Upset MPs stage walkout

By Derek Cheng

Labour and Green Party MPs walked out of a parliamentary committee yesterday, accusing chairwoman Sandra Goudie of subverting the democratic process.

Ms Goudie, the National MP for the Coromandel, rejected the claims and distanced herself from responsibility by pointing out that committee decisions are taken with a majority vote.

Labour law and order spokesman Clayton Cosgrove said the walkout was the result of 18 months of Ms Goudie's refusing "to respect the democratic role of Opposition MPs to ask questions and challenge government departments".

It is understood that while considering a bill to prevent prisoners from voting in general elections, a majority on the committee blocked the Clerk of the House of Representatives from giving advice on a procedural matter.

Mr Cosgrove said: "It is a long-standing parliamentary tradition that when the House is in committee, and an MP in the chamber asks for the Speaker to be recalled to give a ruling, the House agrees. Members are entitled to the same expectation at a select committee."

He has previously complained about the committee voting to prevent Justice Ministry officials from giving it advice, and preventing a minority report criticising the Government's three strikes bill from being published - a move believed to be unprecedented.

He also accused Ms Goudie of shutting down questions from Labour MPs, but she said this has happened only when she decided questions were out of the committee's scope.

"The committee, when it makes a decision, is decided by a majority," she said. "That's the democratic process."

- NZ Herald

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