ATC210311: First Report Of National Assembly Rules Committee, 2021
- FIRST REPORT OF NATIONAL ASSEMBLY RULES COMMITTEE (NARC), 2021
The National Assembly Rules Committee (NARC) held a meeting on 9 March 2021 to deliberate on the Rule framed by the Speaker in terms of Assembly Rule 6 (unforeseen eventualities)relating to the time period for the independent panel to report on its preliminary inquiry on a motion initiated in respect of section 194 of the Constitution, the NARC Report of the Fifth Parliament on Monitoring Replies to Questions and other matters considered and reported on by the Subcommittee on Review of Assembly Rules. These included: amendment to the Rule on the Composition of the Chief Whips’ Forum (Rule 257), consideration of the ruling by a Presiding Officer (Rule 92(12)), determination of time for declaration of vote (Rule 108(2)) and an amendment to the Ruleon Questions to the Deputy President (Rule 139(1)).
B RULE 129(X)(3) FRAMED BY THE SPEAKER IN TERMS OF RULE 6 (UNFORESEEN EVENTUALITIES)
Rule 6 provides that the Speaker may give a ruling or frame a rule in respect of any eventuality for which the rules and orders of the House do not provide, having due regard to the procedures, precedents, practices and conventions developed by the House and on the basis of constitutional values and principles underpinning an open and democratic society. A rule framed by the Speaker remains in force until the House, based on a recommendation of the Rules Committee has decided thereon.
The Speaker announced Rule 129(X)(3), framed in light of limitations in the application of Rule 129(X)(1)(b) at the time the independent panel was appointed, in the Announcements, Tablings and Committee Reports of 4 December 2020, on pages 3-5.Sub-rule 129X(3) provides that:
- Notwithstanding rule 129X(1)(b), the Speaker may, at the request of the panel and on good cause shown, extend the time period referred to in that rule to such later period as the Speaker may determine, which extended period may not exceed 90 days from the date of appointment of the panel.
(b) In the event that the panel requests a further extension beyond the period contemplated in paragraph (a), the Assembly may, on good cause shown, determine such an extended period.
The Rules Committee recommends that sub-rule 129X(3), providing the Speaker with the discretion to determine the time period the independent panel has to report its findings, framed in terms of National Assembly Rule 6, be approved.
C Composition of the Chief Whips’ Forum(Rule 257)
National Assembly Rule 257 provides for the composition of the Chief Whips’ Forum. The forum provides a platform for parties to discuss and co-ordinate matters for which the whips are responsible, and which the Speaker may consult when appropriate. Concerns had been raised that members not specifically designated by the rules had been attending forum meetings; that different members attended from week to week; and that some parties sent a number of representatives to the meetings. Moreover, some parties did not qualify to have a whip in terms of the formula agreed to by the Rules Committee and were therefore not necessarily able to participate in its meetings.
Based on the deliberations,the NARC agreed that consideration be given to expanding the composition of the forum. The following amendment to Rule 257 is recommended:
- The Chief Whips’ Forum consists of -
- The House Chairpersons;
- the Chief Whip and the deputy chief whip of the majority party and the whip of the majority party responsible for programming;
- [the deputy chief whip of the majority party] the parliamentary counsellors to the President and Deputy President; [and]
- [the most senior whip of each of the other parties represented in the Assembly] the Chief Whip of the largest opposition party and one other whip from that party; and
(e) one whip or member from each of the other parties represented in the Assembly.
- The Speaker and the Deputy Speaker may attend meetings of the Chief Whips’ Forum or designate someone to attend on their behalf.
- A [whip] member referred to in [Subrule 1(d)] Subrules (1)(b),(d) and (e) who is unable to attend a meeting of the forum may designate another [whip] member to attend the meeting, provided that the number of party representatives in attendance may not exceed those provided for in the relevant rules.
- Rule 156 does not apply to this forum.
D Consideration of the ruling by a presiding officer(Rule 92(12))
On 29 July 2020, Ms HO Mkhaliphi, MP, lodged a complaint about the ruling of Temporary Chairperson, Mr QR Dyantyi, MP, who had ordered her removal from the hybrid sitting of the House (on the virtual platform) on that day. The Speaker subsequently referred the principle of the ruling to the Subcommittee on Review of Assembly Rules in terms of Rules 158(2)(b) and 92(12).
