Commonwealth Speakers and Presiding Officers, irrespective of race, colour, religion or culture, are united by community of interest, respect for the rule of law and pursuit of the ideals of parliamentary democracy, and have formally established the Conference of Commonwealth Speakers and Presiding Officers.
The aims of the Conference are the maintenance, fostering and encouragement of the impartiality and fairness of Speakers and Presiding Officers of Parliaments, the promotion of knowledge and understanding of parliamentary democracy in its various forms and the development of parliamentary institutions.
- Conferences shall be called Conferences of Commonwealth Speakers and Presiding Officers, shall be numbered successively and, as far as practicable, shall be convened biennially.
- Membership shall be open to Speakers and Presiding Officers of National Parliaments of all independent sovereign states of the Commonwealth of Nations.
- Where a Legislature is dissolved for the purposes of a general election, its Members at the time of dissolution remain members of the Conference and, if applicable, of the Standing Committee until successors are elected or chosen.
- A Deputy Speaker or Presiding Officer may, by prior notification to the host Parliament, attend a Conference as a substitute for his or her Speaker or Presiding Officer. Any such substitute shall enjoy the same status as a member of the Conference but shall not be eligible for membership on the Standing Committee or any other position in the Conference.
- There shall be a Standing Committee consisting of a Chairperson and members generally representative of each of the regions of the Commonwealth, defined as follows: Africa; Asia; Australia /New Zealand; Canada; the Caribbean, the Atlantic and the Americas; British Isles and the Mediterranean; India; the Pacific; Southeast Asia.
- The representation from each region shall be as follows:
- Australia /New Zealand
- British Isles and the Mediterranean
- Southeast Asia
- The Caribbean, the Atlantic and the Americas
- The Pacific
- The Secretary of the Standing Committee shall invite all Speakers and Presiding Officers who are members of the Conference to nominate candidates for election to the Standing Committee. These nominations shall be submitted in writing to the Secretary no later than the conclusion of proceedings on the first day of a Conference.
- Each Speaker or Presiding Officer may submit only one nomination, provided that no Speaker or Presiding Officer from a bicameral Parliament may nominate his or her colleague from the same Parliament; Provided further that the Presiding Officer of a bicameral Parliament may nominate his or her colleague from the same Parliament if such country is a region by itself.
- The Standing Committee shall, in addition, have three ex-officio members representing the last host, the current host and the next hosting member, drawn from the membership of the Conference and enjoying the full rights and privileges of regional representatives on the Committee.
- Members of the Standing Committee shall hold office from the end of one Conference to the end of the next Conference.
- The quorum of the Standing Committee shall be five members.
- At the conclusion of each Conference, when the venue of the next Conference has been agreed upon, the Speaker or Presiding Officer hosting that Conference shall assume the Chair of the Standing Committee.
- In a bicameral Parliament, the Chairperson shall be the Speaker or Presiding Officer who presides over the House that is directly elected and designated as either: the House of Assembly; the Legislative Assembly; the National Assembly; the House of Commons; the House of Representatives or the Lok Sabha.
- The Speaker or Presiding Officer who hosts a meeting of the Standing Committee and who is not the Chairperson or an elected member of the Standing Committee shall be an additional member of the Committee for that meeting.
- to decide dates, venues and procedures of the next Conference;
- to propose subjects for discussion at the next Conference and to prepare a Draft Agenda;
- to review the Standing Rules and to propose, as it deems necessary, draft amendments to the Rules for the consideration of the Conference, and
- to consider all matters concerning the organisation and conduct of the Conference, including financial arrangements.
Standing Rules of the Conference
- A motion for the amendment of the Standing Rules or the adoption of new rules shall require two months’ notice to be given in writing to the Secretary of the Standing Committee before the commencement of the Conference at which it is to be considered. Such a motion shall be proposed and seconded from the floor of the Conference and shall be decided by a majority vote of the Conference. Any amendment or new rule so adopted shall be effective immediately, unless the Conference otherwise determines.
