The Review of Standing Orders

The Committee has just reported back a review of the standing orders that govern . This are of interest to few people, but are highly important. They are the rules of our Parliament.

The full report is 110 pages. I’ve yet to read it all, but on first browse it looks to include some significant enhancement. I hope the House and the Government adopt the recommendations. A brief summary include:

  • The Clerk to record and publish attendance of MPs
  • A new form of legislation called a revision bill that has no debate at first and third reading but does have a select committee hearing and a second reading debate
  • an inquiry into how Parliament should respond to future national emergencies
  • the ability to deduce an MPs pay if they are suspended from the House
  • an extension of privilege to include broadcasting of the House etc
  • A Bill of Rights analysis to be supplied not just at first reading but also for substantive SOPs amending bills. This is something I have advocated several times.
  • Provision for extended sitting hours without going into urgency by sitting on either a Wednesday or Thursday morning, if necessary. Again something I have strongly advocated, as it should reduce the need for urgency so much.
  • Also provision for extended sitting hours on a Thursday evening and Friday morning, but only if the Business Committee agrees, which means basically the Opposition consents to it.
  • Ministers moving urgency in future will need to state the reason for the urgency. Good.
  • Uncorrected transcripts of Parliament to be placed on website within three hours. Excellent initiative.
  • Clark’s Office working towards a public fully searchable database of text and video of Parliament. This will replace the printed weekly Hansard.
  • An MP not giving the correct oath will be required by standing orders to immediately withdraw from the House. They also note that most of the committee support a review of the oath. I agree with both clamping down on improper oaths, but also changing the oath.
  • Business Committee determinations to be published on the Parliament website. These proposals give a lot more power to the Business Committee, so this is good. The BC needs near-unanimous consent to make decisions, so it is about encouraging parties to work together more.
  • A requirement for an MP intending to talk about an issue before the courts to notify the Speaker in advance
  • Proposed members bills will now be recognised before they are drawn from the ballot, and be available of the Parliament website, which may help the MP proposing it to gain support for it. Sensible.

There are some areas where they could have gone further, but overall I think the proposals would make Parliament significantly better, and I hope that they are adopted.

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