Rule 92(12) states that a member who is aggrieved by a ruling may subsequently request that the principle or subject matter of a ruling be referred to the Rules Committees. The Rules Committee must, however, confine its consideration to the principle underlying, or subject matter of, the ruling, and may not review the ruling itself, which is binding.
The Subcommittee followed a predetermined procedure and invited MrDyantyi and MsMkhaliphi to make representations to it. The Subcommittee deliberated on the matter and members agreed on the need for presiding officers to maintain order in sittings, but differed on the application of the rules on the day in question.The EFF maintained that members had a right to speak and should not be unduly dismissed. The EFF and IFP expressed dissenting views on the matter and did not agree with other parties that the ruling was fairly applied by MrDyantyi.
Based on the Report of the Subcommittee on Review of Assembly Rules, theNARC agreed that –
- as a principle, the imperative for presiding officers and members to maintain order be acknowledged; and
- the principle underlying the ruling and previous rulings from the Chair that interjections on the virtual platform were not permitted due to their disruptive nature of drowning out the member speaking on the floor, was correctly and fairly applied by the presiding officer.
E Determination of time for declaration of vote (Rule 108(2))
Rule 108(2) states that the time allocated to a member from each party for making a declaration of vote must be determined by the Rules Committee and must take into account the proportional strength of the party in the Assembly. In the Fifth Parliament, the time allocation was - ANC 7 minutes; DA 5 minutes; EFF 4 minutes and all other parties 3 minutes each.
In the context of Rule 108(2), the NARC resolved that the time allocated to parties for declaration of vote, as determined by the Fifth Parliament, be retained.
F Rule related to Questions to the Deputy President (Rule 139(1))
Assembly Rule 139(1) states that questions to the Deputy President must be scheduled by the Programme Committee once per month during session in accordance with the programme of the Assembly, provided that the Programme Committee must determine which months qualify during session. On each question day, the Deputy President must answer six questions that relate to his or her functions, as designated by the President.
To ensure clarity and facilitate planning, a proposal was made that, the Deputy President answer questions at least once per quarter instead of every month. The DA expressed its objection to thereduction in opportunities for questions to the Deputy President.
The following amendment to Rule 139(1) is recommended by the NARC:
139. Questions to Deputy President
(1) Questions to the Deputy President must be scheduled by the Programme Committee in accordance with Rule 210 for a question day at least once per [month] quarter during session time in accordance with the annual programme of the Assembly, [outside of the question time for Ministers;] provided that a question day to the Deputy President —
(a) [questions to the Deputy President] may not be scheduled for any week in which questions to the President are scheduled; and
(b) [the Programme Committee must further determine which months qualify as months during session time within the annual programme for purposes of this rule] is scheduled outside of the question time for Ministers.
G. Opportunities for Debates for Smaller Parties
The rules provide that members can table motions for debate in the House. The Programme Committee schedules motions. The practice has developed that members be provided an opportunity to have their motions debated, based on the proportional strength of parties in the Assembly.
A proposal was put forward that additional opportunities be provided for smaller parties to have their motions debated. In this regard, it was agreed that, as an interim measure, the Programme Committee should increase the number of party motions debated in mini-plenaries, subject to confirmation. Pursuant to deliberations on the matter, the NARCendorsed the view that more opportunities be created for debate in mini-plenaries.
H. NARC Report of Fifth Parliament on Monitoring Replies to Questions
The NARC considered the report of its predecessor of the Fifth Parliament on Monitoring Replies to Questions. Rule 136 provides that the Speaker must in consultation with the Rules Committee establish a system to monitor and report regularly to the House on questions that have been endorsed as unanswered on the Question Paper in terms of Rules 143(2), 144(5) and 146(3), which concern unanswered oral and written questions.
The NARC resolved that the report be referred to the Subcommittee on Review of Assembly Rules for consideration. The office of the Speaker would continue to monitor replies to questions from the Executive to ensure that questions posed by members of the Assembly were answered.
Report to be considered.
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