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AD HOC COMMITTEE ON
POWERS AND PRIVILEGES OF PARLIAMENT
12 February 2002
FOURTH DRAFT OF BILL: DELIBERATIONS
Chairperson: Mr P. Mokaba (ANC)
Documents handed out.
Fourth Draft on Powers and Immunities of Parliament & Provincial Legislatures Bill
The purpose of the Powers and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Bill is to define and declare certain powers and immunities of Parliament, Provincial legislatures, members of the National Assembly, delegates to the National Council of Provinces and members of provincial legislatures.
The Chairperson noted that the Committee has four days to bring the discussion of the Bill to its finality and to give a report thereafter. The Bill was tackled clause by clause the Parliamentary Law Adviser guiding the discussion.
The Committee was concerned that the Chairperson, Mr P Mokaba, had been absent from some of the previous meetings causing last-minute cancellations. Committee members complained about the aeroplane tickets that had been wasted. Mr Mokaba apologised explaining that he had had to undergo an operation. More complaints were aired that the Committee should have a deputy chairperson.
Clause by clause deliberations
Mr A Meyer, Parliamentary Law Adviser, took the Committee through Clauses 2 to 15 of the Bill:
CHAPTER 2: PRECINCTS OF LEGISLATURES
Clause 2 Precincts of Legislature
The clause deals with that part of the land and building that can be described as the precincts of the legislature and who controls and manages it.
Mr Cassiem (IFP) asked whether the Constituency Office would somehow feature in the Bill.
Mr Meyer replied that the Constituency Offices are not part of Parliament and have never been. He said that if they include the Constituency Office in the Bill, they run the risk of having the Bill being unconstitutional.
Mr Bakker (NNP) said that he did not see how they can make the provision apply to Constituency Offices as it is a party office. Ms Rajbally (MF) added that she did not see how the Constituency Office would be a Parliament Office.
It was agreed that that the issue would be dealt with at a later stage and that Mr Meyer should look at the matter.
Clause 3 Service of process and arrest of persons within precincts of Legislature
Mr Meyer noted that Clause 3 had been transferred as is from the previous Bill. He interpreted the clause as meaning that a person may not be arrested within the premises of the Parliament or be served a summons. The clause could stay the same but he suggested that an option that can be included is that the clause should be limited to situations where the House is sitting. His reasoning for the inclusion of such an option is that Parliament should not be seen as some kind of haven or a place where one can seek asylum.
Mr Bakker asked whether the clause applies to MPs only or to anyone, as crooks could enter Parliament to be protected.
Mr Hendrickse (ANC) asked whether he would be protected if he were arrested at home before he came to Parliament. He believed that the purpose of the clause is to ensure that members are not prevented from coming to Parliament.
Mr Eglin (DP) commented that it is only when one is arrested for murder that it can be said that a person is not protected.
It was decided that the Legal Adviser look at the clause again and that it would be dealt with at a later stage.
Clause 4 Presence of security services in precincts of Legislature
This clause deals with the presence of security services in the precincts of the legislature.
It has been transferred as is from the previous draft. The Committee agreed to the clause.
Clause 5 Application of Act in case of committee meeting beyond seat of Legislature
The Committee agreed to the clause.
CHAPTER 3: FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND PROCEEDINGS
Clause 6 Freedom of speech and proceedings in Legislature
Mr Meyer pointed out that this is a difficult chapter. He noted that this clause is a rewritten provision from the previous one.
Clause 6(1)(a) deals with joint sittings. Mr Meyer presented the committee with the question whether Members of Parliament have freedom of speech at joint sittings.
Mr Meyer noted that Clause 6(2) was drafted too broadly.
In answer to whether clause 6(3) included deputy ministers, Mr Meyer replied that it did.
A question was asked whether party caucus meetings were included in the freedom of speech clause. Would an MP be protected if a senior party member intimidates him or her?
The Chairperson replied that the responsibility of running caucus meetings rests with the party and Parliament cannot intervene in party proceedings. Mr Mahlangu added that as caucuses are party political, it is not appropriate to extend this privilege to caucuses and it could be difficult to do that. The Committee agreed that the extension to party caucuses should be put on hold.
