Speaker’s Rulings — Retrospective Rulings

I missed a Speaker’s ruling from Parliament, thanks for pointing it out duperez. It adds to recent discussions here. In brief:

…in light of the matters raised, it is worth referring to the full text of the report at page 14:

“There is a well-established prohibition on raising points of order in the House about events that have passed. This helps ensure that points of order address matters that are relevant to the maintenance of order at that point in time and are not themselves used to disrupt the order of the House.”

This prohibition on retrospective points of order is appropriate and we encourage Speakers to continue not to entertain them.

Points of order are not intended to ask questions or to seek clarification. They are to deal with matters of order at the time they are occurring in the House or to draw the Speaker’s attention to the fact that a member intends to exercise a right given by Standing Orders, such as making a personal explanation.

The committee intended that the Speaker could, on his or her initiative, deal with retrospective matters of order. It did not empower members to raise such matters on the floor of the House and, in fact, required them to be raised privately with the Speaker.

Members have a right and a duty to raise points of order where they feel the House is outside its Standing Orders, but any attempt to bring into question the Chair’s decision is out of order and is in no way protected by the Standing Orders.

So points of order are for dealing with compliance with Standing Orders as debate unfolds in the House. Raising issues about past decisions and clarifications need to be done in private with the Speaker.

Questioning rulings is forbidden – for good reason, if it was allowed it would enable endless bickering with the Speaker.

This was raised by ex-Speaker David Carter on Wednesday 6 November 2017.

Speakers’ Rulings—Interpretation of Speaker’s Ruling 20/5

Rt Hon DAVID CARTER (National): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to ask you to give serious consideration to a considered ruling to points that were raised at the start of question time around retrospectively raising points of order. I did not make that point at the time, because I considered that your patience was getting to a stage when it may have been dangerous to do so. But as you and I know, when we go back and look at Hansard, subsequent to question time, we often see pieces in that Hansard that we wish to question and raise with the Speaker.

You and I both sat on the Standing Orders Committee and were both partly responsible for the inclusion of Speaker’s ruling 20/5 around the ability to raise issues retrospectively. You will remember, without doubt, the history of why that particular point was put into the report of the Standing Orders Committee and consequently into Speakers’ rulings.

I think it is a very dangerous precedent that could be potentially made by your initial ruling today that, unless matters are raised instantly, they cannot be raised at all.

I ask whether you would consider the points that I think were raised considerately by members at the start of question time, particularly by Opposition members, and have a look at Hansard again and perhaps come back to the House with a considered ruling and the ability for us to raise, retrospectively, points of order that we think are worthwhile raising.

There was no discussion that I recall during the deliberations of the Standing Orders Committee about a stage by which such concerns were raised privately with the Speaker in his office. Members of Parliament—Opposition and Government—have rights to raise points of order and I ask you to reconsider very carefully your original initial ruling made at the start of question time today.

Mr SPEAKER: I want to thank my right honourable predecessor for his intervention. I will seek further advice on this. Clearly, we have different memories of the reasoning behind this and the methodology to be used, and if it’s shown that his memory is better than mine, which I wouldn’t at all be surprised by, then I will come back to the House.

The Speaker came back to the House on this on Thursday.

Retrospective RulingsInterpretation of Speaker’s Ruling 20/5

Mr SPEAKER: The second point: yesterday, the Rt Hon David Carter raised with me the issue of retrospective rulings on matters of order. I’ve reflected on that matter and on methods of disagreeing with a ruling of the Chair. Earlier this year the Standing Orders Committee considered the matter of retrospective rulings.

An extract from the committee’s report appears as Speaker’s ruling 20/5. However, in light of the matters raised, it is worth referring to the full text of the report at page 14: “There is a well-established prohibition on raising points of order in the House about events that have passed. This helps ensure that points of order address matters that are relevant to the maintenance of order at that point in time and are not themselves used to disrupt the order of the House.

This prohibition on retrospective points of order is appropriate and we encourage Speakers to continue not to entertain them.

We consider, however, that the Speaker is able to deal retrospectively in the House with matters of order if the Speaker considers it is important and in the House’s interest to do so. The Speaker’s primary task is to preside over the effective conduct of proceedings. Where an incident may have a continued impact on the House’s ability to deal with its business, the Speaker can address the matter.

Members should raise such issues privately with the Speaker, outside the House. This ensures that the prohibition on retrospective points of order remains undisturbed and members can discuss their concerns with the Speaker away from the charged atmosphere of the Chamber. There is still, of course, a strong presumption that points of order will be raised immediately. As always, rulings of the Speaker are final. A retrospective ruling on a matter of order does not reopen the matter for discussion.”

The committee intended that the Speaker could, on his or her initiative, deal with retrospective matters of order. It did not empower members to raise such matters on the floor of the House and, in fact, required them to be raised privately with the Speaker. While the event that led to the change involved a comment that the Speaker had not heard, the report did not restrict members’ rights to raise a variety of matters relating to the order of the House and the rights of members. The presumption remains that a point of order must be raised once and cannot be raised by a member at a later time—Speakers’ rulings 20/3 and 20/4.

Speakers from Guinness through to Carter have ruled that when a matter has been the subject of a decision by the Chair, that decision is final and comment on it is not allowed. Members have a right and a duty to raise points of order where they feel the House is outside its Standing Orders, but any attempt to bring into question the Chair’s decision is out of order and is in no way protected by the Standing Orders. To persist in doing so, despite warning, makes it a highly disorderly procedure—Speakers’ ruling 22/3. The only way to challenge the ruling of a Speaker is by a direct motion on notice—Speakers’ rulings 17/6 and 18/1.

Points of order are not intended to ask questions or to seek clarification. They are to deal with matters of order at the time they are occurring in the House or to draw the Speaker’s attention to the fact that a member intends to exercise a right given by Standing Orders, such as making a personal explanation. I thank the Rt Hon David Carter for raising this matter.

I will circulate this ruling immediately and I will be available in my office from 5 to 6 p.m. today and again next week, if members require further clarification.

4 Comments

  1. Gezza

     /  December 9, 2017

    I watched both days when this matter was dealt with. A resounding win for Speaker Mallard who I think, despite his folksy, think-out-loud manner put his memory-challenged predecessor in his place & will, I hope, bring some order & a more business-like approach to proceedings in The House. Who is not sick to death of the shenanigans which things have descended to? The beggars are there to run the country & represent the people, not to play stupid games & waste our time & tax dollars!

  2. Ray

     /  December 9, 2017

    Quite correct Gazza but I do love the way a lefty can switch off their brain when they get into power and forget how they acted while in opposition and what they said.
    Eg As evidence one Winston Peters ” Mr Point of Order”.
    Total amnesia, and let’s not mention the flip flops!

  3. robertguyton

     /  December 9, 2017

    Those who reveled in Carter’s “advice” to the Speaker were wrong and showed themselves one-eyed and a little lacking in logical thinking, imo. Of course, they’ll join this thread to admit their mistake, in 5…4…

  4. chrism56

     /  December 9, 2017

    The issue the ex-Speaker raised was about when to raise retrospective points of order. The current Speaker’s initial ruling was that if they were not raised immediately, they could not be raised at all..
    On the next day, Mr Mallard’s clarification was that the retrospective points could not be raised in the House, but they could be dealt with by raising the issue with him privately. And a retrospective ruling could be made, but not debated.
    Now, who is wrong Robert, and why?