Hon members, I now wish to move on to a ruling I would like to make on motions without notice.
The presiding officers have become extremely concerned about issues that continue to arise when the proceedings come to motions without notice. Of specific concern are the content of these motions and the manner in which they are being used. For this reason I have decided to make the following ruling.
Hon members will recall that owing to various problems encountered with motions without notice at the start of the Fifth Parliament, the National Assembly Rules Committee, on 22 October 2014, discussed and recommended guidelines for motions without notice, as it had been necessary to apply our minds to sessional orders. These guidelines were adopted by this House on 28 October 2014.
A motion without notice is essentially a motion in respect of which the required notice is dispensed with by the unanimous concurrence of all members present. Such motions are traditionally condolence motions, congratulatory motions, or motions that are congenial and not of a party- political nature.
According to the guidelines, motions without notice must be circulated to all parties before noon on a particular sitting day. This allows hon members an opportunity to consider the proposal carefully in advance and to indicate their objections, if any, before the motion is formally moved in the House.
A member reads a motion before it is put to the House by the Chair. Hon members object to motions without notice for various reasons and these reasons could be, and generally are, political. Sometimes these objections could be on procedural grounds.
The circulation of these motions is not only to shield members from having to decide formally on an issue without having had the time to consider it, but also to facilitate the unanimous concurrence of all hon members. It is also to enable procedural staff to assess the motions to ensure that they comply with the Rules and advise members accordingly. The intention is that the members will, where applicable, adjust their motions to comply with the Rules.
The guidelines, as agreed to by this House, clearly state in item 10 that a motion without notice shall be ruled out of order if it does not comply with the criteria outlined in item 9, among others.
Motions are procedurally out of order if they contain offensive or unbecoming language. This would include motions that cast aspersions on other hon members, judges, or office bearers whose removal from office is dependent upon a decision of this House, or that contravene the Rules in any other way.
In the processes of this House, such a contravention of the Rules is not permitted. It could therefore not have been the intention of the guidelines that motions without notice should be used as an opportunity to disregard the Rules and Orders of the House, including the rules of debate.
Hon members, I urge you to consider carefully the appropriateness of expecting presiding officers to knowingly put for decision by the House a motion that contains offensive or unbecoming language, casts aspersions on the character of another member and/or the office bearers as mentioned above, or in any other way contravenes the agreed Orders. The presiding officer cannot be expected to put a motion for decision that clearly offends against the Rules and practices of this House.
The specific Rules I am referring to include Rule 63, which deals with offensive or unbecoming language, and Rule 66, which deals with reflections upon judges and other office bearers. As members know, this House passed an order which provides that a member who wishes to make allegations of improper conduct on the part of another should do so by way of a substantive motion.
Therefore, hon members, where a valid point of order is raised in relation to contravention of the Rules, the Chair will rule on that. Where a presiding officer becomes aware that a motion contravenes the Rules, it will not be put to the House for decision. However, where there is an objection to a motion, but in all other respects the motion complies with the guidelines and the Rules, the Chair will always put it to the House for decision.
Hon members, if what I have said was not your understanding when the House processed the guidelines, then there may be reason for this matter to be reconsidered by the Rules Committee. I am raising this because these are procedures that hon members as a collective have adopted. The House, represented by the members that constitute it, should always act responsibly to ensure that its integrity is not compromised. I thank you, hon members. [Applause.]
Hon members, we now come to motions without ... [Interjections.]