Business Committee

The Business committee plays an important role in how Parliament and select committees are run.

Each year it recommends when Parliament meets and when matters are debated (the order of business). It decides who the members of select committees are. The Business Committee also determines if Parliament meets for extended periods of time (extended settings).

These decision-making processes and determinations are guided by Standing Orders 162 – 164.

The Business Committee makes decisions on many aspects of the proceedings of Parliament and its committees. These decisions are known as “determinations” and take effect from the time they are released.

Every party is represented on the committee. The committee makes its decisions on a basis of near-unanimity, which means that agreement is given by members representing the overwhelming majority of members of Parliament. This ensures that there is a general consensus supporting any decision made by the committee.

There are a wide variety of decisions that the Business Committee can make. It can determine when and how the debate of a particular item of business will proceed. This might include setting the number of speeches for particular debates, agreeing that a particular bill may progress to later stages faster than usual, or deciding when members’ maiden or valedictory statements are to take place. It can decide when an extended sitting will occur, and the business to be considered during that sitting. It agrees to a roster allocating oral questions and speeches in the general debate. Towards the end of each year, it recommends a sitting programme for the next year to be adopted by Parliament.

The committee also makes a number of decisions affecting select committees, including setting and changing the membership of committees, extending the date by which a committee must report a bill to Parliment, or allowing a committee to meet elsewhere in the country while Parliament is sitting.

SO 161. (a) Business Committee

(1) The Speaker convenes a Business Committee at the commencement of each Parliament.

(2) The Speaker chairs the Business Committee. If the Speaker is unable to act as chairperson of the committee, the Deputy Speaker must act as the chairperson for so long as the chairperson is unable to do so.

(3) Every party is entitled to be represented at each meeting of the committee by one member nominated by its leader.

(4) The names of the members nominated are given to the Speaker.

(1) The committee reaches decisions on the basis of unanimity or, if this is not possible, near-unanimity having regard to the numbers in the Parliament represented by each of the members of the committee. Near-unanimity means agreement has been given on behalf of the overwhelming majority of members of Parliament.

(2) The Speaker is the judge of whether unanimity is possible and, if it is not, whether a sufficient degree of near-unanimity has been reached for there to be an effective determination by the committee.

(3) Before determining that near-unanimity has been reached, the Speaker must be satisfied that, having regard to the party membership in the Parliament, the proposed determination is fair to all parties and does not discriminate against or oppress a minority party or minority parties.

(a) that a minor adjustment is to be made to the hours of a specified sitting day:

(b) the order of business to be transacted in the Parliament:

(c) when business will be transacted in the Parliament:

(d) the time to be spent on an item of business:

(e) that any two or more items of business may be taken together for the purpose of debate:

(f) how time on an item of business is to be allocated among the parties represented in the Parliament:

(g) the speaking times of individual members on an item of business:

(h) any other matters delegated to the committee under the Standing Orders.

(1) A determination of the Business Committee takes effect when it is notified in writing to all members of Parliament. A determination must be published, and circulated on the Order Paper, before any sitting of the Parliament at which it is to apply.

(2) A determination of the Business Committee applies despite any other Standing Order to the contrary.