Officers of the Conference
- Officers of the Conference shall be the Chairperson; two Vice-Chairpersons; and the Secretary-General.
- The Chairperson shall be the Speaker or Presiding Officer of the host Parliament, as defined in Rule 9.
- The Vice-Chairpersons shall be elected by the Conference. Nominations for the office of Vice-Chairperson shall be proposed and seconded from the floor of the Conference. If more than two candidates are nominated, the Vice-Chairpersons shall be elected by secret ballot.
- A single ballot paper shall be used for the purpose of the election and all members including the Chairperson shall be entitled to vote. The votes shall be counted by two tellers nominated by the Chairperson who shall declare elected the candidates receiving the largest and second largest number of votes respectively. In the event of an equality of votes, the Chairperson shall also exercise a casting vote, if necessary.
- The Secretary-General of the Conference shall be the Clerk, Secretary-General or Secretary, as the case may be, of the House over which the Chairperson presides.
Powers and Functions of Officers
- The Chairperson shall:
- preside at each session of the Conference;
- open, suspend, and close sittings; and
- fix the date, time and items for discussion at each sitting.
- In the absence of the Chairperson or by invitation, either Vice-Chairperson may preside at a session of the Conference, exercising the powers and functions of the Chairperson as set out in Rule 18.
- The Secretary-General shall co-ordinate the secretarial, administrative and other arrangements of the Conference, appointing such officers and staff as may be required.
- The host Chairperson may invite any person to the Conference as an Observer.
- At the request of a Speaker or Presiding Officer and by leave of the Conference, Observers may take part in the discussions of the Conference but shall not have the right to vote.
- The sittings of the Conference shall be open, unless the Conference decides otherwise.
The Conduct of Business
- The Agenda shall be adopted by the Conference at its first session. Motions for the addition of items to, the amendment of items on, or the deletion of items from, the Draft Agenda or Agenda may be proposed and seconded from the floor of the Conference, and shall be decided by a majority vote of the Conference.
- The items on the Agenda shall be considered in such order as the Conference may decide.
- Members wishing to speak shall seek to be recognised by the Chairperson. When two or more members seek the floor, the member called by the Chairperson shall be entitled to speak.
- A member leading the discussion on any item on the Agenda may prepare for circulation in advance a paper dealing with that item. A member should make every effort not to read verbatim from a previously prepared and circulated paper but may summarise and refer to it.
- Members may not speak more than once on any item of the Agenda unless by leave of the Conference.
- Speeches shall be limited as follows:
- opening speeches on any item on the Agenda, not more than fifteen minutes;
- intervening speeches and speeches in reply, not more than ten minutes; and
- second speeches under Rule 28: not more than five minutes.
- When the time for a speech has expired and the speaker has not completed the intervention, the Chairperson may extend the time-limit by three minutes for opening speeches and by one minute for all other speeches.
- A speaker shall not be interrupted except on a point of order but may give way to enable elucidation of a particular point, the time-limit being adjusted accordingly.
Ad Hoc Committees
- The Conference may refer any matter arising out of an item on the Agenda to a Committee for consideration and the Conference shall determine the membership of each Committee.
- Unless the Conference otherwise decides, each Committee shall elect its own Chairperson and appoint a rapporteur for each subject referred to it. The rapporteur shall prepare the report of the Committee for presentation to the Conference and for inclusion in its final report.
- The Conference may fix the time by which each Committee shall report to the Conference and may discuss each Committee report.
Report of the Conference
- The Secretary-General shall arrange for verbatim reports of all plenary discussions of the Conference. These reports shall, if possible, be made available to each speaker for editorial amendment before the next session of the Conference.
- The Secretary-General shall prepare and distribute as soon as possible after a Conference a report of its proceedings, which shall include the verbatim record of plenary discussions and any reports presented to the Conference by Committees. Copies of this report shall be distributed to Speakers and Presiding Officers of Commonwealth Parliaments, to their Clerks, Secretaries-General and Secretaries and to Conference Observers.