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Table 3: Average number of questions without notice asked of a Minister per year

are those of the Executive and no non-government Bills are passed or even considered.

Number of non-government amendments agreed to

Healthy Parliament: • The Legislature considers all amendments on their merit, and those considered to enhance the legislation are passed regardless of whether they are moved by a govern- ment or non-government member; • Legislators in the lower or single House have the right to initiate legislation and to offer amendments to proposed legislation ; and • Recommendations made by scrutiny of Bills or other commit- tees are considered, debated, and if considered worthy, agreed to.

one in terms of the legislative role (i.e. who has passed the most laws) using Sir Humphreys criteria, would be the Commonwealth Parliament. This is shown in Table One:

Proposed measures for Parliaments

I believe there are better measures than just the number of laws passed or questions asked that indicate whether a Parliament is healthy or not. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association /World Bank Institute/ United Nations Development Program (CPA/WBI/UNDP) has 87 benchmarks, some of which I’ve used, but in the 24/7 news cycle, I doubt whether the achievement against these would get a mention. Condensing these down to just 10 key measures which best represent to the public the value of Parliaments in assisting democratic process is not easy. Such measures would need, in my opinion, to highlight the degree to which the Legislature is not being dominated by the Executive. Measures would also need to draw attention to procedures (through standing orders) that protect minority viewpoints. This would ensure that the legislative process is being utilized to the fullest extent to provide for the rule

of law in the society which is being governed, and effective scrutiny of the Executive. So the 10 measures in the categories of legislating, scrutiny and representation that I would choose are as follows:


Time taken for Bills to be considered by the Legislature

Healthy Parliament: • The Legislature provides ad- equate opportunity for legislators to debate Bills prior to a vote ; • Very few if any closure/guillotine motions that curtail debate on legisla- tion; and • Opportunities given for public input into the legislative process .

Unhealthy Parliament: • A high number of Bills are intro- duced and passed on the same day with little or no debate.

Percentage of Bills considered by committees Healthy Parliament: • There is a presumption that the Legislature will refer legislation to a committee, and any exemption must be transparent, narrowly defined, and extraordinary in nature ; and

188 | The Parliamentarian | 2013: Issue Three

• Committees have adequate time to consider legislation, seek public input and make recommenda- tions which are considered by the Legislature.

Unhealthy Parliament: • No Bills, or very few, are referred to committees; and • Bills are referred to committees, but the time allowed leaves little or no time for a thorough consideration and full inquiry by the committee.


Percentage of Bills passed or introduced by non-executive members

Healthy Parliament: • Although most of the Bills agreed to by the Legislature are ones that have been introduced by the Executive, some Bills passed have been introduced by non-executive members; and • If non-government Bills are passed it emphasizes the independ- ent nature of the Legislature and helps to ensure that it is not seen as just rubber-stamping executive Bills.

Unhealthy Parliament: • The only Bills that gain passage

Unhealthy Parliament: • An amendment is agreed to only if moved by a Minister; • Recommendations from scrutiny of Bills or other committees are never or rarely agreed to or receive little or no consideration.

Percentage of questions on notice answered in a timely manner

Healthy Parliament: • Almost all questions on notice are answered within the required time; • Only a very few answers contain the words along the line of “there are insufficient resources available to answer the Members question”; and • The Legislature has mechanisms to obtain information from the execu- tive branch sufficient to exercise its oversight function in a meaningful way .

Unhealthy Parliament: • No questions on notice are answered within the required time- frame; and • Questions are answered, but significantly later than when the question is asked, and don’t really address the question.

Percentage of government responses to committee reports

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