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NATIONAL ASSEMBLY RULES COMMITTEE
14 August 2002
These minutes were provided by the National Assembly Table Staff
Chairperson: The Speaker, Dr F Ginwala
Andrew, K M
Bakker, D M
Blanche', J P I
Cassirn, M F
Chikane M M
De Lange, J H
De Lille, P
Ditshetelo, P H K
Doidge, G Q M
George, M E
Gibson, D H M
Greyling, C H F
Gumede, D M
Jeffery, J H
Kalyan, S V
Mahlangu, M J
Malumise, M M
Mifindisi, I S
Modisenyane, L J
Montsitsi, D S
Mulder, C P
Nel, A C
Oliphant, G G
Seaton, S A
Sonjica, B P
Sosibo, J E
Southgate, R M
Van der Merwe, S C
Van Wyk, A
Van Wyk, J F
Carrim, Y I
Green, L M
Jordan, Z P
Mileko, N P (Chief Whip)
Scott, M I
Van der Merwe, JH
Staff members in attendance
Chariton H, Hahndiek K; Ismail, N~ Keswa N P,· Kiaasen L H; Mansura M K; Mbangui'a MS; Mpuntsha-Ntintiii N; Mfenyana, S G; Yako, OR.
1. Adoption of minutes of 21 June 2002.
On the motion of Mr Jeffery, seconded by Ms Seaton, the minutes were adopted.
3. Matters from the minutes
1. The Speaker proposed the following additional agenda items for discussion:
· Report of Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of Committees
· Income Tax
· Procedure for members' resignations
· Certification of bills: Rules amendment
With reference to the new Questions procedure, the Speaker said that the topic of Presidential pardons was down for debate that afternoon. There were also two questions on the Question Paper on that topic. She therefore proposed that the questions be withdrawn or that no supplementary questions be allowed after the Ministers' replies.
Mr Gibson said that Mr Delport's question would be withdrawn. Ms Seaton said that the Chief Whip's Forum had earlier agreed that Mr Ferreira's question should also be withdrawn, but that the IFP had decided not to withdraw it. It was agreed that after the Minister's reply to Mr Ferreira's question no supplementaries would be allowed.
4. Quorum requirements and sanctions
The Committee considered proposed amendments to the Rules on quorum requirements (Rules 25-7). Ms Seaton said that the IFP supports having a quorum for debate - say at least 25% - and sanctions as proposed. The Speaker said that the meeting needed to look at the quorum requirements first. Mr De Lange said that the quorum requirements flowed from the discussions when the 1996 Constitution was drafted, and the ANC wanted 1.0 retain these requirements. He added that the Rule amendments were in line with the Constitution, which makes no provision for quorum for debate. The Speaker replied that there was nothing unconstitutional about introducing a quorum for debate. Mr De Lange, however, stated that the ANC is opposed to having other quorum requirements.
Mr Gibson felt that the present requirements were suitable and adequate, and said that the NA should stick with them. He added that it would not be unconstitutional for the House to regulate the quorum requirements. Mr Bakker supported the idea of retaining the current quorum requirements, but added that every party must be responsible for maintaining a quorum in the House. Ms Southgate for the ACDP, Mr Ditshetelo for the UCDP and Ms De Lille for the PAC agreed that the present Rules pertaining to quorum requirements should be retained.
Mr George said that the proposal to do away with quorums for debates did not mean that the ANC was advocating non-attendance of House sittings. Parties, he said, had a responsibility to whip their members to attend House sittings. Mr De Lange said that the Constitution is very specific as regards quorum requirements and reiterated that the Rules must be brought in line with the Constitution. He was of the opinion that parties should regulate attendance at House sittings during debates.
The Speaker asked members to vote on whether the proposed Rule amendments should be adopted. Members voted as follows:
On the proposal of the Speaker, it was
AGREED: That the Rule changes would be recommended to the House by way of a Committee report.
Ml parties were in support of sanctions in principle. Mr De Lange said that the ANC still needed to consider the detail pertaining to mechanisms and procedures. The caucus had not agreed yet on the quantum.
