The Chairperson noted that this special meeting had been called so that the Committee could address the backlog in its work occasioned by the lack of quorum at previous meetings. The Committee had now been given permission to meet on Wednesdays from 08:00 to 09:00, with Friday meetings reserved for receiving briefings. The Chairperson noted also that he had met with the Chief Whip, who had been asked to call upon other committees who had failed to respond to requests for comment from this Committee now to attend to the outstanding matters.
The Committee adopted its draft Second Term Quarterly Report, noting that the Committee would reformulate the Vision Statement during a forthcoming workshop. It also adopted the Minutes of meetings on 1 June 2010, 4 June 2010, 6 August 2010, and 13 August 2010. The Third Term Programme was adopted, with a correction of a reference to one date.
The Committee noted that the Portfolio Committee on Women, Children, Youth and People with Disabilities had been asked to comment on the Dudley Legislative Proposal to amend the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill. The Standing Committee on Finance was asked to comment on the Pretorius legislative proposal to amend the Land and Agricultural Development Bank Act. The Committee was unable, owing to time constraints, to debate the Selfe and De Lille legislative proposals around the President’s power to pardon.
A Draft Private Members Legislative Proposals Fact Sheet had been prepared to highlight the Constitutional and Parliamentary Rules’ requirements in relation to proposals brought to Parliament, including who could bring proposals, what should be tabled, the functions and powers of the Committee and factors to be considered. Members welcomed the guidelines, but suggested that the matter be debated in Parliament, to gain full feedback and determine whether this was not in conflict with any other procedures. Members agreed to adopt the document in principle and obtain a legal opinion.
The Committee was proposing that it should be given permission to prepare a Petitions Bill, and needed approval from Parliament. Members agreed that the authority of the Committee did need to be strengthened and some suggested that the Legal Advisors should brief Parliament on the procedural rules, whilst others felt that Rule 238 should be followed. The proposal, if approved, would be important for this Committee and the rest of Parliament. It was agreed that a Memorandum would be submitted for consideration.
Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson noted that this special meeting had been called to establish a quorum to address the backlogs in the Committee’s work, arising out of the lack of a quorum at several previous meetings. This Committee had now been given permission to meet on Wednesday mornings from 08:00 to 09:00 and would, in future, meet on Fridays only to receive briefings from stakeholders. In regard to the failure to reach a quorum on several previous occasions, he noted that he had asked the Whip Forum either to consider replacing members of the Committee who had conflicting commitments to other committees, or to reduce the size of the Committee so that a smaller quorum would apply.
The Chairperson noted that he had also been in discussion with the Chief Whip about the serious matters arising from the legal challenge to Parliament by Dr Oriani-Ambrosini, which affected not only this Committee, but the whole of Parliament.
The Chairperson had also asked the Chief Whip to communicate with other portfolio committees, who had not responded to requests from this Committee on various matters, and request them to respond and to take the requests from this Committee seriously.
Dudley Legislative Proposal to amend Choice on Termination of Pregnancy legislation
The Chairperson noted that the legislative proposal and briefing document received from Hon Cheryllyn Dudley, proposing legislative amendments to the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill, was being presented before the Portfolio Committee on Women, Children, Youth and People with Disabilities, and that Committee would then make its submission on the matter to this Committee.
Pretorius Legislative Proposal to amend the Land and Agricultural Development Bank Act
The Chairperson noted that the legislative proposal by Hon Pretorius to amend the Land and Agricultural Development Bank Act had been referred to the Standing Committee on Finance, which would send its comments to the Committee.
Adoption of Minutes
Minutes of Committee Meetings held on 1 June 2010, 4 June 2010, 6 August 2010, and 13 August 2010 were all adopted, subject to technical amendments.
Draft Second Term Quarterly Report: Adoption
Ms J Kilian (COPE) suggested that perhaps the Vision Statement needed to be altered.
Members agreed that the Committee would explore and develop a well-formulated vision at the Workshop.
The report was adopted.
Draft Private Members Legislative Proposals Fact Sheet
The Chairperson tabled a document, explaining that this aimed to help Members, in their role both as Members of Parliament in general, and as Members of this Committee, to have a clear focus on the Constitution and the rules of the National Assembly (NA), in relation to proposals being brought to Parliament. This document, referring to both the Constitution and the Rules, set out who could bring proposals to Parliament and to the Committee, and what should be in the memorandum that Members were expected to prepare when presenting legislative proposals. It also set out the functions and powers of the Committee in debating and reaching a determination on these private Members’ proposals, the implications of the Parliamentary Rules and the factors to be considered.
Mr P Pretorius (DA) welcomed these guidelines as both helpful and necessary. He asked whether the document had the full blessing of Parliament. He felt that the Committee should not have the power to interrogate stakeholders. He felt perhaps these issues had not been sufficiently canvassed in Parliament, and was worried that, however, useful this document was, it might conflict with the current Rules. He asked that this be somehow fed into the system.
The Chairperson said that Members should consider whether they would be happy to take this document to the House.
Mr Pretorius felt it was not necessary to take a final decision at this meeting, as Members should take time to digest the contents properly.
Ms Kilian agreed that this seemed to be a good tool, and that it should be adopted in principle, although there might be some minor matters that needed adjustment.
The Chairperson said that once it became a working document the Committee could continuously amend it.
Mr A Ainslie (ANC) suggested getting a legal opinion on it, but agreed that it could be adopted in principle.
Members agreed to adopt this document in principle.
Draft Committee Legislative Proposal: Petition Bill
The Chairperson noted that the Committee was proposing that it be given permission to prepare a Petitions Bill, and was engaging with the formalities of that. A workshop was provisionally planned for 29 October, should the memorandum of the Committee, which was intended to generate debate on the issue, be approved.
Mr Pretorius agreed that Parliament should discuss whether there was merit in the Committee’s request, but asked that the Legal Advisor should brief the Committee on the procedural rules.
Ms Kilian said that this Committee was mandated to receive petitions, although it had been unable to do so previously, lacking the necessary enforcement powers. She expressed the view that in a participatory democracy the public should be allowed to express their concerns by way of petitions, whilst care must also be taken to interact correctly with the Executive. This document was still in draft form. She believed that the authority of the Committee had to be strengthened, so that it could act properly as a conduit for public concerns.
The Chairperson commented that the Management Team and Legal unit had discussed the matter. He requested that Members consider Rule 238, on the procedures for initiating legislation. The Management Team had looked at a variety of guidelines, including Sections 57 and 73 of the Constitution and the Rules. Many areas that needed clarity would be debated.
Ms Kilian suggested that the procedures of Rule 238 should be followed, that a Memorandum must be submitted and the necessary permission sought.
Mr Pretorius reiterated that general rules covered the Committee’s work. He still thought that legal advice should be obtained.
The Chairperson commented that the tool would not be limited to this Committee.
Mr A Ainslie (ANC) believed that the principles were important, and that the Committee should submit a memorandum. He highlighted that the matters highlighted in paragraph (b) of page 1 needed to be debated and decided.
Ms Kilian pointed out that a typographical error in that paragraph, third line, must be corrected.
Members agreed that a Memorandum should be submitted.
Revised Third Term Committee Programme
Members noted that the reference to “Adoption of Minutes 15 August”, in relation to the meeting on 1 September, must be corrected to read “Adoption of Minutes of 25 August”
Selfe and De Lille Legislative proposals
The Committee noted that time constraints did not allow for deliberation on the legislative proposals of Hon Selfe and Hon de Lille.
The meeting was adjourned.
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