 1786 the Assembly was said to have consisted of as many as 19 elected members.  By 1838 when slavery was abolished it appears as though the question of self government which the planters had been envisioning no longer was important and even the poor attendance of members militated against the carrying on of the business of Assembly.


It therefore gave reason for the abolition of the Council and the Assembly to be replaced by a single Legislative Assembly with 12 member: 3 ex-officios, 3 nominated by the Crown and 6 elected by the people. This came about in 1856.  By this arrangement the administration of the Colony was thrown into the hands of the Colonial Office, which by present day judgement was a retrograde step.


During the First World War (1914-1918) a movement was started for a return to Representative Government and as a result a Commission was set up by the British Government to examine the merits of such a call. As a result of the Commission’s recommendations a new Constitution was granted to Saint Vincent, among other Caribbean countries. This provided for, in the case of Saint Vincent, a Council of 3 official members, 1 nominated member and 3 elected members, with the Administrator as President.


In 1936 there were three (3) nominated members, five (5) elected members with the three (3) officials and the administrator as President but the people kept on making greater devolution of power to them (George A. McIntosh being one of the strongest agitator) and in 1951 a new Constitution increased the Elected Members to eight (8) and also gave, for the first time, the power to every adult, 21 years and over the right to elect a member to the Legislative Council (Adult Suffrage).


It seems rather ironic that George A McIntosh who so forth rightly fought to bring Adult Suffrage to Saint Vincent should be defeated at the first general elections held under that arrangement.


By that same Constitution (1951) there was created an Executive Council which comprised of 2 officials, the Administrator, one nominated member and 3 elected members who were also members of the Legislative Council.


In March 1956 further power was accorded to the Executive Council as it became the principal instrument of policy making, and its elected membership increased to four (4) three of these becoming Ministers. Thus Saint Vincent has its first taste of the ministerial system in 1956.  It is referred to in literature as the Committee System.  Further constitutional changes came about for by 1959 between the Colonial Office and the local Council the Saint Vincent Legislative Council was to comprise of 1 official member (The Attorney General), 2 nominated members (not officers) and 9 elected members, to be presided over, no longer by the Administrator, but by a Speaker elected by the Council. The first such Speaker was Barrister-at-law Newton S. Nanton, after whom there had been ten (10) such elections to the Speakership.  Improved constitutional status was accorded Saint Vincent in 1960 when the Leader of the Government became the Chief Minister and the Executive Council (Cabinet) was made up of 5: the Chief Minister, 3 other Ministers and the Attorney General.  The Administrator assumed full responsibility since there was no longer a Windward Island Governor.


Following the demise of the West Indies Federation in 1962 there was a London Conference held in 1966 for a new status for the islands including Saint Vincent.  At that Conference Saint Vincent became eligible for Associate Statehood under the West Indies Act 1967, but local politics made for the delay and Saint Vincent never became an Associated State till October 27, 1969, thus making the island internally self–governing with Great Britain retaining responsibility for External Affairs and Defence.  With the grant of Statehood came increased represented hence there was provision for 13 elected members and 4 nominated members. The Leader of Government came to be called Premier.


The last vestige of British Constitutional responsibility was removed in 1979 when Saint Vincent and the Grenadines became independent on 27th October of the year. At midnight on that date the Statehood flag which still entailed British connection was lowered and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines flag raised in its place.  The 13 elected membership in that House of Assembly (the former Legislative Council) was retained but there was new provision for 6 Senators (nominated members), four (4) to be appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister (formerly Premier) and two (2) on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition.


While Parliament is said to comprise of the House of Assembly and the Governor General only attends the meetings of the House when invited so to do.


By an Act of Parliament in 1986 No. of 1986 the right of way was given for an increase in the Representatives in the House 13 to 15 so that in the next Parliament the membership will be increased by two.