CHAPTER 4: IMMUNITIES, INDEPENDENCE AND PROTECTION OF MEMBERS AND LEGISLATURES
Clause 7 Immunities
Mr Meyer pointed out that the clause is a repetition of the Constitution. The Committee agreed on the option provided for in the clause.
Clause 8 Interference with Legislature or members
Mr Meyer noted that the clause is the same as in the third draft, with only sub-clauses (d) and (e) added.
Clause 9 Persons creating disturbance
Mr Schmidt (DP) said that Clause 9 should not be there as its content is covered by Clause 8. He also deliberated on the use of the word "interference", saying that such a word should not have been used.
Mr Meyer believed that the semantics were irrelevant but agreed that the use of the word may be too broad and should be replaced by another word. The Chairperson added that the Committee would have a look at the word the next day.
Mr Schmidt again brought up the issue that Clause 9 is covered by Clause 8. He referred to disturbance in clause 9 and disturbance when the legislature is meeting in clause 8.
Mr Eglin said that he differed with his colleague. He gave an example of a union that might march around Parliament but not disturb nor disrupt the proceedings.
Mr Meyer clarified that clause 8 refers to any person disturbing the proceedings and clause 9 refers to a member of the legislature disturbing the proceedings.
Mr Eglin argued that the behavior of Members of Parliament should be excluded from the Bill as it should be in the Rules of Parliament.
Mr Meyer replied that he could not recall a rule specifically dealing with the behavior of the members of the legislature.
In answer to a question by the ANC about the use of the phrase "A person " instead of "Any person", Mr Meyer said that that "Any person" is an old fashioned way of dealing with legislation. Changing it would not take the matter much further and "A person" would definitely be anybody, including a member of the legislature.
Clause 10 Improper influence of members
Mr Meyer noted that the clause is basically the same as in Draft Three: subclause 10(2) has been changed based on suggestions at the workshops that it be in line with part of clause 18 of the previous draft. The clause was agreed upon with the decision that the option be included.
Clause 11 Matters in which members have direct financial interest
Mr Meyer said that this clause was in essence the same as the previous draft.
Mr Blanche (FA) asked if a member has interests or shares in a company that is being discussed in a meeting, is he allowed to speak or contribute his opinion in the meeting.
Mr Meyer replied that if it is a Bill dealing with issues in which the member has interests then he had to exclude himself from the proceedings. There were no further comments.
Clause 12 Attendance of members before court
The clause was agreed to without comment from any party.
Clause 13 Giving evidence of proceedings
Mr Meyer said that the clause is basically the same as in the third draft. The various options to the clause were read out. As he believed the clause to be unconstitutional, Mr Meyer suggested that the Committee choose Option (a) which states that the clause be deleted. The Committee agreed.
CHAPTER 5: DISCIPLINARY ACTION AGAINST MEMBERS FOR CONTEMPT OF LEGISLATURE
Clause 14 Conduct constituting contempt of Legislature
Mr Meyer said that the clause was changed slightly from the previous draft to include a member who deliberately misleads the legislature. On the other hand he said that he did not like the idea of its inclusion because it can be a political allegation.
Clause 15 Disciplinary action against members for contempt
Mr Meyer said that when electing the standing committee to discipline members, the question of proportionality should not be important as one has to ensure that the committee maintains credibility.
The Committee deliberated whether suspension of members in Sub-clause 15(8) was with or without full pay.
Mr Meyer pointed out that suspension with full pay would just be a holiday for a member, so he or she should not be entitled to a salary. If suspension were given with pay, then it would not serve the purpose of being a disciplinary action.
Mr Hendrickse argued that the option of not paying a full salary (as supplement to suspension) and the fine not exceeding R5 000 are in contradiction. Withholding salary and benefits may affect the member's family. He suggested that an option could be to take away the member's allowances such as parliamentary allowances rather than the salary.
An agreement was not reached on the issue and the Chairperson closed the meeting, noting that the issue would be continued the following day.
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