National Party Proposed Amendments to the New Draft Rules for the National Assembly

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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

18 March 1998

Present: Johnny de Lange (Chair, ANC), Hendrickse (ANC), Dalling (ANC), Odendaal (NP), Maree (NP), Seaton (IFP), and several clerks and advisers

Mr Maree proposed amendments to the draft rules during a meeting of the Rules Committee (NA). Now, the task of the Subcommittee on Rules (NA) is to report on the proposed amendments to the Rules Committee. The latter will then take final decisions on the new rules during a meeting on 24 March.

Mr De Lange started the meeting by complaining about the fact that the amendments were being distributed at the meeting and not before. Furthermore, the chair expressed his fear that Maree, being a new member to the committee, would want to repeat ‘old’ discussions by proposing amendments to clauses that have extensively been discussed and rewritten in the subcommittee during an earlier stage of the drafting process. The Subcommittee nevertheless agreed to some of the proposed amendments, i.e. minor amendments mostly to do with wording and definitions.

Two issues were more substantially debated:
the need for a so-called umbrella clause dealing with the issues of alternate members and resignation from a committee
the powers of a committee chairperson

According to the NP the draft rule on the composition of committees (draft rule 3) should include provisions on alternate committee members and resignation of committee members. With regard to the resignation from a committee, Mr De Lange stated that it might be a good idea to include something in the rules on how to stop being a committee member, but that one had to be careful to draft one rule for all committees. There are committees that are structured in their own way and to add suddenly a new so-called umbrella clause, valid for all committees, might cause problems. According to Mr De Lange this would certainly be the case with a new umbrella clause for alternate members. He suggested that Mr Maree should look at the various sections on alternate members in the current draft rules and report on any specific problems instead of proposing a new umbrella clause.

On the issue of the resignation, it was agreed (after a somewhat confusing debate) that it would be left to the NA Rules Committee to decide between two options: the NP umbrella clause and a clause applicable to portfolio committees, to be drafted in such a way that it is clear a member may resign in concurrence with the Chief Whip and the Speaker.

According to the NP the powers of a committee chair need to be limited. Therefore, the NP proposes to amend draft rule 8 in such a way that a chair can only interrupt or suspend the proceedings or adjourn the meeting with the consent of the majority of the meeting (if a quorum is present). Furthermore, the NP proposes a new clause that explicitly gives the Speaker a role in the protection of minority rights in committee meetings. Mr Maree defended his proposals by emphasizing the importance of finding a way to discourage abuse of power by a chairperson. Mr De Lange did not agree. He stated that there is enough protection via common law, the media and in the fact that a committee may replace its chair at any moment and that according to draft rule 72.2 the powers of the chairperson are ‘subject to the directions of the committee’. Mr Maree replied that the 72.2 clause only applied to portfolio committees, which again led to a discussion on the pro’s and con’s of umbrella clauses. The Subcommittee did not seem to support the NP position on the issue of the power of the committee chair. It was agreed that the NP would nevertheless be free to raise the issue with the Speaker and the Chief Whip, take it up with other parties and propose a new clause.

Finally, on another issue - proportional representation on subcommittees - it was agreed that it would be left to the NA Rules Committee to decide between the original draft and the NP proposal. The original draft rule only prescribes proportional representation for committees. Mr Maree proposes to extend this principle to subcommittees. According to Mr De Lange, that is not necessary because subcommittees aren’t decision-making bodies. In other words, parties do not have to be proportionally represented in subcommittees because subcommittees only make recommendations.


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