The Standing Orders are the rules of the House of Representatives and its select committees, and detail how Parliament carries out its work. During each term of Parliament, the Standing Orders Committee looks at how it can work more effectively over the next three years, by undertaking a review of these rules.
The most recent review commenced in May 2022. The Law Society, alongside a number of other submitters, recommended various amendments to the Standing Orders to enable better, and more structured scrutiny of legislation.
Last week, the Standing Orders Committee published its report, recommending a suite of changes to improve select committee scrutiny and legislative processes. The bulk of the recommendations seek to improve select committee scrutiny of the Executive – key proposals include allowing more time for scrutiny hearings on Estimates and annual reviews, detailed procedures for in-depth annual reviews, and inquiries into Government reporting.
The report also includes some recommendations to amend the rules relating to entrenchment proposals.
In its submission to the Standing Orders Committee, the Law Society recommended amending the Standing Orders to require entrenchment proposals to be referred to, and reported on by a select committee. We welcome the amendments proposed by the Standing Orders Committee to clarify that entrenchment proposals cannot be considered in a committee of the whole House without being subjected to a select committee process (including a call for submissions).
The Law Society also welcomes the amendments which provide that proposals for entrenchment cannot be afforded urgency when they are considered at the committee of the whole House stage. These amendments will help ensure entrenchment proposals are the subject of considered debate and public engagement.
In addition to amendments relating to entrenchment proposals and select committee scrutiny, the Committee’s recommendations also seek to:
- Simplify parliamentary terminology;
- Address concerns about potential conflicts which may arise when Government officials summarise submissions on Government bills;
- Permanently incorporate the Sessional orders made under the Zealand Bill of Rights (Declarations of Inconsistency) Amendment Act 2022, which contain the rules for considering declarations of inconsistency; and
- Expressly recognise that the Attorney-General may report on the consistency of a bill, as amended or proposed to be amended, with the rights and freedoms contained in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.
Last week, Parliament agreed to a motion to adopt the amendments recommended by the Standing Orders Committee. The amendments will take effect from the day after the dissolution or expiration of the current Parliament.
The Law Society’s submissions to the Standing Orders Committee are available here and here. The Law Society thanks its Public Law Committee members for their input into these submissions.