The Speaker proposed that a day's remuneration should be deducted for each d~ a member is absent. To this end, the number of working days per month needed to be worked out. Mr Gumede said that the private sector calculated these in terms of 21% of a month's salary and he wanted to know how Parliament would do its calculation. Mr De Lange undertook to take this matter to the party caucus.
The Speaker said that it was necessary to look at guidelines for leave procedures, as well as how much the sanctions would amount to. She added that the "Gibson document" was referred to parties for discussion. Mr De Lange stated that there was also a need to look at mechanisms which allow a member to respond. The Speaker requested the Secretary to Parliament to submit proposals on how this could be done and also to report on access control measures which would record attendance. Parties should consider what period of presence would constitute attendance in plenary and committees.
Mr Andrew said that technical considerations have to be taken into account regarding smaller parties because their members serve on more than one committee. In managing committee attendance, he said, the system should not be disadvantageous to smaller parties. Further, he said that it would also be important to look at how much notice period is required for calling a committee meeting. He mentioned that members were accustomed to making arrangements for family commitments in conjunction with the parliamentary programme and, therefore, if the programme was changed at short notice, it could be problematic.
Mr Aucamp wanted to know when sanctions would come into operation. The Speaker said that circumstances for leave had to be allowed. She cited the "Gibson document" which parties had to discuss. Mr Jeffery asked whether the committee was to look at amendments to Rules. The Speaker said that the sanctions proposals have to be referred to parties and options had to be drafted by parties. She added that fines would have 10 be made explicit in the Rules and parties had to finalise leave periods and also decide on the sanctions to be imposed.
Mr De Lange made mention of a document which was drafted by the Secretary to the NA on the amendment to Rules. He asked that the document be referred to the ANC for the party to look at the principles. The content would be drafted from the principles.
Mr Jeffery proposed that the Rules Subcommittee should start drafting options. The Speaker indicated that the options are policy ones at the moment and that the substance would have to be left blank. Mr De Lange added that there was need for clear criteria. for parties to give their members leave. Ms Southgate said that for smaller parties, attendance at committee meetings was problematic. Often, members have to attend simultaneous meetings. She therefore proposed that the scheduling of committee meetings must be strictly controlled. In response the Speaker said that it would be easy, if proper records were kept, to show that members had attended one committee meeting or another. Mr Jeffery added that apologies were another mechanism to deal with this problem. 'The Speaker replied that it was not enough just to give an apology and then take leave. Mr Bakker agreed that discipline must be restored. He stated that the time spent at one committee or another should not be looked at. Rather, the issue should be addressed practically. Mr Aucamp added that it was not a question of absence but rather presence. If a member was present somewhere, then he/she was doing parliamentary work. Mr Nel pointed out that parties should ensure that their members attend plenary and committee meetings. Also, parties place other demands and needs on members. Mr Gibson said that the original document states that the overriding principle that Nips are not irresponsible children should be accepted. Proper provision should be made for leave and leave/absence must be accepted for responsible reasons. The whips were there to control leave, but leave records must be available for inspection.
Ms De Lille enquired as to what happens with money raised from sanctions. The Speaker responded that the matter would have to be looked at. Mr Ditshetelo appealed to parties to draft procedures and mechanisms pertaining to sanctions in good faith. It should not become a matter of policing people. The Speaker asked parties to have their responses ready within one month. The Secretary to Parliament should prepare a document dealing with access control at meetings.
It was therefore agreed that:-
(1) the Secretary to Parliament would prepare guidelines for leave procedures, how sanctions could be applied and mechanisms which allow a member to respond;
(2) the Secretary to Parliament would report on access control measures which would record attendance at meetings;
(3) parties would consider what period of presence would constitute attendance at meetings;
(4) parties would have to finalise leave periods and also decide on the sanctions to be imposed;
(5) parties should have their responses ready within one month.
5 Statements by Members (Rule 105) and Notices of Motion
The Speaker referred to a Memorandum on the Implementation of Rule 105 which had been submitted to the Committee at its previous meeting. The Speaker stated that the existing Rule had not been made operational and that Notices of Motion took on that role of statements. Mr De Lange said that the ANC agrees that the Rule should be implemented on a trial run once a week. He said that the sequence was correct, but the Rule should be amended so as not to exclude leaders of parties, as it would affect particularly small parties.
