Former Presidents (Benefits and Other Facilities) Bill 20121008 10 Jan, 2013
Ms. Teixeira: There were three motions which were taken by the Opposition to the Standing Orders Committee. The first one, which was tabled by the Hon. Member Mr. Basil Williams, in the Standing Orders Committee, was supported by the Government, in terms of removing the vote from a non-elected Member in Committee with an adjustment, which I hope that the Standing Orders will reflect the amendment that was made and reported in this House on 2nd August, 2012.
This is the second report. On the issue of the Parliamentary Management Committee, we have to say that Mr. Nagamootoo is the one who proposed, in the Committee, that the status quo remains on 85 (2) and for it not to be amended.
On the issue of the Parliamentary Sectoral Committees, I was reading A Manual of Parliamentary Procedure by John Q. Tilson and Joseph W. Martin Jr. … [Lt. Col. (Ret’d) Harmon: Is that one name or two names?] It is two writers. You might find this amusing because it was written in 1948 and it was a lecture on parliamentary law at the Yale Law School…and former Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives. [Mr. Nandlall: That sounds familiar.] It is familiar, Attorney General.
It made me smile whilst we were sitting in the meeting, tonight, and I thought that I would raise it in my argument on Parliamentary Sectoral Committees. Again, this was written in 1948 about the United States of America House of Representatives. It is section 4.
“Having brought the procedural rules to such state of general satisfaction that even the most virile and critics of Congress, during the last fifty years, have not even suggested a change. It would seem that with propriety and complete safety, these rules were practiced by the House of Representatives might be adopted and generally recognized as correct American parliamentary practice. This might well be done in any Assembly with the limiting provision that the rules of the House of Representatives shall govern so far as applicable and not to conflict with any established and special rules of the Assembly.”
The point I want to raise here, Sir, is that, in many Parliaments, amendments to Standing Orders do not tend to take place willy-nilly. They tend to stay for a while and be amended as they go along.
This House has had two Special Select Committees work on Standing Orders. It was changed previously in 1992, then in 1997 and then in 2005 when there was a Special Select Committee, then in 2009/10 with another Special Select Committee. Following the November 2011 elections, we now have Standing Orders being changed quite rapidly. The problem with that …This is not to say that the people do not have the right to make changes. However, one has to be careful not to be fickle.
The reason why certain things came into this House…and particularly for the younger Members of Parliament, and I do not mean just younger in age but younger in experience. A lot of parliamentary reform, including these parliamentary committees, came out of bipartisan meetings outside of this House. [Mr. Greenidge: I do not know about that.] You were not here, Sir.
Mr. Speaker, a number of speakers have spoken about constitutional reforms in 2001, but one of the most exciting periods in this House, when I think you were a Member on that side, was in that whole period of parliamentary reform and the whole issues of Standing Orders. When I look back…I keep saying this and maybe Members find that I am repeating issues. It is really because I really feel strongly, Sir, that the hours that were spent meeting across the table… I can call the names of the people... [Mr. Nandlall: Call them.] Mr. Murray, Mr. Carberry, Mr. Corbin, for example, Dr. Luncheon, myself, Mr. Reepu Daman Persaud, Prime Minister, just to name a few, Sir, because I might not be able to get all. The point is that between 2003 and 2006 to put meat and substance in to constitutional reforms and the direction that we were going with parliamentary reforms required us to work together. I say this, Sir, based particularly on what happened with the last item on the agenda.
I remember that when the PPP came with the motion on the anniversary of Dr. Cheddi Jagan’s tenure as a parliamentarian, Mr. Carberry and I, and other Members on both sides, sat and went through, we had to compromise. On both sides, people may not have been totally happy, but at the end of it, Sir, we sat outside of this building and were able to craft a motion that we could live with and we passed it unanimously.
When the motion came on the former President Forbes Burnham, the same thing went on… [Mrs. Backer: So what?] I am using these two simple examples. They may not be the best examples…of the attitude then and the attitude now. [Mr. Greenidge: You were in the majority.] Mr. Speaker, there is this noise in the background, but the problem with the noise is…I do not mind noise that make sense, but the noise that I am hearing is of someone who does not appreciate that when Members on both sides of the House spent nights working and crafting a sentence …., and without coffee, without better conditions, we worked on it. It is regrettable. It has nothing to do with majority. [Interruption]
Mr. Speaker: Hon Members, what is going on? We are coming to the end of the evening. I believe that it was because you omitted cigarettes from your list of necessities.
Ms. Teixeira: I think so. Would you like me to include it?
Mr. Speaker: No.
Ms. Teixeira: Mr. Speaker, I seem to be like a red flag to a bull to this corner over here, but it is all right; I am used to it. [Mrs. Backer: You are red. It has nothing to do with a flag.] Thank you. It is my party colour too.
The reason why I am digressing in this way is that when we came to the Parliamentary Sectoral Committees and the expanded committee system, we had a majority but that is not how those resolutions came to this House and how those Parliamentary Sectoral Committees were comprised and how the different Standing Committees were comprised. It is not how it happened. When we decided and worked on the Parliamentary Sectoral Committees and the resolution came to this House, the resolution that set up the terms of reference for the Parliamentary Sectoral Committees, by the time it reached the House, we had reached agreement.
Now, I talked about small-mindedness before. I did not talk about smallness; I talked about small-mindedness. I now wish to talk about fickleness and I am not talking about anybody whether that person is small or tall. I am talking about fickleness.
