Friday 17 March 2017
Welcome to the summary of the second day’s proceedings at the Pacific Islands Westminster Seminar. Day Two was an opportunity to explore in greater detail the various roles and functions within the parliamentary system.
MPs’ Roles and Responsibilities
The morning saw the delegates divided into parliamentarians and clerks and the opening session with the parliamentarians, chaired by Ian Liddell-Grainger MP, explored the various demands on an MP.
The session heard from Fijian MP, Hon. Lorna Eden, who highlighted the challenges she faces with regards to accountability in a country with just one constituency. The session also heard from Hon. Talaititama Talaiti MAM from Niue who explored the relationship between Ministers and MPs and made some observations about the interplay between the two.
The parliamentarians then looked at life in opposition. Roberta Blackman-Woods MP, opened the session exploring what role opposition parties play in scrutinising the executive. Shadow Minister for Internal Affairs in Kiribati, Hon. Teima Onorio MP, also gave her insights describing how, in opposition, she has been able to take the government to task on manifesto promises it has failed to deliver on.
Hon. Tetangi Matapo MP from the Cook Islands, also shared her experiences as an opposition MP. Representing the people of an outlying island, she highlighted how she has needed a strong network of support in order to remain an effective MP.
Next, Rt. Hon. Sir Alan Haselhurst MP, chaired a session that looked at the function of information services. With input from Hon. Connelly Sandakabatu MP of the Solomon Islands, the session covered the importance of briefings for MPs and the scope for sharing resources and information within the Pacific.
The final morning session then looked at the function of committees. Hon. Aliimalemanu Alofa Tuuau MP of Samoa gave her insights as Chairperson of the Finance and Expenditure Committee. UK MP, Yvonne Fovargue, and Queensland MP, Leanne Linard highlighted the strengths of committees particularly through bringing together the knowledge and experience of MPs.
Clerks’ Roles and Responsibilities
In the adjacent sessions, clerks from the Pacific explored their role in more detail. Chloe Mawson, a clerk in the UK House of Lords, spoke of the importance of building strong relationships with the chairperson of an oversight committee as well as the individual members in order to maintain trust. Marson Lilopeza, Director of Committees in the Solomon Islands, then highlighted some of the challenges he faces in a small island state with limited resources and fewer MPs.
In the second session of the morning, Kate Emms, Parliamentary Adviser to the Cabinet Office, looked at the work of a clerk in relation to legislation. It was evident from the session that while the sizes of the parliaments varied, many of the processes remained the same and there was much to learn from one another. The delegation of clerks then explored their role with regards to procedure, discussing Standing Orders as well as the difference between rules and conventions.
The clerks’ final morning session looked at how parliaments function effectively through efficient relationships between clerks and MPs. Chief Executive of CPA UK, Andrew Tuggey CBE, likened clerks to the ‘oil’ in the machine of parliament stating that they are vital in order for it to operate smoothly.
Ethics and Standards
In the afternoon, parliamentarians and clerks came together to explore issues relating to ethics and standards with Hon. Ishmael Avui MP giving an overview of how these principles have evolved in the Solomon Islands.
Delegates then looked at the issue of equality and diversity. With parliament being an employer - not just a law-making body - the session was an opportunity for delegates to ask what was being done to ensure their legislatures were pursuing equality in the workplace.
Neil Laurie, Clerk of the Queensland Parliament, and Roberta Blackman-Woods MP, described how they’ve seen a shift in their respective parliaments with the introduction of more female members. Both acknowledged, however, that more needed to be done to encourage greater diversity.
The session also heard from Hon. Isabel Peta MHR from the Autonomous Region of Bouganville where three seats are reserved for women in the parliament. This, she said, has created greater inclusivity and women are now better represented.
The final session of the day looked at how parliaments partner with the media and civil society. Hon. Mataiasi Akauola MP who has a background in media, spoke of how it is important for parliamentarians to build relationships with both the media and NGOs in order to work together for a better society.
To follow the conference on Twitter or to add your thoughts, use the hashtag #PacificWS17 and don’t forget to follow us at @CPA_UK.