INDEPENDENT NEWS

Labour and Green MPs walk out of select committee

Published: Wed 30 Jun 2010 12:33 PM
Labour and Green MPs walk out of select committee
Three Labour MPs --- deputy chair Clayton Cosgrove, Rick Barker and Carmel Sepuloni --- and Green MP David Clendon walked out of today’s law and order select committee in protest at the conduct of chair and National MP Sandra Goudie.
Clayton Cosgrove said Ms Goudie’s behaviour today was the culmination of 18 months in which she had refused to respect the democratic role of Opposition MPs to ask questions and challenge government departments. Today’s committee session was discussing an initial Corrections Department briefing on the Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill.
Clayton Cosgrove said: “It is a long-standing parliamentary tradition that when the House is in committee, and an MP in the chamber asks for the Speaker to be recalled to give a ruling, the House always agrees. Members are entitled to the same expectation at a select committee when they ask for the Clerk of the House to be called so she can give advice on a procedural matter.”
Clayton Cosgrove, who will write to the Speaker Dr Lockwood Smith about the chair’s behaviour, said Ms Goudie would be well-advised to study the way chairs of other select committees carried out their roles.
“A good example is the justice and electoral select committee, where the chair, National MP Chester Borrows, is unfailingly polite and gives the impression he wants Opposition MPs to be able to contribute to the democratic process in a constructive way.
“It’s a matter of giving everyone a fair go. At the law and order select committee Labour MPs regularly have to put in minority reports because attempts to have their views incorporated in the body of the committee’s reports are voted down. Select committees should be about giving all members, including the minority, a chance to hold the Government to account.”
Clayton Cosgrove said today’s behaviour by Ms Goudie was the culmination of a pattern of chairing, including:
o Labour Members turned down when they asked for expert advice from Justice on the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill.
o
o Labour Members regularly shut down when asking questions as Ms Goudie pre-empts what she thinks they are going to ask.
o
o As little as 24 hours’ notice to Labour MPs to put in estimates questions.
o
o A number of such questions subsequently ruled out on what Labour Members consider spurious grounds, as almost identical estimates questions have been allowed at other select committees.
o
An extraordinary situation when a Labour minority report was actually voted down, and could not be published. This action is believed to be unprecedented.
ENDS

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