Establishment of committees; apointment of whips

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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

12 August 1999

Documents handed out:
Names of Portfolio Committees (included below as an appendix)


The committee decided to retain 25 portfolio committees - one for each government department. However membership on each will be reduced to 17 members.

Membership of the Private Members' Petitions and Legislative Proposals Committee will be fifteen in number and there will be seventeen members on the Public Accounts Committee. Decisions on membership of other committees were also taken including a new joint committee which is to be established to monitor the improvement of the quality of life and status of children, youth and the disabled.

The nine smallest opposition parties will meet the following day to discuss how they will operate as a unit in terms of committee membership rights and also whip representation.

Complaints regarding the appointment of National Assembly members to the Judicial Commission were not addressed by this meeting as the Deputy Speaker who chaired this meeting decided these complaints should be dealt with by the Speaker.

Establishment of committees and number of members per committee
ANC committee member, Mr J de Lange, proposed that the number of portfolio committees not be rationalised and remain 25 in number in order to shadow each department and to ensure transformation of our society.

Mr K Andrews (DP) stated that this proposal was in direct contradiction to what had been discussed in the Chairpersons Forum. Further a report by the Public Accounts Committee, adopted unanimously in the National Assembly in the previous term, had proposed that committees should be combined. He asserted that the sheer number of committees had often made Parliament "unworkable" in the previous term. He claimed that the ANC wanted to retain the present number of committees because of the extra remuneration and perks that came with being a chairperson. He proposed reducing the number of committees to twelve with a membership of between 24 to 32.

Ms R Taljaard (DP) pointed out that the new approach of the Executive was towards the clustering of departments to ensure synchronicity of similar functions. She believed that such clustering should be an imperative for structuring portfolio committees.

In response, Mr de Lange acknowledged that clustering was important in the Executive which was responsible for planning and implementation. However what mattered in the parliamentary committees is that committee members are specialised and have a hands-on approach. Combining committees would dissipate the specialisation, the oversight and the energy required to be an effective portfolio committee. He proposed reducing the membership of each committee to seventeen rather than the number of committees. He pointed out that in the previous term, most committees had a core of about fifteen active members and the other eleven members "you never saw". Reducing membership to seventeen would mean ten majority party votes and seven opposition party votes [DP - 2; IFP - 1; NNP - 1; the other nine opposition parties - 3].

Mr JP van der Merwe said that the IFP supported the membership reduction proposal but requested that the IFP be permitted two members per committee. This request was not accepted.

Mr D Schutte (NNP) indicated that although they had not been impressed by Mr de Lange's opening argument they had been convinced by his argument for a reduction of membership and now supported the package of proposals.

Mr L Green (ACDP) said that he had been convinced by Mr de Lange's genuine concern for transformation and accepted his proposals. However the proposed procedural arrangement of combining the nine smallest opposition parties as a unit (when they each represented differing policies) meant a lack of inclusivity and representivity in all the structures of Parliament which limited democracy and the spirit of the Constitution.

Mr P Jordan (ANC) pointed out that representivity of smaller parties in all the parliamentary committees was just not possible. Mr de Lange said that the forum for the voice of each party to be heard is in the plenary session of Parliament where each party vote is recorded and where smaller parties can make points during debates. However any MP at any time could participate in any committee and had full speaking rights there - only voting rights were limited in the committees.

The ANC proposals for 25 portfolio committees with a membership of seventeen per committee was adopted. (Note: Intelligence is a statutory committee, not a portfolio committee)

Number of members on the Private Members Petitions and Legislative Proposals Committee and Public Accounts Committee
The ANC proposed that membership of each of these committees should number fifteen [ANC - 9; DP - 1; IFP - 1;P NNP - 1; the other nine opposition parties - 3].

Mr Green said that since the Private Members Petitions and Legislative Proposals Committee was the only forum where opposition members could introduce bills, this proposal meant that the smaller opposition parties were not eligible to vote for a bill they wanted introduced. Thus political rights were being taken away from the committee section.

Mr Green was satisfied with Mr de Lange response that, as with the portfolio committees, all members on this committee had full speaking rights and the right to motivate for a private member's bill to be introduced. Not having a voting right within a committee would not fundamentally increase or decrease the chances of a bill being accepted.