The Speaker said that the Rules Committee should determine the order of rotation whilst the programme committee could determine the days and times. She enquired whether responses from the Executive were necessary and, if so, then they should be limited to two minutes per Minister. Mr De Lange said that Ministers would respond only if they were present and wanted to respond. He added that Ministers were not there to respond to political issues, but rather to respond to constituency issues. The Speaker proposed that Subrule 7 should be deleted and that the programme committee should decide how much time should be allocated for statements.
The Speaker said that the Chief Whips' Forum should provide guidelines on Notices of' Motion. To this end, parties could look at comparative parliamentary procedures. Mr De Lange added that there must be proper Notices of Motion. Notices of Motion must be restored to what they ought to be. The Speaker added that the Forum should look at the possibility of people adding names to Notices of Motion. This would indicate the kind of support there was for a Motion.
On the proposal of the Speaker, it was
AGREED: (1) that the Rules Committee would determine the order of rotation, (2) the same order which applied to Notices of Motion would be used, (3) the Rule should be made operational soonest, (4) staff to redraft Rule 105 and to circulate it to all Whips. Once agreed, a resolution should be moved in the House to adopt an amended Rule, (5) the Programme Committee to decide when to introduce Rule 105.
6. Presiding Officers' Report on Budget
It was agreed that since the above item was discussed at the Joint Rules Committee meeting of 13 August 2002, it need not be discussed further at this meeting
7. Certification of Bills in terms of Rule 243
A Rule amendment proposed by the Rules Subcommittee was circulated. Mr De Lange suggested that Rule (1A) should be further amended to read, " A Bill introduced by a Cabinet Member or Deputy Minister must be certified by the Office of the Chief State Law Adviser " as "State law adviser" could also refer to a departmental law adviser.
The Speaker said that Parliament required Bills to be certified and reasons for non-certification of Bills had to be provided by a Minister. She added that the non-certification of a Bill should not prevent a Minister from tabling it.
On the proposal of the Speaker, it was
AGREED: that Rule 243 had to be amended by inserting a sub-rule encompassing a report on reasons for non-certification of a Bill. The amended Rule, adjusted as proposed by Mr De Lange, was agreed to. A redrafted Rule would be put to the House.
8. Notice of Motion that was ruled out of order
The text of a Notice of Motion that the Speaker had ruled out of order was circulated. The DP had requested that the matter be brought to the Rules Committee.
Mr De Lange stated that the only way to change the Speaker's ruling is by way of a substantive motion in the House. Mr Gibson pointed out that he had asked that the matter be referred to the Rules Committee rather than the House, because he did not want to discuss it in public. He said that the motion does not reflect on the integrity of members and that the only reflection is on their perceived lack of courage. The Speaker's response was that the motion reflected a failure on the part of the members of the Parliamentary Observer Mission to take a principled stand. If the motion had stated that the members of the Parliamentary Observer Mission lacked courage to take a stand, then it would not have been ruled out of order. The issue, therefore, is that the members of the Observer Mission were deemed to be 'unprincipled".
Mr De Lange enquired as to why the matter had been brought to the Rules Committee. He added that if a member is unhappy with a reconsidered ruling, then the matter should be taken to the House by way of a substantive motion. His concern was that a bad precedent was being set. Mr Mahlangu concurred and stated that the matter should have been dealt with in the P0's Office.
The Speaker said that her Office should have made it clear why the motion objectionable. In future, her Office will provide specific reasons when ruling a motion out of order or unparliamentary. Ms Seaton was in agreement with the Speaker's ruling. Mr Aucamp said that it was normal practice for the same meeting to rectify a ruling. He was of the opinion that a member has a right to appeal to a higher body, and that the Rules Committee is not higher than the House. Mr Blanche requested that a list of unparliamentary expressions should be made available to members. The Speaker's response was that such a list could not cater for all circumstances and context changes.
Mr Andrew felt that the process followed by Mr Gibson was appropriate. He added that the Speaker has wide discretion when giving a ruling. If a member differed with a PO's ruling and took the matter to the House, that would be confrontational. Moreover, if the concern is on "principle" then it is appropriate to discuss the matter in the Rules Committee. He wanted this procedure to be retained.
