APPENDIX C : (Item 4 on the Agenda )


ROLE AND STATUS OF LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION AND THE OPPOSITION

2 June 2004

Background:

The Rules provide that members are called to participate in a debate in accordance with a list of speakers for that debate (Rule 59). When the debate on the President's state-of-the-nation address commenced, on 9 February 2004, the list of speakers indicated that a Minister and Majority Party (ANC) member would be the first speaker. When he was duly called to speak, the Chief Whip of the Opposition, on a point of order, queried the speaking order, saying that "this must be the only parliamentary democracy in the world where an ANC speaker responds to the President instead of the Leader of the Opposition". The Speaker (Dr Ginwala), referring to a decision that had been taken by all parties in 1996, confirmed that the Leader of the Opposition had the right to make the first response, if he wished. She then allowed the Minister to continue, but added: would suggest, in future, that we abide by that decision or change it" (Hansard, 9 February 2004)."


On 25 May 2004, in response to a similar point of order raised by Mr DHM Gibson regarding the speaking turn of the Leader of the Opposition in the debate on the President's state-of-the-nation address, the Speaker (Ms Mbete) gave the following ruling: Hon Gibson correctly reminds those of us who were part of the past Parliament that there was a ruling by the then Speaker, Speaker Ginwala, on 9 February 2004 when a similar point of order had been raised. Regrettably, there was not enough time after that ruling, because, as you will know, within that month the House dissolved. Therefore, given that the point of order is raised at this point when we have a speakers' list in front of us, I would like to rule that this matter should go to a forum where it can be properly discussed - such an opportunity arises at the Rules Committee meeting tomorrow - so that the issue of whether or not the Leader of the Opposition ought to exercise the right of first response after the President's address is a matter that is agreed upon.

I rule that at the moment, we proceed with the speakers' list as it stands, [interjections.] We will process how the matter should be dealt with in future. After a discussion at the meeting of the NA Rules Committee on Friday, 28 May 2004, it was agreed that


The following document contains information pertaining to the role, status and privileges of the Leader of the Opposition in a number of Parliaments and on the role of the (Official) Opposition.

 

CANADA

Official Opposition

1. The opposition party with the largest number of seats in the House is designated as the Official Opposition. This is done by convention and is not set down in any Canadian rule or statute.


2. The Official Opposition is pre-eminent among the other recognised parties in opposition.


3. On all government bills and motions, a representative of the Official Opposition is usually the first to be recognised in debate following the lead speaker from the government.


4. When parliamentary committees present reports in the House which are accompanied by supplementary or dissenting opinions or recommendations, a committee member from the Official Opposition, representing those who supported the opinions or recommendations, may rise and offer a succint explanation.


5. Should an equality of seats among the largest opposition parties occur, the Speaker may be called upon to decide which party should be designated as the Official Opposition.


Leader of the Opposition

1. If the leader of the party designated as the Official Opposition holds a seat as a Member of the House, he or she automatically becomes Leader of the Opposition. If he or she does not have a seat in the House, the caucus of the Official Opposition may designate another of its members to act as Opposition Leader.


2. The office of the Leader of the Opposition was formally recognised when Parliament voted to give the incumbent an additional salary allowance, equal to that provided to Cabinet Ministers.


3.The Opposition Leader is accorded certain rights and privileges, including


4. Traditionally, the Speaker recognises the Leader of the Opposition as the first to ask a question during the daily Question Period, should the latter rise to seek the floor.


5. The rules empower the Opposition Leader to extend a committee's consideration of the Main Estimates of a specific department or agency.


Other opposition party leaders


1.The leaders of other recognised opposition parties usually also sit in the front row of the Chamber.


2. They are the first member of their party to be given the floor should they rise to ask a question during the Question Period.


3. Some statutes require that the government consult with the Leader of the Opposition, as well as other party leaders, when certain actions are contemplated or prior to making certain sensitive appointments.


4. The Standing Orders of the House provide


STATE OF PARTIES AS AT 6 MAY 2004

Liberal

Conservative

BQ

NDP

Independence

Vacancies

Total

168

73

33

14

9

4

301


AUSTRALIA4 House of Representatives (Official) Opposition

1 . The Opposition is the party or group which has the greatest number of non government member; in the House of Representatives


2. It is organised as a body with the officially recognised function of opposing the Government.


3. The party (or sometimes coalition of parties) is recognised as the "alternative Government".


4. When the Opposition consists of more than one party opposed to the Government, and the parties prefer to remain distinct, the single party having the largest number of members is recognised as the "official Opposition".

