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Thursday, April 24, 2014
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Update Standing Orders, modernise Parliament
Parliament has been operating with the same standing orders for more than five decades. That is why so many of its procedures are much stuffier and more formal than those of Westminster, after which this country’s system was modelled. It is no wonder that the T&T Parliament is widely thought to be irrelevant, out of touch and simply boring.
The Standing Orders that govern its procedures have not been overhauled since 1961: they still contain references to the governor and debar uncomplimentary references to the conduct of the royal family—in a country that has had republican status since 1976. The institution and its members have lost respect, a fact they are aware of and wish to put right. Updating the Standing Orders would have the effect of updating Parliament.
The proposals by the Standing Orders Committee for a long needed overhaul are urgently needed to finally drag the country’s legislature into the 21st century. The report made public just a few days ago contains many good suggestions, including reducing the speaking time of MPs from 70 to 30 minutes. There is no good reason for an MP who has no specialist knowledge of a subject to speak for 70 minutes on it, especially after days or weeks of a debate.
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