Business Committee determinations

February 13th, 2013 at 10:55 am by David Farrar

The Business Committee of Parliament basically schedules the business of Parliament, within Standing Orders, and has delegated authority to make decisions on various House matters. Because of that, it operates on a consensus basis – ie pretty much all parties agree.

A few interesting decisions today:

  • Agreed, That the time by which the Commerce Committee must report the Regulatory Standards Bill be extended from Thursday, 28 February 2013 to Friday, 28 February 2014. – this indicates ACT’s bill is not fit to progress, but they don’t want it dumped either – playing for time.
  • Agreed, That Dr The Rt Hon Lockwood Smith make a valedictory statement at 5.30 pm on Wednesday, 13 February 2013. Will be worth tuning into to. Lockwood has been an MP since 1984.
  • Agreed, That that the sitting on Wednesday, 17 April 2013 be extended from 9.00 am to 1.00 pm on Thursday, 18 April 2013 for consideration of business to be agreed at a future meeting of the Business Committee. Interesting that so much advance notice is being given. A long way from the days when the Opposition would only be told or urgency the day it occured.
  • Agreed, That, after questions for oral answer on Thursday, 18 April 2013 a debate on Pacific issues will be held. Now, this is unusual. Not often Parliament has a debate on a specific topic not related to a bill. I wonder who put this up.

Also in case you ever wondered how they allocate the questions for oral answer, the current schedule is here. There is also a schedule for general debate speeches.

The Business Committee at work

February 15th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

One of the more significant changes to Standing Orders was the ability for the House to sit with extended sitting hours, hence reducing the frequency a Government may have to resort to urgency.

The Government can extend the hours by passage of a motion which will see Parliament sit from 9 am to 1 pm on Wednesday or Thursday morning.

If the Government wishes to extend hours beyond this, it needs to get approval from the Business Committee. The Business Committee consists of:

  • The Speaker (Chair)
  • The Leader and Deputy Leader of the House
  • The ACT Leader, United Future, NZ First and Mana Leaders
  • A Green Co-leader
  • The Labour and National Senior Whips
  • The Maori Party, Green and NZ First Whips
  • The Shadow Leader of the House

The Business Committee can only decide something if there is unanimity or near-unanimity which means agreement has been given on behalf of the overwhelming majority of members of Parliament.

The Speaker decides that exact threshold. I would suggest that it requires more than National and Labour agreeing but doesn’t give every small party a veto.

Now the good thing is that the new standing orders are working as intended, and the Business Committee is taking a constructive approach to extending hours when there is a need. They have agreed to extend the House hours this week so the the partiHouse meets Thursday evening and Friday morning until 1 pm. The reason is to progress six Treaty settlement bills through their first and second readings and a couple of omnibus bills.

Each settlement demands legislation, the total number of settlements that Parliament will need to legislate in the coming years is around 60 to settle historical claims (assuming National reach its target of settling claims by 2014). This would represent a large proportion of House time so it makes sense to deal with them in extra hours. This removes the need for urgency, and doesn’t cut into the rest of the House’s programme.

So good to see the parties working together to avoid urgency, but allow the Government to progress its legislative agenda.