Members’ Votes Disallowance

(Continued from 12 November 2019).

The PRESIDENT (14:18): Yesterday, the Hon. Ms Franks asked me a question in question time, which I took on notice, and I have a response which I intend to read to honourable members now.

During question time yesterday, the Hon. Ms Franks directed a question to me concerning a ruling on the matter of possible disallowance of members’ votes and participation on committees in relation to undeclared pecuniary or personal interests. Standing orders 225, 362 and 379 in particular provide for dealing with matters where a ‘Member has a‚Ķpecuniary interest not held in common with the rest of the subjects of the Crown’.

What is important to note is that in this council, and in other jurisdictions, a direct pecuniary interest not held in common with the rest of the subjects of the Crown has not included an interest held by a large section of the community or a group of subjects of the Crown. Not being held in common with the rest of the subjects of the Crown is not to be suggested that it must be held by all subjects of the Crown. This matter is most notably considered by Speaker Abbott in the House of Commons in 1811, to which many parliaments have referred, where he declared:

This interest must be a direct pecuniary interest, and separately belonging to the persons whose votes were questioned, and not in common with the rest of His Majesty’s subjects, or on a matter of state policy.

Similarly to that stated by President Whyte in 1978 when the council was considering the Residential Tenancies Bill, a member who may have an interest in property that would be subject to land tax is in no different position to any other person with interest in property that would be subject to the provisions of the legislation.

Further, the relevant standing order does not apply to motions or public bills that involve questions of state policy. The legislation is a public bill that involves the question of state policy. The bill seeks to amend existing laws relating to land tax and, as such, deals with matters of established state policy. The legislation also impacts a large section of the community, and while they may hold interests that could be impacted by the legislation, they hold those interests in common with a significant group of subjects of the Crown.

With matters of state taxation, all subjects of the Crown are subject to the laws. For these reasons, I hold the view that all members are entitled to participate in the debate and vote on the legislation in question. Ultimately, with regard to the disallowance of a vote of any member, such disallowance would be for the council to determine on motion following a division.

In terms of members sitting on select committees, the same assessment applies, that is, that the member holds a direct pecuniary interest not held in common with the rest of the subjects of the Crown. A member may, in the interests of transparency, choose to declare an interest during a contribution in the debate; however, having such an interest does not preclude any members from participating in any debate or a select committee, should one be established.

Of course, members have an obligation under the Members of Parliament (Register of Interests) Act 1983 to declare certain interests in their primary and ordinary returns and the register is publicly available and the registrar’s statement is tabled in this house.

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