In Parliament

Point Of Order - Committee Membership: Splitting the Question



Thursday, 23 March 2023.

Mr NEWBURY (Brighton) (10:07):

In speaking to that Motion and Amendment, my view and the Coalition’s view is that when it comes to Committees and procedural matters in this House we should work outside this Chamber to come into this Chamber in a bipartisan way and have both sides of the Chamber put forward their Members without any partisanship in the way that we do that.

I have spoken to the Leader of the House several times about that approach, and that is my approach. There have only been two instances when I had a different view – one on the Chair of the Integrity and Oversight Committee, which was a subject of debate in the previous sitting week, and that, fortunately, though at the time it was not successful, has been accepted by the Government since.

But today, in relation to the motion, the Government initially moved forward its Motion joining the question of two of the changes that were being put forward, and that was difficult for the Opposition, because one of the changes is intended to increase the proportion of the Government’s representation on the Standing Orders Committee. It is increasing the proportion beyond where it was in the last Parliament, effectively meaning that the Government will have an absolute majority on the Standing Orders Committee without the chair being required to use their casting vote – and that is in my view the purpose of the increased proportionality that the Government is seeking on that committee –but then linking that question to a change putting one of our Members onto a Committee, and I feel obviously concerned about the linking of that question.

Setting aside the politics of that, House practice has always been, when it comes to these issues, that the questions be considered separately, and I take it from the Government speaker that the Government does intend to have those questions dealt with separately.

In looking back through Parliamentary history, through Hansard, there are only two instances that I am aware of in the last hundred years where the question has been dealt with jointly, and that is in 1921 and 1972. House practice has always been that when it comes to these matters the House would deal with them separately so that politics is taken out of those debates and the matters are dealt with as they should be. So I welcome the Government speaker indicating I believe in his contribution to this debate an intention for the issue to be dealt with separately. I welcome that, and I would hope that you in the Chair will be dealing with that issue separately.

I hope in moving forward that we can deal with these questions in a straight way, where both the Government and the Opposition can make changes to Committees without politics being involved in it and one-upmanship.

I hope the House will understand why, when it comes to the Standing Orders question, I have clearly put the case as to why we will not be supporting it. As I say, I would normally not be wanting to seek to play politics in dividing on questions of this nature, but on this particular one, on the Standing Orders Committee, the Government is seeking to increase its proportion of the committee into an outright majority.

There are things this Parliament will want to consider when it comes to changes to the standing orders that should be up for vigorous debate, and having an increased majority on that Committee in this Parliament at the same time as the Government saying it wants to review the Standing Orders, in my view, cuts against the spirit of doing that in a bipartisan way.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Before putting the question I will make a statement on how the debate on the Committee Membership Motion will be conducted.

Because there are multiple questions in the Motion and an Amendment to it and because the Member for Brighton has requested in his contribution that the question be split, I have decided that in accordance with best practice I will split the questions in the Motion and the Amendment to the Motion.

The Minister for Police has moved an amendment to this motion. He has proposed to insert after the words ‘House Committee’ the words which have been circulated. As the amendment adds two Members to Committees, I will also split these questions.