Monday, 23 March 2020
Standing and Sessional Orders
That standing order 47(c)(ii) be amended to read as follows:
(ii) can be carried only by an absolute majority of Members, or by a majority of Members present if agreed by the Leader of the House and the Manager of Opposition Business.
As I foreshadowed, this is a change to the standing orders. It might operate in tandem with the change to the sessional orders that we have just moved, or it might operate independently. Just by way of a structural explanation, the motion amends standing orders to change the way that an absolute majority is needed for a suspension of standing orders. Members are aware that, in order to suspend standing orders, an absolute majority must be achieved if the motion is without notice. An absolute majority in this current parliament is 76. There may be circumstances—and I think they have been highlighted today in the proceedings—in the present environment where the House may not be able to form an absolute majority of 76. An absolute majority can become very important if the House meets and is required for any accepted reason to suspend standing orders in order to achieve an outcome like those that have changed today's proceedings. This motion would amend the standing order to allow for a situation where the Leader of the House and the Manager of Opposition Business could agree that they would be able to allow for a suspension of standing orders to be passed without an absolute majority and, rather, by a simple majority of members present. I believe that change is important, and it may be a necessary mechanism—again, one we would hope not to use, or to use only very rarely, but one that it is prudent to have available to the House. Again, I thank the Manager of Opposition Business for his co-operation in the drafting of this motion and the earlier motion, which I've already read.
I thank the Leader of the House for moving this and the cooperation and consultation that's gone on with everything about today—this motion included, which has been going on for quite some time. To put it in the most practical terms, for today's sitting we had 30 pairs a side. The reason we couldn't do more than 30 pairs a side was that we had to make sure we had 76 people here to be able to suspend standing orders, as the first thing we did today.
We may be in a situation in the weeks to come when we sit where we automatically are getting more than 30 people a side who can't get here. This would allow in those circumstances that a suspension still could be carried in a circumstance where the opposition and the government agree. So, if you simply imagine that all the processes that happened today would have been impossible if more than 30 a side had been unable to get here, this will mean that that then becomes possible again—once again, something that we hope won't need to be used and certainly would operate quite separately to the other. It could be used at the same time, but it's not necessarily connected to the sessional order that we dealt with a moment ago. Again, thank you, Mr Speaker and the Leader of the House.
Question agreed to.
House adjourned at 23:11 until a date and hour to be fixed by the Speaker, in accordance with the resolution agreed to earlier this sitting.