Workshop on the Legislative Process: briefing by Committee Section

Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation

26 August 2014
Chairperson: Ms N Mafu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee had originally intended to invite the entities of the Department of Human Settlements; however the Department had advised that there would be a workshop where the entities would be presenting exactly what they were supposed to be presenting to the Committee. Since the Committee was invited to the workshop, inviting the entities would be repetition of work.

Instead, the parliamentary support staff presented to the Committee the various legislations Parliament dealt with and the legislative processes involved. The were four types of Bills according to the Constitution; those amending the Constitution (section 74), Ordinary Bills affecting provinces (section 76), Ordinary Bills not affecting provinces (section 75) and Money Bills (section77).  The National Assembly (NA) could amend section 75 Bills and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) could propose amendments to section 75 Bills. Such proposed amendments could be accepted or rejected by the National Assembly. Only a Cabinet member (i.e. the Minister) or Deputy Minister or a member of a Committee of the NA may introduce a Bill in the Assembly.  Only the Minister of Finance may introduce a Money Bill.

The Committee was not clear on the process or what they needed to do to put a Bill together as a Portfolio Committee. A Member had also expressed confusion about the explanations given in the Parliament handbook on the different types of Bills. Members had also asked about the Rental Housing Amendment Bill – whether the Committee continue with the Bill from where the previous Parliament had left off and who would be invited to the next meeting on this subject.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks
The Chairperson explained why there was a change to the agenda for the day. The Committee had hoped that the entities would present to the Committee; however the Department explained that there was a workshop scheduled from 4 September to 6 September 2014 where the entities would be presenting. It would therefor before be duplication as the Committee was invited to attend the workshop.

Rather than cancelling this meeting, the Chairperson thought that the support staff should rather present to the Committee on the legislative process. She apologised to the Members for any confusion about the meeting.

The Chairperson read out an apology for Mr N Capa (ANC) who was not back yet from the Eastern Cape.

Mr S Gana (DA) apologised for Ms T Gqada (DA) who was going to leave during the meeting to attend to an urgent matter but would comeback if possible.

Ms Koliswa Pasiya, Committee Secretary, tendered an apology for Mr K Sithole (IFP) who was attending the Public Works Portfolio Committee meeting. Mr M Shelembe (NFP) also sent an apology as he was going to be late to the meeting.

Briefing on the Legislative Process
Ms Pasiya said the purpose of the presentation was to outline the legislative progress. 

The were four types of Bills according to the Constitution; those amending the Constitution (section 74), Ordinary Bills affecting provinces (section 76), Ordinary Bills not affecting provinces (section 75) and Money Bills (section77).  The National Assembly (NA) could amend section 75 Bills and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) could propose amendments to section 75 Bills. Such proposed amendments could be accepted or rejected by the National Assembly. Only a Cabinet member (i.e. the Minister) or Deputy Minister or a member of a Committee of the NA may introduce a Bill in the Assembly.  Only the Minister of Finance may introduce a Money Bill.

The Assembly and the Council (and their committees) were obliged in terms of the Constitution to facilitate public involvement in the legislative and other processes.  Public involvement might take different forms, including public hearings, a call for written submissions and issuing of media releases.  Public hearings could be held in Parliament or in provinces.

The Committee discussed the public input received through Public Hearings or written submissions.  Parties could express their views of the Bill and the departments responded to questions and expressed views on whether amendments put forward could be implemented. To signal the formal consideration of the Bill, the chairperson would put the motion of desirability (consisting mostly of the long title) to the Committee for consideration.  The Committee would then proceed to a clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill. Amendments to clauses were also put for decision and thereafter the Bill as a whole was put for decision.  If the Committee amended the Bill, the State Law Advisor and the Parliamentary Legal Advisor were responsible for drawing up the list of amendments and ensure that the amendments were constitutional.  The Committee Secretary ensured that the amended Bill was produced and that the list of amendments and the amended Bill were printed by Creda (printers).  These products were referred to as the proof copies of the Bill.

After voting on the Bill, the Committee’s report was put for adoption.  This report should indicate whether the Committee agreed to the Bill with or without amendments, or rejected the Bill.  In its report, the Committee might, if it was not a unanimous report, specify in which respects there was no consensus and should also express the views of any opposition party concerned.  A question was decided only if a majority of members (quorum) was present and there was agreement among the majority of the members.  In the event of the equality of votes, the Chairperson of the Committee could exercise a casting vote in addition to his/her deliberative (ordinary) vote.  After the committee had agreed to the Bill, the Committee’s report was published in the ATC and the Bill was placed on the Order Paper of the House for debate.  Once the Bill was passed by the NA, it was referred to the relevant committee of the NCOP (i.e. Select Committee) for consideration and report.

The Chairperson asked what happened when a Bill was sent to the relevant NCOP Select Committee for consideration.

Ms Pasiya replied that if a Section 75 Bill was sent to the NCOP, the Select Committee could only propose amendments. The Bill would then be referred to the National Assembly Portfolio Committee for the consideration of the proposed amendments. For instance with the current Rental Housing Amendment Bill, the Bill was adopted by the Portfolio Committee then it was sent to the NCOP for concurrence. The Select Committee proposed two amendments; the Portfolio Committee did not object to the amendments and they were adopted. After the Bill was adopted by both houses, then it was sent to the President.

If the Bill was a Section 76 then it would go through the six weeks cycle of the NCOP where there would be public hearings and other NCOP processes.

Mr Gana asked what process a Portfolio Committee would follow should if it intended to propose a Bill.

