Weakening Parliament through Government Business

Much has been said about the dominance of the executive arm of government in Parliament. Arguments have been made to support the assertion that Parliament is dominated by the government.

A lot has been said about the nomenclature of the House in which over 40% of Members of Parliament (MPs) is the executive and that the ruling party backbench is numerically weaker than the front bench. It has been also contended that the ruling party caucus decisions are binding on all MPs. Critics have also pointed to the lack of independence of Parliament because it depends on the Office of the President for staff and resources, among other things. Not much has been said about how through Government Business in the House and other flawed arrangements the Government exert its dominance in Parliamentary proceedings. The argument sought to be made here is that Government Business and Ministers dominate the agenda and the time in the House and that it is bad for the independence and power of Parliament.

What is Government Business and why is it an issue? Government Business is defined by the Standing Orders as proceedings on motions of which notice has been given by, and on Bills in charge of ministers and assistant ministers. Ministers may also bring motions to adopt policy documents, can make statements in the House and can also table papers inter alia. This effectively is Government Business, whilst it is not explicitly defined as such by the Standing Orders.  The leader of the House office is worth noting and it is according to the Standing Orders, a Minister designated as such by the President for the arrangement of business in the House and traditionally it has been the Vice President of the Republic of Botswana.

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