Mr Andrews (DP) noted that the Public Accounts Committee usually divided into two subcommittees and that it was necessary that at least the Official Opposition party should have a representative on each subcommittee. He proposed that membership for this committee should be the same as that of the portfolio committees. This proposal was accepted.

Proposals for other committees
The following suggestions by Mr de Lange (ANC) were accepted:
Not to set up the statutory Intelligence Committee yet as certain amendments needed to be legislated. In the meantime an Ad Hoc Committee would deal with Intelligence issues.
The National Assembly Rules Committee would retain its membership of 45 but its subcommittees would have only eight members [ANC - 3; DP - 1; IFP - 1; NNP - 1; other nine opposition members - 2].
The membership of the Joint Monitoring Committee on the Improvement of the Quality of Life and Status of Women be seventeen, the same formula as the portfolio committees.
A rule would need to be introduced to establish a joint committee to monitor the improvement of the quality of life and status of youth, the disabled and the aged and the membership would also be seventeen.
As an interim measure, the membership of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence would remain 38 [ANC - 27; DP - 4; IFP - 3; NNP - 3; UDM - 1] as this was as it was formulated in the transitional arrangements of the Constitution. However this would be changed later as the committee was too big. The representation from each chamber is not fixed and it is up to party whips to decide on its NCOP representation in this committee.
The Joint Rules subcommittee on Ethics and Members' Interests as well as the Budget subcommittee would each have one member represented from each opposition party (12) and fifteen ANC members. Several members pointed out that the Joint Rules subcommittee on Members' Support and the Budget subcommittee should work in tandem or be joined. Mr de Lange agreed that they needed to be joined which will most probably take place with the next budget year.
There is no need presently for a Mediation Committee and the issue of its membership would not be raised now.
The Constitutional Review Committee would have the same composition as the National Assembly Rules Committee.
The Joint RDP Committee would be currently placed on a "back burner".

Mr G Doidge (ANC) announced the Chief Whips Forum had decided to prioritise the following committees: Justice and Constitutional Development; Defence; Finance; Safety and Security; Communications and Public Accounts in terms of scheduling parliamentary business. Parties were asked to nominate members for each of these priority committees so that they could start working by Monday.

It was decided that parliamentary official, Mr K Hahndiek, would meet the following day with the nine smallest opposition parties to discuss how they operate as a unit in terms of committee membership rights.

Allocation of whips to smaller parties
Dr P Mulder (FF) was given an opportunity to state his opinion which he had originally done via a letter to the Speaker. According to a decision taken at the previous Rules Committee meeting, a party had to have 8,69 members in order to qualify for a whip. Consequently the seven smallest opposition parties do not qualify for a whip. These parties are expected to group themselves together in order to qualify for a whip. However this is not easy to achieve as they do not share the same principles.

He requested that the quota allocation not be changed but that flexibility be introduced so that all parties can have some form of whip representation. Of the seven parties, four had managed to align themselves with other parties [Federal Alliance with the UDM; Merit Party with the ANC; Azapo with PAC; Afrikaner Unity Movement with the Freedom Front]. This left three parties without any form of whip representation which would be a burden they would have to carry for the next five years. He repeated his request that flexibility be used to accommodate the three remaining parties.

The Deputy Speaker said that there was still the possibility of further alignments amongst parties. It was agreed that the issue of whip representation would also be addressed at the meeting the following day with Mr Hahndieck.

Impending Auditor General vacancy
Mr Andrews pointed out that this post was falling vacant soon and so the National Assembly must set up an ad hoc committee as soon as possible to recommend a new Auditor General for appointment. Mr de Lange suggested that rather than setting up a new committee, the Public Accounts Committee should proceed with this process.

Appointment of MPs to Magistrates Commission
The Deputy Speaker asked parties to give thought to the nomination of National Assembly members to sit on the Magistrates Commission .

Appendix 1:

A list of Ministries of the present Parliament is indicated below:
· Agriculture and Land Affairs
· Arts, Culture, Science and Technology
· Correctional Services
· Communication
· Defence
· Education
· Environmental Affairs and Tourism
· Finance
· Foreign Affairs
· Health
· Home Affairs
· Housing
· Intelligence
· Justice and Constitutional Development
· Labour
· Mineral and Energy Affairs
· Provincial and Local Government
· Public Enterprises
· Public Service and Administration
· Public Works
· Safety and Security
· Sport and Recreation
· Trade and Industry
· Transport
· Water Affairs and Forestry Welfare and Population Development


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