A Bill to grant access to information collected by the Department of Statistics was questioned by an Opposition senator this week. Nick Kempe said that he was unclear on the purpose of the Statistics Amendment Act.
The One Bermuda Alliance senator said: “I fail to understand how disclosing what supermarkets sell bread at which price is going to assist Cabinet in reducing the cost of business.
“I could understand if it was something being shared as a comparison tool to the general public, so that shoppers can make more informed decisions, but I struggle to see how sharing it only to Cabinet is something that is going to assist in decision making, other than there’s some underlying agenda to target certain supermarkets, or something along those lines.”
Mr Kempe was speaking as senators passed the amendment, designed to permit information collected by government statisticians to be used for policy development by the Cabinet.
Wayne Furbert, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, told MPs in the House of Assembly this month that the amendment was “specifically talking about grocery stores”.
Ianthia Simmons-Wade, a Progressive Labour Party senator, told the Upper Chamber that the amendment would help the government to deliver on its promise of lowering the cost of living.
She explained: “For this important task to be undertaken, and ultimately achieved, Government ministers must have access to pertinent public information.”
Mrs Simmons-Wade said that the information could also be provided to the public.
She added: “A decision as to how it’s going to be done has not been determined at this time.
“We don’t anticipate there will be any additional cost.”
James Jardine, an independent senator, said that he supported the Bill, but had questions about the Bill’s “long-term purpose”.
He added: “I think what Government is trying to do is to help the general public, I assume, by publishing prices of a basket of goods at various places around the island.”
Mr Jardine said that he was pleased that the Bill only covered information in the public domain.
He explained: “This is information that isn’t secret.
“I don’t think this is seeking to make public, private information, and I take comfort from that.”
Senators also passed two other Bills.
The Motor Car and Road Traffic (Miscellaneous) Amendment Act 2020 made it illegal for one motorbike to tow another, and will prevent two motorcycles carrying loads between them.
It also increased the amount that could be collected from the owner of an abandoned vehicle from $250 to $1,500, and made increases to the size and power output of minicars.
The Mortgage Registration Amendment Act 2020 clarified that only the function of recording and registering of mortgages and other conditional conveyances of land under the Mortgage Registration Act 1786 was transferred from the Registrar-General to the Land Title Registrar by the Land Title Registrar (Recording of Documents) Act 2017.