Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament Amendment Bill: committee report

Powers and Privileges of Parliament

29 May 2018
Chairperson: Mr M Motshekga (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met briefly to approve the report on the processes followed in amending the Powers and Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act.

Members of the Committee pointed out instances where, for purposes of absolute accuracy, it would be preferable for the report to use the exact wording in the Constitution, the Constitutional Court judgement and in the instruction given to the Ad Hoc Committee by the National Assembly. One of the main amendments stated that “Section 11 of the principal Act provides for persons creating a disturbance in the precinct of Parliament to be arrested.”. The Section had been too narrow when it had stated that “Members” could be arrested for creating a disturbance. “Persons” was considered more inclusive and more appropriate.

Members asked that the report reflect that only one written submission had been received and that that had influenced the decision not to hold public hearings. A Member asked that the report reflect that the DA reserved its right to vote. The Chairperson noted that the Committee respected the party’s right to reserve its vote.

The Legal Advisor informed the Committee that, as the Bill did not affect the provinces, it did not need to go to the National Council of Provinces. It was, therefore, not a Section 76 Bill. It also did not impact on any listed area that would have made it a Section 24 or Section 77 Bill. She confirmed that the Bill was correctly tagged as a Section 75 Bill.

The Chairperson thanked the Members and Committee staff for their excellent work on the Bill.

Meeting report

Opening remarks
The Chairperson stated that as Members were very busy, he would commence immediately, and late Members would join as soon as possible.

The Chairperson presented the agenda, which the Committee adopted.

Members were asked to quickly go through the Report on the Review of the Powers and Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act (PPIPPLA). When Members had done so, the Chairperson continued with the minutes.

Minutes of 9 May 2018
Members were asked to review the minutes of 9 May 2018.

The Chairperson went through page-by-page.

Minor technical errors were amended, and clarity provided regarding the clause “arrest and remove”. It sounded illogical but that was the wording in Section 11 in the principle Act. It was understood that a person had to be arrested and removed because Parliament was a keypoint institution. The Chairperson agreed that the wording be left unchanged. A discussion ensued on the duty of criminal courts in respect of the legislatures.

Members asked that it be noted that only one submission had been submitted to the Committee. The Committee had discussed it and the public was not interested in technical matters, but it had to be captured as the Committee had spoken about it as the reason why public hearings had not been conducted. Minutes had to capture what had been discussed. The matter could be clarified in the report, but the minutes had to reflect the actual engagement at the meeting.

The minutes of the meeting of 9 May2018 were proposed for adoption by Ms J Kilian (ANC) and seconded by Dr A Loriet (DA).

The minutes were adopted. There were no matters arising.

Consideration of the Report by the Ad Hoc Committee 
The Chairperson went through the report on the processes followed in the amendment of the Powers and Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act page-by-page for Members to address any errors in the report.

Page 1
Ms Kilian noted that in the Introduction, paragraph 1.1, there should be a full stop after “… Powers and Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act.” Thereafter the report should read: “The Ad Hoc Committee was instructed to review …” and the exact words used in the National Assembly should be quoted to state exactly what the Ad Hoc Committee had been requested to do. “… the Act, taking into account the Constitutional Court judgement and bring it in line with the developments relating to Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act and introduce a Bill in accordance with Chapter 13 of the Assembly Rules.” The Committee should not utilise its own description of what it had been instructed to do.

The Chairperson agreed that the Committee should not exceed the powers given to it by the National Assembly but keep to the specific instruction. The Members agreed.

Ms Kilian read from paragraph 1.2: “The Constitutional Court judgement emphasised that..”  She asked whether the following words had been extracted directly from the Constitutional Court judgement. She was asking because paragraph 1.2(a) read, “allows for arrest of a Member”. That sounded draconian, which the Act was not and so the words should be aligned to those in the Act itself. The problem had been that the Act had not allowed for the arrest of someone other than a Member. She suggested the wording: “Section 11 of the principal Act provides for persons creating a disturbance in the precinct of Parliament to be arrested. This could lead to an infringement of Section 58(1)(a) and 71(a)”. The wording in the report was not correct in that it suggested that the Act had been seriously flawed and unconstitutional, and it was not.

