New Parliament Standing Orders to be use during second sitting

After eighteen years, the Vanuatu Parliament will use new and more comprehensive rules to make the operation of Parliament more effective.

Deputy Parliament Clerk, Leon Teter, says in the next Parliament sitting in November, the members of Parliament will use the new Standing Orders which will replaced the former orders that has been used since 1982.

Parliament standing orders are the permanent written rules that guide how Parliament regulates its proceedings.

Mr Teter says the new Parliament Standing Orders covers more parliamentary procedures than the former standing orders. It includes 102 orders compared to the old orders that only had 55 orders.

He says the old standing orders were introduced in 2002, when Vanuatu’s leaders saw a need to strengthen the rules that governed the operation of Parliament.

The Deputy Parliament Clerk says, “The first draft of this new standing orders were put together in about 2010. Two current members of Parliament, Prime Minister Bob Loughman and Opposition Leader Ralph Regenvanu, had pushed for a review of the standing orders at that time. ”

Mr Teter says the push for the new orders came at a time of political instability when governments fell, changed and shifted a lot.

“When governments change, so do the parliamentary standing committees. And, when the committees change, they make additional changes to the draft standing orders. So it took us 18 years to complete this new standing orders and now, this year, the Parliament has finally approved the change,” Mr Teter said.

Mr Teter says the standing orders has gone through many changes and drafts, with the final approved draft, being the 21st draft.

He says the new standing orders reduces the number of the parliamentary standing committees from eight to four.

The new orders also states clearly the exact dates of the two parliamentary sittings. It sets down the second Thursday of May as the date the first ordinary sitting of Parliament must start and the first Thursday of November as the date the second ordinary sitting must start.

The former standing orders stated only that the first ordinary sitting must start in mid-March and the second ordinary sitting in mid-August.

Mr Teter says because the old orders did not set down an actual date and had a more open time frame, it allowed governments to delay sittings, such as with the first ordinary sitting sometimes not being called by the Speaker until June.

“The timing of the parliamentary recess period has also changed from 20 June to 20 July to 15 July to 15 August under the new order,” he said.

He says the new 15 July to 15 August recess period is a better time for the Parliament to take a break because it includes important national holidays, such as Children’s Day and the 30 July Independence Day, and is a period when many MPs want to spend time with voters back in their constituencies.

Parliamentary recess is a time when the Parliament and the parliamentary standing committees do not meet.

The new standing order also increases the time the Parliament will spend on oral question sessions. The former standing order stated that oral questions must happen twice a week during parliamentary sittings but question time will happen every day the Parliament sits under the new standing order.

Mr Teter says the parliamentary officers have shared the new standing orders with all MPs and have also run an induction course to explain the orders to all members.

The Vanuatu Parliament approved the new standing orders in June 2020.

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