  1. If the official Opposition is not clear by virtue of numbers, it is for the Speaker to decide which group shall be so called, and who will be recognised by the Chair as the Leader of the Opposition.

  2. Leader of the Opposition

    1. There is only one Leader of the Opposition. The Senate Leader is the "Leader of the Opposition in the Senate".


    2. The office of the Leader of the Opposition was statutorily recognised for the first time in 1920 for the purposes of the payment of an allowance.


    3. The Leader of the Opposition is currently remunerated at a rate above that for the majority of Ministers and he/she is placed 10th in the Commonwealth Table of Precedence.


    4. In 1931 the office was recognised in the Standing Orders when the Leader of the Opposition was granted special rights with regard to speech time limits in specific instances.


    5. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is also recognised in the standing orders with ex officio membership of the Privileges Committee.

  3. The Leader of the Opposition and Deputy Leader, by convention, receive a degree of special latitude or preference from the Chair by virtue of their offices with respect to

STATE OF PARTIES AS AT 2 JUNE 2004

*Liberal Party of Australia

*Nationals

Australian Labor Party

Independents

Australian Green

Country Liberal Party

Total

68

13

64

3

1

1

150


NEW ZEALAND

Leader of the Opposition

1. The leader of the largest party in terms of its parliamentary membership which is not in Government or in coalition with a Government party is entitled to be recognised as Leader of the Opposition


2. The position first received statutory recognition in 1933 and has been recognised by the High Salaries Committee in the payment of a special salary and allowances.


3. The Leader of the Opposition has particular speaking rights in certain situations. For example, one the first sitting day of each year, the Prime Minister must make a statement to the House reviewing public affairs and outlining the Government's legislative and other policy intentions for the next 12 months. A debate is held immediately following the Prime Minister's statement on a motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition.


4. At the State Opening of Parliament, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition flank the Governor-General during the reading of the Speech from the Throne.


IRELAND

Dail Eiream

1. The Standing Orders of the Dail do not formally recognise any opposition party as the official opposition nor anyone as leader of the opposition, but statutory provision is made in the law governing leaders' allowances for an allowance to be paid to the Leader of the Opposition.


2. By convention, the largest opposition party is referred to as the "main opposition party" and the leader of that party is called the Leader of the Opposition.


3. Also by convention, the Leader of the Opposition is seated directly opposite the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) in the Chamber. He/she has no other special privileges.

  1. A member in whose name a motion is tabled usually speaks first. However, for significant debates it is usually the Leader of the Opposition who speaks first, as the motion will have been tabled in his/her name

STATE OF PARTIES AS AT 2JUNE 2004

 

Fianne Fail

Fine Gael

Labour Party

Progressive Democrats

Green Party

Sinn Fein

Independents

Total

53

31

20

4

6

5

14

133


ENGLAND

House of Commons

1. Though the office of Leader of the Opposition had been long recognised in practice, statutory recognition was only given in 1937 through the grant of a salary to the Leader of the Opposition


2. The prevalence (on the whole) of the two-party system generally obviates any uncertainty as to which party has the right to the be called the "Official Opposition" - it is the largest minority party which is prepared, in the event of the resignation of the Government, to assume office.

3. The Opposition acquired the right to exercise the initiative

4. The Leader of the Opposition is by custom accorded certain peculiar rights in asking questions of Ministers.

STATE OF PARTIES AS AT 28 MAY 2005

Labour

Conservation

Liberal Democratic

Scottish National Party

Democrat Unionist

Ulster Unionist

Sinn Fein

Social Democratic and Labour

Ind

Ind Cons

Ind Labour

Speaker and deputies

Total

407

163

54

9

6

5

4

3

1

1

1

4

658*

 

Government majority 160

*1 vacancv

Note: Information was also requested from Trinidad and Tobago, Ghana and Botswana. To date nothing has been received. The Standing Orders of Ghana 9 contain no reference to either the opposition or a leader of the opposition.