Mr George felt that the explanations proffered by the Speaker were quite clear and if the DP wanted to pursue the matter, then they knew where to go. He made reference to the list unparliamentary expressions suggested -by Mr Blanche' and indicated that such a list-is never comprehensive or complete.
Mr- Moonsamy was in agreement- with Mr Aucamp that as a matter of principle one could not-raise an issue, which was discussed at a particular forum outside of that forum. The Speaker said that-the matter could have been dealt with at another forum, but that she welcomed the discussion that had taken place. She added that it was important to get feedback and to hear parties' views on the matter. In addition, she stated that she would not automatically bring a matter to the Rules Committee and that she would resist, unless a party insisted. She mentioned that the intention is not to create a precedent. Mr De Lange cautioned against setting precedents. He added that the House and not the Rules Committee -should have discussed the matter. He said that the matter could first have been discussed informally at the Chief Whips' Forum and then taken up with the PO. If the party was still dissatisfied, then a substantive motion could have been moved in the House. Mr Blanche', however, did not agree with this process, arguing that smaller parties would be disadvantaged by time allocations if a matter, such as this one, were to be discussed in the House. In response to Mr De Lange, Mr Gibson pointed out that the Speaker gave her ruling outside of the House. He added that while he still disagreed with the ruling, he would nevertheless abide by it. The Speaker stated that in terms of Rule 161, a matter such as the present Notice of Motion could be discussed at the Rules Committee. She reiterated that she would not automatically bring matters to the Rules Committee.
9. Report of the Chairperson and Deputv Chairperson of Committees
Mr Doidge tendered an apology for Mr Cassim and then proceeded to introduce the Report, which had been distributed.
The Speaker invited members to comment on the Report.
Ms Seaton proposed that a day be set aside to workshop the issues raised in the Report. The Speaker responded that the NA did have a workshop on committees and that the Report was available. She added that proper management of committees is needed. Some entrepreneurial chairpersons are accessing resources whilst others are not. She stated ~ resources should be given to committees in a planned way based on workload etc. Furthermore, she pointed out that there is need for parliamentary management of committees according to guidelines which must be laid down by the Rules Committee. She agreed that policy decisions are needed. She said that while the Chair and Deputy Chair are identifying problems, she would be trying to involve them, together with the Committee Section. A three to five year vision plan is required. She added that the NA should look at attracting and developing high quality staff. The current approach is that one size fits all. The Committee Section, she said, should be structured in an appropriate way, taking into consideration the role of the Office of the Chairperson of committees and the Committee Section. Once this has been done, then the resources could be looked at.
The Speaker mentioned that there were deficiencies, for example, the inability to take decent minutes. In this regard, there is need to develop skills or recruit appropriate people. She said that the process, however, must be informed by policy decisions. There is need to look at the functions of the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson and maybe also Assistant Speakers, because of workloads. She added that there is need to distinguish between party-political office-bearers and parliamentary office-bearers. Should financing of committees, for example, be dealt with by staff or parliamentary office-bearers? These issues need to be disentangled.
With reference to the management of committee budgets, Mr De Lange said that he does not know what his committee has spent thus far. He does not sign forms and doesn't know how his committee expenditure is audited. He said that if Parliament wants more money from Treasury, then Parliament must get its house in order.
The Speaker shared the sentiments expressed by Mr De Lange and said that she too did not know how expenditure related to her office is audited. There is no system in place and proper systems are required. Ms Sonjica added that no systems were in place even for overseas trips. Some committees undertake more trips than others in a particular year. The Speaker indicated that it should be debated whether all committees are equal. To this end, criteria are needed. Guidelines should be spelt out and staff should then budget accordingly. Committees also need to be able to draw on other resources as unforeseen matters do arise. Mr Gibson indicated that the Report was extremely useful and suggested that some recommendations, which were not dependent on party positions, should be implemented.
Mr Jeffery said that he had not had a chance to go through the Report, but felt that there was no need for parties to adopt the administrative proposals and that these should be proceeded with. The Speaker enquired as to whether any Rules Committee decisions were required. She added that the objectives needed to be clarified and deadlines attached. Regarding financial control, she stressed that there was need for clear systems and deadlines by which these would be operational.