Ms Pasiya replied that a Member or Committee may introduce a Bill. For Private Member’s Bills (PMB), the Member would have to submit a copy of the proposed Bill to the Speaker. The Speaker with her legal team would go through the Bill to see whether it was a Section 75 or Section 76 Bill and then refer it to the relevant Portfolio Committee or Select Committee accordingly.

When a Portfolio Committee initiated a Bill, the introduction process was the same. The draft was submitted to the Speaker who would then determine, with the Parliament legal team, how the Bill would be tagged.

If the Bill came from the Department, they would produce a document called a Green Paper. The Paper would then be gazetted so that relevant stakeholders, individuals and groups could submit their input to the Department. After the input, the Green Paper would change to a White Paper. When the White Paper was adopted it would be referred to the Cabinet by the Minister. Once Cabinet approved the White Paper, it then became a draft Bill and referred to Parliament.

In the case of the Committee introducing a Bill, the process would be similar. The Committee (with its support staff) would have to draft what they wanted to be a Bill; if it affected other committees there would be joint meetings in order to attain various inputs. Once the Committee was satisfied that the compiled document was what they wanted, it would then be submitted to the Speaker and be tagged.

The Chairperson said the legislative process was clear enough, however the Committee hoped to understand putting together a Bill from the get go.

Mr Gana said the process from the Department side was clearer, but if the Committee was putting together a Bill would that Bill also need to go to the Cabinet before it went to the Speaker. He asked for clarity on whether if a draft Bill of the Committee went to the Speaker would be sent back to the Committee to deliberate on it even though the Committee put the Bill together to begin with.

The Chairperson said from what she understood only a cabinet Minister (or a Deputy Minister) could introduce a Bill. Meaning, even if the Committee initiated a Bill it would still need to be referred to the Minister, and the Department, who would then introduce it.

Ms L Mnganga-Gcabashe (ANC) said as far as she understood a Private Member’s Bill (PMB) could be a Bill that did not affect the Department, so it did not have to go to a Minister. Secondly, if you say when a Committee wanted to introduce a Bill they had to take it to the Speaker, was this referring to the Speaker as an office or the JTM which consisted of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the Assembly and the Chairperson and the permanent Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP.

The Chairperson said as a Member of the National Assembly if you had a PMB you took it to the Speaker who would then decide if it went to the JTM.

Ms Mnganga-Gcabashe was not clear on the explanation given in the Parliamentary handbook explaining the legislative process. The explanation given about which Bills were Section 75 Bills was confusing. The explanation said Section 75 Bills were ordinary Bills not affecting provinces. They were those types of Bills not classified as Section 74 or Section 76. Then the explanation of Section 76 Bills stated that these were Bills affecting provinces. There was contradiction and confusion created by the explanations in the handbook.

Mr Thomani Manungufala, Researcher for the Portfolio Committee and Water and Sanitation, said there was no confusion or contradiction in the explanatory notes. He read the explanation of what Section 75 Bills were and the test mechanism as provided in the handbook.

Ms Mnganga-Gcabashe said she was not disputing what Section 75 Bills were, but the problem was with the explanation.

The Chairperson said perhaps it was important to go back and re-read the four types of Bills – Section 74, Section 75, Section 76 and Section 77 – and their short explanations.

Ms Mnganga-Gcabashe said she understood all that, she understood what was on the slide as presented by Ms Pasiya. The problem was with the explanatory notes given in the handbook.

Mr Gana said he understood the problem Ms Mnganga-Gcabashe had.  The problem was with the structure of the sentence more than the contradiction in explanations. He suggested that the second “not” in the sentence was confusing. Perhaps the sentence should say “were ordinary Bills not affecting provinces, they are those types of Bills classified as Section 74 or Section 76.”

Mr Manungufala was emphatic that the sentence was correct as is.

Ms T Baker (DA) also agreed that the explanation was correct.

Members understood how the explanation maybe be confusion, but also agreed that it was correct.

Mr Gana asked what was going to happen when the Committee sat for the first time to consider the Rental Housing Amendment Bill. Who would be joining the Committee?

Mr Khorai asked for clarity on the same issue, he wanted to understand if the Committee was going to start the Bill from scratch or continue from where the last Committee left off.

Ms Pasiya said the Department would present to the Committee on the amendments proposed by the NCOP. The Committee would not be starting the process afresh; the Committee would pick up from where the fourth Parliament ended. The State Law Advisor and the Parliamentary legal team would also be invited to be part of the meeting.

Ms Mnganga-Gcabashe proposed that the Committee have a meeting with their legal advisor to go through the amendments and interpret them before the meeting with the Department.

Ms Pasiya said the two amendments proposed by the NCOP were not substantial.

The Chairperson asked if there were Members who seconded Ms Mnganga-Gcabashe’s proposal.

Ms Mnganga-Gcabashe withdrew her proposal based on the explanation provided by the Secretary.
The Chairperson closed the workshop on the Legislative Process and asked for concurrence that the issue was exhausted.

Members seconded the Chairperson.

Adoption of Minutes dated 19 August 2014
Mr Gana reminded the Committee that there was a set of minutes that the Committee had postponed adopting.

The Chairperson explained that the minutes were available; however she had asked that the Committee hold off in adopting them. The report from the Eastern Cape Province had arrived and the Chairperson wanted to deal with both the report and the minutes at the same time. She apologised for putting off the adoption.

Ms Baker proposed the adoption of the minutes. Mr Khorai seconded the adoption of the minutes.

Minutes were adopted without amendments.

Closing remarks
The Chairperson said the Department was holding a policy consultative workshop taking place from 4 September to 6 September 2014. The Committee was also invited to attend a Chamber of Mines meeting; this would be on 10 September. There was also an annual Human Settlements Indaba taking place on 25 and 26 September.

The meeting was adjourned.

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