The Committee continued with its discussion on the right of Members to introduce legislation and the role of the Committee on Private Members Legislative Proposals and Special Petitions. Mr M Oriani-Ambrosini (IFP) had lodged an application with the
Members expressed concern with reviewing only the rules that related to Mr Oriani-Ambrosini’s concerns as there were several longstanding rules that had not yet been considered. They argued that the Committee could not discuss a matter that was before the courts because it would influence the outcome of the court case. The Committee agreed to review all the rules and invite stakeholders to give their input on this matter. It was also agreed that there was a need for a dedicated expert to assist with the process of sorting out all the rules and prioritising them. The Committee noted that it could not proceed with its work without the approval of the Joint Rules Committee.
The Chairperson informed Members about the proposed agenda and suggested that the Committee include the discussion of the current rules in relation to the Private Members legislation.
Mr M Oriani-Ambrosini (IFP) pointed out that the previous Committee meeting had long discussion on the rules applicable to Members questions in the National Assembly sitting.
The Chairperson explained that the draft rules would be circulated to Members subject to the approval of the Joint Rules Committee (JRC). All new proposals would be referred to the JRC to give the go ahead. He added that rules like most things in parliament were politically driven, they were not just a technical guideline, hence the different positions of political parties.
Ms F Chohan (ANC) recalled that the Committee had previously discussed whether all the rules would be reviewed or only specific ones. The Committee would nevertheless need the help of outside consultants to deal with the enormous workload. She had a problem with reviewing only the rules that related to Mr Oriani-Ambrosini’s concerns as the ANC and the DA had some rules which they wanted to be reviewed.
The Chairperson suggested that the Committee should deal with Mr Oriani-Ambrosini’s concern on the role of the Committee on Private Members to enact legislation. He suggested that the legal advisor should provide an update to kick start the discussion.
Continuation of discussion on right of Members to introduce legislation
Ms Refilwe Mathabathe, Legal Advisor, Parliamentary Legal and Constitutional Services, explained that Mr Oriani-Ambrosini had lodged an application with the Cape High Court to challenge the decision of the Speaker of the National Assembly not to allow him to introduce the National Credit Bill on the basis that it was not constitutional. Mr Oriani-Ambrosini’s application had stated that the action of the Speaker was unconstitutional. The Parliamentary Legal Service had filed a motion to oppose the matter.
Mr S Thobejane (ANC) was confused by the discussion because the matter was sub judice. Mr Oriani-Ambrosini as complainant could not be part of the discussion because it might influence the outcome of the case.
The Chairperson replied that the meeting was dealing with outstanding normal Committee business. He was not sure whether the sub judice rule was applicable in this instance. The Committee would rely on legal advice to determine whether it would proceed.
Ms Marina Griebenow, Committee Secretary, explained that she had consulted widely on the sub judice issue and found that it did not prevent the Committee from conducting its normal business.
Mr P Pretorius (DA) felt that the discussion would have an impact on the court case. The rules were vague on the mandate of the Committee concerning an ongoing court case.
Mr Oriani-Ambrosini stated that he respected the wisdom of the Chairperson on the matter. He informed Members that the court case was not launched for fun or to embarrass or humiliate anyone. It was a time consuming exercise that had exhausted a lot of resources. When it came to changing the rules of Parliament, the sub judice rule did not apply. According to the section 73 of the Constitution, any Member of Parliament had a right to introduce any bill with the exception of Money bills. He had tried to engage with the Speaker several times but had received no reply. He was therefore surprised to recently discover that Parliament had opposed his application, as his complaint had been lodged 10 months ago.
The Chairperson acknowledged that the Subcommittee might have taken too long to deal with the issue. He added that a lot of things had not been attended to by the JRC because it was difficult to set up a meeting. He indicated that the Committee support staff had been compiling research on how parliaments in other countries had dealt with similar issues.
Ms Chohan pointed out that there were outstanding issues that had been waiting long before Mr Oriani-Ambrosini had lodged his court application. She suggested that the Committee should decide on the procedure first because even the DA had its own proposals to make.
The Chairperson replied that Mr Oriani-Ambrosini viewed the matter as urgent because it hampered his constitutional right to initiate legislation. He then asked the Members for a way forward.
Mr Pretorius suggested that rules should be reviewed in their totality rather than dealing with them in a piece meal fashion. If the court case ruled in favour of Mr Oriani-Ambrosini then that specific rule could be dealt with immediately, because the parliamentary process was very slow.
Ms Chohan mentioned that the Committee was under-resourced and did not have enough time to deal with all the rules. She suggested that the Committee could prioritise certain rules within a specific period. The Committee was faced with a huge backlog. The Secretariat in conjunction with the Chairperson could also check with the Chairperson of Chairs to ask about other priority rules.
The Chairperson suggested that the rule book could be subdivided into chunks or compartmentalised into major areas. It would then be easier to asses whether the rules were consistent with the Constitution and best practice. The diagnostic approach would be appropriate with the assessment of rules. There was a need for a dedicated expert to assist with the process of sorting out all the rules that had to be reviewed. If the Committee decided to prioritise, then all matters that related to institutional arrangements of parliament must be grouped together for review.
Ms Griebenow indicated that legacy issues were not clearly communicated by the previous Committee in the third Parliament.
Mr Oriani-Ambrosini suggested that all Committee chairpersons and the public could be invited to make submissions on which rules needed be changed.
The Chairperson reminded Members that the Committee was a technical Committee of the JRC. It therefore had no mandate to initiate a meeting with its own agenda without the knowledge of the JRC. Only after the JRC had considered all the angles then they could give a go ahead.
Ms Chohan suggested that the Secretariat draft a letter to the Speaker and chief whips to inform them of the issues on the agenda for the next meeting.
Mr Pretorius suggested that the Committee should also look at technical amendments such as those that needed to be omitted because they had already been decided or obsolete.
The Chairperson said that outstanding matters on the agenda would be dealt with in the next meeting.
The meeting was adjourned
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