We cannot have worked so hard, only a matter of years ago, to have brought these Committees…The Committees started working in 2003 and from 2003 to 2011 and we rotated the chairmanship between the Opposition and the Government. There was never a vote taken in any of the Committees and, in addition to that, we had problems in all four of the Committees with attendance by both the Government and Opposition. At no point in those Committees, when there was a situation, that anybody bullied another.
Mr. Speaker, I was a Member on the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Economic Services and I was the Chairman of it and so were Mr. Vieira, the late Mr. Murray and Mr. Mervyn Williams. [Interruption from the Opposition Members.]
Mr. Speaker: Members, allow the Government’s Chief Whip to speak please. Allow her to speak. If you do not like what she is saying, maybe, you can take a break, but we must conclude our agenda for this evening. [An Hon. Member (Opposition): We heard that rambling.] That is a matter of opinion on style. We all are prone to ramblings as politicians from time to time. All of us, none of us is exempt.
Ms. Teixeira: Mr. Speaker, we have all been subjected to listening to each other for hours and hours. We all have our preferences and we all have our battering rams. [Mrs. Backer: You are special.] Thank you very much.
I am saying, and I said it at the Standing Orders Committee, so the Members on the Opposition side will know, that, on behalf of the Government, we would be opposing the issue of the Parliamentary Sectoral Committees. The reason being to sum up was that the model that was created in 2003 worked. Why throw out the baby with the bath water.
Secondly, it is a precipitous move because the time is so short.
Thirdly, I hear people talking about elections and all sorts of things. The reason why the rules tend to take a while to change, and I talk about fickleness, is because we do not want, in any Parliament, to be changing today and then realise that we made a mistake and then we change tomorrow.
There is nothing wrong with the Parliamentary Sectoral Committees having the numbers four and three. The question, which must be asked, is not about the numbers. The question is: Were the reports and work those Committees found to be deficient because of the Government having four members and the Opposition having three? In fact, Sir, I could show you in the records of the Committees, how many of the Parliamentary Sectoral Committees meetings, in the last Parliament, that the Government was in minority because the Members were not attending, and yet it worked. In other Committees, such as the Committee that I chaired, the Government’s Members were in majority because the Opposition’s Members were not attending. The issue is not the numbers, but the issue is the quality of work and the way in which we worked together that was important. If we look at the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee’s reports, which were brought to this House, there was nothing to show that at any time we were not able to work together. It is only in this Tenth Parliament that there is the word about minority reports because in the last Parliament… I am talking about Parliamentary Sectoral Committees. There was not one minority report in any of the Parliamentary Sectoral Committees. In fact, the reports could not come to this House unless they were approved by Members of this Committee. I want to see which Parliamentary Sectoral Committee, in the past, report came here that was not supported by the Committee. The Opposition should show me which one because it did not happen, Sir.
As I said, when I began, that in the first motion that was brought by Mr. Williams, the Government agreed to the amendment as proposed by him. [Mrs. Backer: That is so nice of you.] It is a fact; you can come to your own conclusion.
Secondly, the motion brought by Dr. Rupert Roopnarine that this motion was removed, in the sense that the status quo remained. That was because of the Opposition reneging, lead by AFC, to withdraw this issue.
The third issue of the Parliamentary Sectoral Committees is that we are saying that this is a precipitous move. We have said it in the Committee; we made our views heard in the Committee; we were voted against, because this report came and the decision came by vote of a majority, and we are assured by the Speaker, who was also the Chair, that we would have the right to also speak in the House on what were objections to the change in the Parliamentary Sectoral Committees from four Members for Government and three Members for Opposition and reversing it. The issues, if we look at everything from the prism of numbers, the Opposition Members are missing the boat.
In the last Parliament we had the numbers. We did not have to go the way we went on many issues but because…We could have been the same in the last Parliament. We could have gone and change the Standing Orders by majority in the Standing Orders Committee to reverse the Parliamentary Management Committee and ask for the majority. We never did. I am appealing to the Opposition Members that they are getting lost in the forest. They are losing the big picture and the big picture is that when we want to change something it is for the better not for the whims and fancies of the fickleness of what is today.
It is regrettable that the Standing Orders Committee Report comes with both issues in it because obviously Opposition on the Parliamentary Management Committee has been… not only because in the Standing Orders Committee, but that Parliamentary Management Committee was born out of labour of the two sides of this House. I am glad that people saw the wisdom of not throwing out what was the wisdom of those days, but on the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee it is an issue of no rationale being presented as to why the it should reduce from four Members to three Members except that the Opposition has the majority, so let us do it.
If we had that position… [Interruption from the Opposition Members.]
Mr. Speaker: Okay.
Ms. Teixeira: Mr. Speaker, I am being called dishonest now. Mr. Speaker, I am very serious now because I am now being called dishonest and I am not accepting that.
Mr. Speaker: I did not hear that. Who said that?
Ms. Teixeira: It was very loud… I put my name on the list of speakers. If the Opposition Members wanted to speak on this Bill they could have spoken; it is not a problem. If the Opposition Members do not like what I am saying they can speak, but I have the freedom to speak in this House. It is my freedom to speak in this House. Mr. Speaker, whether I ramble, whether I make sense, whether I am mad as a hatter, whether I am short, whether I am fat, it is nobody’s business. I am here as an elected representative in this Parliament.
I have made it clear that what it appears to be, as I said, and I will repeat it, is a fickleness of numbers and, therefore, it is regrettable, but we appeal to the Opposition Members to change their views, to remain the status quo and if they were not satisfied, after a period of time, then they can come and let it go. They can come back, but this is not the way we want to go. Sir, we will be having a serious problem where we cannot support and we will not support the amendments for the Parliamentary Sectoral Committees.
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