Wednesday, January 17, 2018

House meets today to debate proposals to Standing Orders

The House of Representatives will meet at 10 a.m. today to debate major changes to the Standing Orders proposed by the Standing Orders Committee. The House meets at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.

One of the changes is the pro­posal to reduce the time on all speeches given in Parliament. The recommendation is to cut the speaking time of members of the House from 75 to 40 minutes.

The Prime Minister’s ques- tion time is perhaps the most interesting new feature being proposed. The recommendation by the committee is that during the second sitting of the House each month, there should be a Prime Minister’s question time, during which questions could be put to the Prime Minister, rela­ting to matters of national importance or on the performance of the Government and its agen­cies.

There is also a proposal for an “urgent questions” time for each sitting, which shall last 15 minutes. Any member desiring to ask a question on the ground of urgency in the public interest can submit a question one hour before the sit­ting for any minister of Go­vernment. The minister can decline to answer the question if, in his opinion, the publication of an answer is contrary to the public interest.

The committee has proposed an amendment to make provision for the Speaker to identify and recognise the leader of every party having at least three members in the House. This would allow for the implementation of the Crossing of the Floor Act.

The Standing Orders Committee has recommended an amendment to avoid a repeat of the 2002 situation where there was a deadlock over the election of a Speaker following the 18-18 Parliament. There would be a drawing of straws to eliminate one candidate.

The Standing Orders Committee has also proposed the establishment of a number of new Committees—the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee; the Committee on Energy Affairs; the Committee on Foreign Affairs; the Committee on Human Rights, Diversity, Environment and Sustainable Development; the Parliamentary Broadcasting Committee; and the Committee on Government Assurances.