NATIONAL ASSEMBLY PASSES INSURANCE BILL, LABOUR LAWS AMENDMENT BILL, ADOPTS REPORT ON PRIVATE MEMBER’S BILL ON MEDICAL INNOVATION, REPORT ON TRANSFORMATION OF FINANCIAL SECTOR

The National Assembly today agreed to the Insurance Bill and the Labour Laws Amendment Bill at its plenary sitting.

The Insurance Bill is part of several Bills giving effect to the new Twin Peaks model. This model seeks to transform the financial sector to reduce the prospects of negative consequences of the 2008 global financial crisis recurring, especially for financial customers. The Bill aims to promote maintenance of a fair, safe and stable insurance market. It seeks to do this by establishing a legal framework that enhances financial soundness through higher prudential standards, group supervision and stronger reinsurance arrangements. It also aims to increase access to insurance, to strengthen regulatory requirements on governance, risk management and internal controls for insurers and it aligns with international standards, while taking South Africa’s specific conditions into account.

In its report on the Bill, the Standing Committee on Finance observed that lower income earners usually suffered disproportionately when financial institutions failed and that, in South Africa, these were mainly Black people. The insurance sector plays an important role in supporting a sustainable inclusive economy, the Committee said, by providing necessary protection for households and corporates to take the edge off unexpected losses. In the absence of such protection, vulnerable households and corporates could be pushed into a vicious cycle of debt and poverty.

The Minister of Finance introduced the Bill to Parliament in January 2016 and the Committee then embarked on an extensive public consultation process. This included National Treasury responses to public submissions and further amendments to the Bill, based on these submissions.

Amendments to the Bill from the Committee included making transformation explicit in the Bill’s objectives. The Committee did not accept an argument that its amendments on transformation had changed the scope of the Bill substantially and, therefore, needed the Bill to be subjected to a fresh round of public hearings. If this were to occur, the Committee said, it would have the effect of discouraging Committees from making significant amendments to Bills, would seriously diminish the legislative role of Parliament and would subordinate Parliament to the Executive. The National Council of Provinces will now consider the Bill. To read the Standing Committee on Finance’s report on the Insurance Bill in the Announcements, Tablings and Committee Reports parliamentary paper of 22 November 2017

Another Bill agreed to by the Assembly is the Labour Laws Amendment Bill, a Private Member’s Bill. The Bill deals with parental leave and also provides for adoption and surrogacy leave.

Reports which the Assembly’s plenary sitting today considered and adopted included the First Report on Transformation of the Financial Sector and the Report on the Medical Innovation Bill, originally introduced as a Private Member’s Bill.

The First Report on Transformation of the Financial Sector, from the Standing Committee on Finance and the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry, was based on public hearings held this year. It makes a number of recommendations. Including an annual review of the report and a Financial Sector Summit. To read the First Report Transformation of the Financial Sector from the Standing Committee on Finance and the Portfolio Committee on Trade and IndustryThe Assembly also adopted, among others, the Portfolio Committee on Health report that the Private Members’ Bill on Medical Innovation was not desirable. In its report, published in the 22 November 2017 Announcements, Tablings and Committee Reports parliamentary paper, the Committee said introduction of the Bill � to legalise use of marijuana for medical purposes � had already resulted in several achievements. These included legalising marijuana for medical use under the Medicines and Related Substances Act of 1965 (as amended), legalising commercial and industrial use of cannabis (through collaboration between the Departments of Health, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the South African Police Service), amending the scheduling status of registered cannabis products for medicinal use (published in the Government Gazette of 17 November 2017), guidelines for cultivating and manufacturing cannabis-related products for medicinal and research purposes and, as of 5 November 2017, the availability of licensing forms on the Department of Health’s website (Medicines Control Council) to cultivate, manufacture, export or import cannabis for medical and research purposes.

National Assembly Member Dr Mario Oriani-Ambrosini first introduced the Bill at the end of the fourth Parliament. After his passing, the fifth Parliament’s National Assembly adopted the Bill and it was reintroduced. Briefings on the Bill were held with several government departments, experts and medical researchers from September 2014 to 15 November 2017.

Source: Parliament of the Republic of South Africa