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SUBCOMMITTEE OF RULES COMMITTEE
11 FEBRUARY 1998
CONTINUATION OF WORK OF SUBCOMMITTEE
Johnny de Lange (ANC) chaired the subcommittee of the Rules Committee meeting held on 11 February. The subcommittee is likely to meet a few times next week in preparation for a full Rules Committee meeting scheduled for 24th February from 9h00 - 12h30 in the Old Assembly Chamber, when it will present proposals on amendments to the proposed National Assembly rules.
The subcommittee's task is to work through the draft chapter on the Legislative Process of the National Assembly Rules.
Some of the issues which came up are:
* whether to keep 14 (2) which allows a MP or committee to make submissions to the Joint Tagging Mechanism (JTM) prior to a bill being tagged on how a bill should be tagged. Madame Speaker (FG) argued for a 48hr time period within which submissions could be lodged. The issue was left for discussion and debate at a Joint Rules Committee as the issue will apply to both houses.
* who should be in charge of a bill that is introduced in the NCOP but not by a member of the Executive (e.g. if a province initiates a s76 bill), once the bill is referred to the NA. Recommendation by FG that when the bill is referred to the NA the NCOP designates someone in the NA to be in charge of the bill. This matter was also referred to the Joint Rules Committee
* S 18(6) deals with the process of referring a bill to a committee. If it is not referred to the portfolio committee that deals with the subject matter, by resolution of the Assembly it may be referred to any other committee. Johnny de Lange referred to the ODB as an example which, instead of falling to the Justice Committee, could be referred to an ad hoc committee. This would have to be by resolution of the house.
* S. 20 may be important for public comment. It says that if a bill is published for comment, at least 3 weeks must be given for comment. At present it adds "subject to joint rule 163" which deals with the fast tracking of a bill. They discussed whether this section should be subject to the fast tracking clause but left open the question for later decision.
* The issue of a mixed s75/76 bill still has to be resolved. It seems to have been agreed that there will be provision for a "mixed bill" but they must still agree to a procedure for such a bill.
* The issue arose whether a bill can be amended if the amendment changes it from a s75 to a s.76 bill and vice versa. They said that in some instances this would be possible and in some instances it would not be possible. For example, a bill introduced in the NCOP cannot be amended by the NCOP so that it becomes a s.75 bill. This issue is also to be discussed at a JRC.
* S.20(3) deals with the role of a committee. (a) of this section says that a committee must enquire into the substance of a bill. One of the law advisors wanted it clarified that committees should be bound by the long title of a bill so that, for example, if they are dealing with an amendment bill, they should not be permitted to go beyond the long title and to look into other aspects of the Principal Act, not covered by the amendment. The reason is that these other aspects would not have followed required procedures like getting cabinet approval. De Lange raised the debate about the role of the legislature viz. a viv the role of the executive and said the legislature should not be limited in that way. An alternative procedure was suggested by Mr Hahndiek that the committee must report to the house that they need to go beyond the long title and must get the go ahead from the house. There seemed to be agreement about this proposal. De Lange said that parliament's constitutional powers are not subject to the limitations clause and can only be limited by parliament itself. He suggested that the Rules spell out Parliament's constitutional powers.
FG raised the question about the status of committees and whether they are merely subcommittees of parliament or whether they have constitutional powers apart from the powers given to parliament. There is at least one case where a committee is obliged by statute to report directly to the President. De Lange said that unless a statutue gives a committee this power they are just a subcommittee of parliament and cannot take any decisions apart from parliament. The Constitutional Court case on local government was raised which said that parliament could not delegate certain powers to the executive nor could it delegate certain powers to a committee. De Lange's summary of the position as he saw it was that the constitution does not give committees any powers per se, other than powers given to parliament. It was agreed that this issue needs to be spelt out clearly in the rules.
* S.23 (f) deals with placing committee recommendations on the order paper for their formal adoption. All the past committee reports have apparently not been formally adopted by parliament and so have no status. Committees must stipulate in their reports if it is for the information of members or if it is for consideration and adoption. All past reports will be examined and if they have not been formally adopted will be put before parliament for adoption as this will enable parliament to more effectively hold the executive to account.
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