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RULES COMMITTEE: JOINT SUBCOMMITTEE ON REVIEW OF JOINT RULES
14 June 2006
JOINT SUBCOMMITTEE ON REVIEW OF JOINT RULES: DELIBERATIONS ON DRAFT RULES
Acting Chairperson: Adv T Masutha (ANC)
Documents Handed Out:
Draft Agenda for Committee Meeting: 14 June 2006
Committee Meeting 16 March 2006: Draft Minutes
Members met to consider the Joint Rules framed by the Presiding Officers for debates in Joint Sittings. The absence of the National Council of Provinces Members was noted but the discussion proceeded.
Members noted that the two major issues of contention were the representation of local government at the sittings and decision-making by the Presiding Officers at joint sittings. Members felt that local government should not be allowed to participate in joint sittings. The Committee agreed that the Presiding Officer in attendance at joint sittings would be allowed to make decisions on behalf of both Houses of Parliament.
Legal advice would be requested regarding the recommendations of the Committee and a draft report would be handed to the Joint Rules Committee.
Briefing by Secretary to the National Assembly
Mr K Hahndiek (Secretary to the National Assembly) briefed the Committee on the Joint Rules drafted by the presiding officers from both Houses of Parliament. The briefing included rules governing the debates in Parliament, additional joint rules and practical issues. Particular points that were raised included access to the podium for Members, order in Joint Sittings and offensive language.
He noted that the draft joint rules needed to be approved by the Joint Rules Committee. All relevant rules of the two Houses should apply as long as they are consistent and compatible.
Mr J Jeffery (ANC) raised a concern about the participation of local government representatives at joint sittings. He questioned whether local government representatives were allowed to be at the sittings since the Constitution stated that local government was not part of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).
He stated that there was a general tendency by presiding officers to delay points of order. He suggested that a mechanism to deal with the delays should take the form of a rule amendment.
The Acting Chairperson commented that the Committee should adopt an incremental approach. The lack of clarity in the joint sittings was an urgent matter. He noted that a mandate was needed as well as research conducted that could be relayed back to the Committee.
Mr Jeffery noted that no proposed rules were available. He stated that joint debates were uncommon and therefore the Committee should not rush into drafting changes.
The Acting Chairperson stated that the Committee should seek the appropriate forum to address constitutional issues. The complicated issues in the discussion should be given to the National Assembly Rules Committee.
He asked the Committee whether legal advice should be requested.
Mr Jeffery responded that the local government representation issues needed legal opinion. The Committee should establish whether local government should attend and then refer the decision to the Joint Rules Committee.
Ms E Ngaleka (ANC) noted that it would be advisable to obtain a legal opinion.
The Acting Chairperson noted that Members should be mindful of their sub-committee status within the Joint Rules Committee. He noted that there was uncertainty in the provisions of the Constitution. Members should limit the Committee to making recommendations to the Joint Rules Committee.
Mr Hahndiek asked whether the Committee should draw upon legal opinion or wait for a legal opinion referral.
The Acting Chairperson responded that the Committee should attempt to seek legal opinion to streamline the process. He noted that the issues raised should be reported to the staff who could compile a report.
He noted that the next issue related to rulings from the Chair. In the Joint meetings, all Members were entitled to their opinion. The contentious issue had been when the presiding officer was not able to make a ruling on the day and therefore had to delay proceedings. He asked whether another arrangement was possible.
Ms Ngaleka asked why rulings could not be made immediately at the joint sittings.
The Acting Chairperson replied that some matters required clarification and could therefore not be made immediately.
Mr F Jenkins (Legal Services Office) stated that rulings should be given in both Houses.
Mr Jeffery suggested that the ruling should be given in the individual House and done on behalf of the presiding officer. The joint rules should empower accordingly.
The Acting Chairperson suggested that the presiding officer in attendance should make the ruling no matter which House the officer came from. He noted that communication between the two presiding officers might be a problem but the ruling should be enforced by the second presiding officer. The recommendation was that the presiding officer should make the ruling but had to communicate the decision at an early stage to the presiding officer in the other House.
Mr Hahndiek noted that the proposals from the Committee were adequate but there was a concern about conflicting opinions from the Chair.
The Acting Chairperson noted that unless a matter had drastic consequences the decision of the presiding officer should be final.
Mr Hahndiek stated that the draft rules and the areas of incompatibility would be dealt with in the next meeting.
The Acting Chairperson noted that the matter of joint sittings was complex but very important. He stressed that when the presiding officer issued a decision on discipline then that presiding officer should assume predominance.
He requested the points raised in the meeting be drafted into a report and presented to the Joint Rules Committee.
Members adopted the minutes of 16 March 2006.
The meeting was adjourned.
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