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SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE RULES COMMITTEE
17 FEBRUARY 1998
DRAFT RULES: LEGISLATIVE PROCESS CHAPTER
This was a small meeting, chaired by Johnny de Lange and attended by Sybil Seaton (IFP), Louise Green (ACDP) and a number of parliamentary law advisers.
They continued working through the draft chapter on the legislative process of the draft rules. They then looked at an updated edition that incorporated changes suggested in previous meetings. At their next meeting on Thursday they will be looking at the draft chapter on the committee system.
The problem was raised that if an executive member introduces a bill in the NCOP, via an NCOP member, and if there is no agreement on the bill the bill lapses and can't be revived. The NCOP is apparently wanting more s76 bills to be introduced in the NCOP but people must be aware of this risk. If the special procedure for money bills is followed prior publication of a bill will not be necessary. This will apply to the budget.
There is a draft bill which is being considered by the PC Finance on the amending of money bills. The section on money bills was therefore not dealt with in detail and the PC Finance will be asked to comment on this section of the rules.
The problem is that all money bills and not just the budget can only be introduced by the Minister of Finance and cannot currently be amended. Some people have raised the issue that it might even be unconstitutional for the minister to delegate his/her powers to tax (eg VAT, petrol levies) and that any changes to tax should come via parliament. The issue was raised: what happens if the Min of Finance is sick. However this cannot be dealt with in the rules and would require a constitutional amendment.
Hybrid Bills are public bills that may affect the private interests of a particular person (Pg 42)
Consolidation Bills (PG 43) consolidate existing laws without making amendments. A number of countries have special procedures for these two types of bills and sections dealing with these two types of bills have been included in the draft rules. However, the opinion of the law advisor (which would be circulated later) is that it is not necessary to have a separate procedure for them and these two sections should come out of the rules. Further discussion was delayed until that legal opinion had been considered.
They considered what happens if a bill isn't passed because of an absence of members. (s. 69 on pg 45). The draft suggests a procedure whereby the chief whips of two or more parties request a second vote. In the meeting the alternative was raised of the speaker making that decision (without the request of the party whips). The issue was left over.
Lapsing of bills at the end of the year: Due to the problem that you cannot anticipate a motion that is already on the order paper, at times one has to clear the order paper rather than keep differing matters. This should happen at the end of every year.
There was an interesting discussion about the language of bills and particularly the legal implications of the President signing a bill in a language that was not considered by Parliament. It seems as though there is to be a move to make English the official written language and someone suggested that the English version of all bills should be signed and official translations should then be made of all bills. In the case of a legal dispute however, the English version would prevail. One of the legal advisors was of the opinion that in terms of the Constitution a bill must be passed in at least 2 languages but others disagreed with this opinion. He based his opinion on s.6(3) of the constitution that says that national and provincial governments must use at least 2 languages. He took this to mean for all documents that are directed at the public. It would not apply to an entirely internal document.
Another option being mooted apparently by the Speaker is that all bills are passed in English and a second language and that the official languages rotate as the second language (eg 1 month Afrikaans, 1 month Sotho, etc). Because it has constitutional implications the issue of language was identified as a crucial issue on which to reach finality.
In terms of the final constitution there is no clause that says that the bill that is signed will be authoritative but there is obviously a history of courts following this understanding. The problem is that the President in fact often signs a bill to which parliament has not applied its mind.
Private Members bills
Note an interesting new procedure for private members bills (Pg 6 of the amended draft).
(Pg 11 of amended draft) Note all bills can only be introduced if prior notice is given in the Government Gazette together with either an explanatory summary of the bill or the draft bill as it is to be introduced. This must contain an invitation for public comment.
Classification of bills (Pg 14 of amended draft) There were two views expressed as to whether there should be a 48 hour time limit on when submissions may be received by the Joint Tagging Mechanism (JMT) from parliamentarians on the tagging of bills.
There was discussion around the amending of bills particularly if the amendment would have the effect of changing the classification of a bill. It seems a bill can be changed either from a mixed bill or to a mixed bill.
Please note that all of the above emerged from a small subcommittee meeting which is effectively meeting to facilitate the work of the full Rules Committee which will be meeting on Tuesday 24th March.
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