Mr Doidge noted that the Report would assist management to look at various issues. Furthermore, he suggested that timeframes were required by which decisions would be taken. This would be an on-going process, and various departments should look at the Report and extract those issues that affect them. Mr De Lange pointed out two issues, namely, 1) the Office of the Chairperson of Committees needed to be resourced. The infrastructure required by this Office needed to be worked out in time to catch the budget deadlines. The matter could be referred to the Budget Subcommittee; and 2) Rule changes needed to be developed and recommendations prepared. Some of the proposals could be proceeded with under the guidance of the POs. Proposals needed to be developed and then given to parties to take decisions on. The Speaker said that she would start budgeting for this process. With reference to the recommendation on page four of the Report concerning who signs off committee expenditure she noted that the principle needs to be decided after consideration by parties. Mr Chauke supported Mr Jeferry's proposal that the Report be referred to parties and that management issues should be proceeded with. The Speaker said that parties should not only look at the Report, but should interrogate the issues raised in it.
It was therefore agreed that:-
(1) N A Table staff would extract policy issues - as distinct from management issues
from the Report and send these to parties for discussion before the next Rules Committee
(2) Rules Committee should formulate guidelines to ensure Parliamentary management of
(3) The Speaker would arrange a meeting between the Chair and Deputy Chair of Committees
and Committee Section to discus issues raised in the Report;
(4) Parties to interrogate the issues raised in the Report.
10. Members' Resignations
The Speaker noted that presently there is no consistent way of processing members' resignations. She asked the meeting to agree on a procedure. She added that there was no need for a Rule in this regard. Members' resignations should be addressed to either the POs or the Secretary to Parliament or to one of these Offices only. Mr De Lange stated that there should be legal certainty and, if legally necessary, then the process for dealing with members' resignations should be put in the Rules. He suggested that a proposal be drafted and, that it be put in the Rules. Alternatively, the matter should be taken up by the Powers and Privileges Committee.
Mr Andrew was in agreement that certainty about the process was needed. He added that the Secretary processes payments for members and the Speaker handles the swearing-in process. Thus, the Secretary's office is the appropriate one to deal with members' resignations. The Speaker added that all options needed to be looked at. It has to be decided at which point in time a resignation becomes effective and whether the date of resignation can be changed. She indicated that resignations affect pensions and she enquired as to how much flexibility, if any, could be allowed. Additionally, she wanted to know what constituted a reasonable time to fill a vacancy, and whether there is an entitlement for the person at the top of a party list. Mr Jeffery wanted parties to look at the issue. He said that a legal opinion from the law advisers should be obtained and the document should be given to parties to discuss. The Speaker added that in the meantime members resignations should be addressed to either her office or the Secretary to Parliament.
It was therefore agreed that
(1) A legal opinion should be obtained from the law advisers and given to parties to discuss.
(2) In the interim, parties to submit members' resignations to either the Speaker's Office or the Secretary to Parliament.
11. Powers and Responsibilities of Structures in Parliament
The Speaker referred members to a letter she had received from the IFP containing a proposal to establish a Directing Authority for Parliament.
Ms Seaton noted that a group of people should be assembled to take this matter further. The Speaker said that she had put the matter forward at the last meeting and the WP was the only party to have responded. Their letter would be circulated to the parties. The Speaker added that the law advisers had drafted a document pertaining to the PFMA. The document to be distributed to parties by Monday, 19 August 2002. Parties to comment and look at the principle involved.
12. Income Tax
The Speaker announced that 19 August 2002 was the deadline for Tax returns and she reminded members that they should be tax compliant. She mentioned that a circular was sent out to members on 14 August 9002 which invited at least one party representative to a meeting on 19 August 2002 to be addressed by Mr Pravin Gordhan who had offered. to set up a Parliamentary Advice Office in the SARS building. Mr Gordhan will be in Cape Town the following week and he wanted to have discussions with the POs and Whips. Parties would be notified about this meeting in due course.
Mr Jeffery said that it would be helpful if the Agenda could reflect documentation relating to each item as was done with the documentation of the Joint Rules Committee.
The Speaker announced that the NA Rules Committee might have to meet again before the end of the third term.
The meeting adjourned at 14:00.
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