In paragraph 1.2(b) she suggested that the Act be quoted, and the following words be added: “which could lead to an infringement of section 58 and 59 of the Act.” The rest of the paragraph should be deleted. In paragraphs 1.3 and 1.4, she suggested that the report referred to exact words of the Constitution.

Dr Loriet wanted to check the Court judgement. She asked whether paragraphs 1.2(a), (b) and (c) was a summary or whether it was a verbatim reflection of the actual Court judgement. If those points were the report writer’s interpretation of the judgement, then the Committee could change the wording, but the Committee could not if it was it the actual wording from the judgement. It seemed different to the judgement, but she did not have the relevant documents with her.

The Chairperson was advised that the words came from the summary in the presentation. The Secretary confirmed that it came from the summary in the presentation made by legal services.

Ms Kilian accepted the explanation but stated that she would feel more comfortable using the exact words of the Constitutional Court judgement to be accurate. She asked that the writer go back and refine the points. She did not want to defer the adoption of the report. She just wanted the report to be accurate.

The Chairperson agreed and asked the writer to align the report with the judgement.

Page 2
Dr Loriet referred to paragraph 3.1 (third sentence) “… where the Act limits free speech.” The report had to include the fact that the Committee had also amended grammatical errors.

Ms Kilian agreed and suggested that the last section be deleted so that it indicated that the Committee had been permitted to look at other sections.

The Chairperson asked for the approval of the Committee. Members agreed with the recommendation.

Mr M Ntombele (ANC) noted a full stop at the end of page 2.

Page 3
Dr Lotriet suggested that was the point where the Committee had to insert paragraph 3.4 (after 3.3) to reflect why public hearings were not held.

Page 4, 5 – no changes.

Page 6
Dr Lotriet asked that paragraph 4.2 reflect that the DA reserved its support of the Bill at that stage.

Mr N Matiase (EFF) did not know why Dr Lotriet had been allowed to make the point. She should, by that stage, be carrying the full mandate of her party, especially taking into account her valuable inputs.

The Chairperson suggested that she did not represent the party alone.

Ms Kilian asked Dr Lotriet whether paragraph 4.1.16 did not cover her as it stated that one member had reserved her vote, although the Committee had recommended the Bill by a majority vote.

Dr Lotriet stated she was happy with paragraph 4.1.16 if it specified that she was the Member as she needed to protect herself and her caucus mandate. She could accept that the Committee had recommended the Bill, as it had not been unanimous.
The Chairperson instructed that the insert recommended by Dr Lotriet remain as the Committee respected her mandate.

Ms Kilian proposed the adoption of the report, subject to the approved changes. Dr Lotriet seconded the proposal for adoption.

The Chairperson thanked the proposer and seconder and told Mr Matiase that he could rest assured that the Committee was at one on the report.

Section 75 Bill
Ms Inge Ontong, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, addressed the Committee on the difference between a Section 75 Bill and other categories of Bills. A Section 76 Bill affected the interests of provinces. However, the Amendment of the Powers and Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Bill affected Parliament and parliamentary privilege, so it did not apply to provinces. It also did not affect one of the areas listed under Section 24 or 77. It was, therefore, correctly categorised as a Section 75 Bill.

The Chairperson appreciated her input, explaining that it was essential to record for posterity the reasons why it was determined a Section 75 Bill.

There were no announcements.

Closing remarks
The Chairperson appreciated the exemplary work produced by the Committee Secretary, Nombongo Mongo. She had even taken on the role of a whip in the absence of a whip in the Committee. He thanked the drafters who reminded him of things that he might have forgotten and, lastly, he thanked all Members of the Committee. He understood that everyone was busy elsewhere and he, particularly, thanked them for finding time for the meetings of the Committee, even if it was after hours. Members should continue to do good work for the country.

The meeting was adjourned.


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