Missive on Parliamentary Procedure

The PRESIDENT (14:35):┬áHonourable members, before calling any of you desiring to ask questions without notice, I would like to bring to members’ attention some matters that I have had cause for consideration during the break. Firstly, with regard to members seeking leave to make explanations prior to asking questions, I would like to remind the council that the object of question time is to elicit information, and when leave is sought to make a brief explanation prior to asking a question such explanation should be as brief as possible.

Also, the granting of such leave does not in any way permit members to make any inferences or imputations, give opinions, or debate the matter. I was concerned leading up to the final sitting days last year that members had engaged in making long explanations prior to asking their questions and included a healthy dose of opinion during explanation.

Further, I would remind members that no such explanation is permitted when asking supplementary questions and that they should arise out of the original answer. I ask members to consider this polite reminder of the standing orders and procedures relating to asking questions. Equally, I would add that, in giving a reply, ministers should endeavour to answer the question and not debate the matter. They should also avoid expressions that call for observations from other members and excite debate.

Secondly, with regard to the making of explanations, I also offer this cordial reminder that standing order 175 states:

A Member who has spoken may again be heard, to explain in regard to some material part of the speech on which the Member has been misquoted or misunderstood, but shall not introduce any new matter or interrupt any Member in possession of the Chair.

Standing order 173 relates to making a personal explanation. Having been granted leave, the explanation should be concise and restricted to the specifics of the matter seeking to be explained. Members receive an opportunity on Wednesdays during matters of interest to make speeches that would accommodate a broader exploration of matters, while of course still adhering to the standing orders and rules of debate. Members should also look to utilise these opportunities rather than seek leave to make personal explanations for such purposes.

Finally, I am of the view that some of the notices of motion that have been given during the present session have been considerably longer and more detailed than those in the past. While I would not want to be seen to limit members’ capacity to bring matters before the council, I would encourage members to be concise in the wording of their motions and use the opportunity of the speech in moving the motion to elaborate on the matter and give body to the motion.

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