Most importantly, the frequent use of urgency suggests a lack of regard for parliamentary process. And if many governments have been guilty of succumbing to temptation over the years, National’s record this term is particularly poor. In its first two years in power, it used urgency for 331.5 hours, nearly double the time the former Labour Government sat under urgency in its full first term. In that time, it has pushed through 17 laws without allowing select committee examination. Labour’s figure was four or five each term.
As I blogged last week, use to skip sleof urgency just to extend the sitting hours of the House is not that big a deal, especially as National goes out of its way to preserve question time when in urgency.
When it is used to progress a bill through multiple stages at once, or to skip select committee, that it gets more problematic.
Various proposals have been put forward to reduce the use of urgency. Requiring a 75 per cent vote in Parliament before the select committee stage could be omitted for any bill is one of the more valid. Another suggestion is for more sitting weeks each year. But the total number of bills passed by National is little changed from that passed by Labour.
Changes to standing orders need, broadly, both major parties to agree. I’d like to see both National and Labour agree on changes, such as extending the sitting hours so that it reduces the need for urgency. This could be done by having more sitting weeks, by allowing the committee of the whole to meet in mornings, by being able to extend House hours in the evening etc.