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SUBCOMMITTEE ON RULES (NA)
19 February 1998
DRAFT RULES: CHAPTER ON COMMITTEE SYSTEM
Present: Johnny de Lange (Chairperson, ANC), Shepherd Madlala (ANC), Douglas Gibson (DP, who left the meeting at 16.00) and several clerks and advisers
The aim of the meeting, held on Thursday 19 February from 14.00 until after 18.00 hours, was to discuss clause by clause the draft chapter of the NA Rules dealing with the committee system. This chapter will replace articles 34 to 77 of the 1995 Standing Rules for the NA. In going through the draft the subcommittee focussed on the questions
where do the new NA rules differ from the old NA rules and what is the reason for creating a new rule?
how to prevent incompatibilities between the new NA rules and the new Joint Rules of Parliament (as approved by the Joint Rules Committee, 19 Nov. 1997)?
Issues that came up (leaving out discussions about the exact wording of a specific clause) were
the need to prevent a proliferation of subcommittees, thus Draft Rule 1.2a which says that the only subcommittees allowed are those mentioned by name in the Rules. A committee can only create a new subcommittee (one that isn’t mentioned in the Rules) when there is a provision for it in the Rules (1.2b). De Lange noted that it might still be difficult to control the number of subcommittees since appointing subcommittees often seems to be the only option for a committee if it has to deal with, for example, 10 bills in a short period of time.
The concern of Madame Speaker that some committees seem to take the view or at least give the impression that they can take decisions on behalf of the whole House. Since a committee cannot take decisions that bind the House without these decisions going through the House, Draft Rule 2 states that all committee decisions must be reported to the House. It was decided that this should not apply to decisions regarding the internal business of the committee.
The role of the Speaker in relation to the role of the Chief Whip. This issue came up in relation to committees wanting to meet when the NA is not in session or sitting. Apparently, the current practice is for a committee chairperson to ask the Chief Whip’s approval. However, Draft Rule 3.1 says the Speaker will have the final say. The same issue came up when the subcommittee discussed Draft Rule 62.f. Here, the question arose: should there be a rule saying that a portfolio committee can only conduct its business on days when the NA is not in session or sitting with the concurrence of the Chief Whip, the Speaker or both?
Mr De Lange stated that parties in parliament first have to decide what their position is going to be on this issue before the subcommittee can discuss this matter any further. With regard to Draft Rule 62e, the subcommittee took a more formal approach. This draft rule deals with the right of a portfolio committee to conduct its business at the venue of its choice. Whether the committee’s choice would have to be subject to the Speaker’s or the Chief Whip’s approval doesn’t seem to be a problem. Committee decisions about venues have financial implications. Therefore, the Speaker needs to be involved in such decisions. The Chief Whip, being a party functionary, does not have the authority to take decisions regarding the budget of the NA.
The question whether the Chief Whips Forum formally is a parliamentary committee. Since parliamentary committees are in principle open to the public, it would pose a problem for the Chief Whips Forum to be one. The nature of the Chief Whips Forum, being a consultative and advisory body for the Speaker, seems to require meetings behind closed doors. Mr De Lange said that the CWF was nevertheless included in the chapter on the committee system to let the new Rules be as comprehensive as possible: the existence of a body like the CWF should be acknowledged in the Rules. Furthermore, a clause on the composition of the CWF (Draft Rule 39) could prevent ‘forum hopping’, according to Mr De Lange.
The need for the return of the Scheduling Committee. After some discussion, it was suggested that the Scheduling Committee should explicitly be established in the new rules as a subcommittee of the Programme Committee, thus changing Draft Rule 47.
The task and composition of the Disciplinary Committee. According to the meeting, the task of the Disciplinary Committee does not include investigations into transgressions of privileges or proceedings of Parliament. To investigate such a transgression the NA will have to choose between the current practice of establishing an ad hoc committee or setting up –under the new rules- a new permanent committee to deal with these matters. It was acknowledged that the Disciplinary Committee is not the place for it: the DC should ‘only’ be dealing with less party-politically controversial matters like misusing of funds and sexual harassment. Following from the latter issue, the gender composition of the Disciplinary Committee was briefly debated. Mr De Lange noted that the commitment that at least 50% of the members of the DC should be women seems rather impossible given Draft Rule 48 that the DC consist of the Deputy Speaker, the chief whips and senior whips.
The need for a rule limiting the membership of portfolio committees. The option of such a rule, saying each member of parliament can be a member of only two or three committees, has been discussed in a meeting of the chief whips. The subcommittee agreed that this is a political issue. It might be the task of the outgoing parliament to recommend a certain practice to the incoming parliament, but the position of the ANC, for example, on this and the related issue of clustering portfolio committees is still under discussion.
The complicated issue of delegated legislation. After some discussion on the complexities involved in delegated legislation it was concluded that the need for a Subcommittee on Delegated Legislation should be further investigated.
Finally, at several instances during the meeting Mr De Lange mentioned the fact that a particular rule (Draft Rules 6-9) or issue (how to deal with parliamentary international relations and the relevant committee) would still have to be decided upon by the Joint Rules Committee. A more general issue that will have to be worked out is the division of labour between a joint committee and an NA committee, for example the Programme Committee and the Joint Programme Committee.
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