13 Feb 2024

Marathon sitting block underway with more repeals

From The House , 6:55 pm on 13 February 2024

An unusually long sitting block commences today at Parliament, with the Government resuming its repeals of legislation passed by the previous government.

This week is the start of a four-week sitting block, which is a bit unusual. It’s been several years since Parliament has sat for more than the usual chunks of two or three weeks at a time. The Government will go into urgency today to move various bills through, resurfacing for the regular day for Member’s Bills on Wednesday, and later in the week a bunch of the remaining maiden speeches for MPs new to Parliament after October’s election.

Shadow Leader of the House Kieran McAnulty talks to Johnny Blades.

Labour MP Kieran McAnulty, the Shadow Leader of the House Photo: Phil Smith


If the prolonged government coalition negotiations didn’t hold things up enough already, Parliament had only resumed for a week at the end of January following the long summer holiday when it subsequently went into recess again, adding to the sense that the start of this Parliamentary term has been fractured. So the shortest of blocks is now followed by the longest, with the Shadow Leader of the House, Labour’s Kieran McAnulty, admitting to being surprised that the National-led government has opted for the longer block.

“The whole idea of a four-week block was brought in, I think, when Chris Hipkins was Leader of the House back in 2018, and was quickly got rid of because it’s not very popular with MPs. I’m pretty sure the staff don’t really like it either, and it’s pretty hard for any government to have enough legislation lined up to fill four weeks. So we were surprised that they brought it back, but happy to go along with it. Let’s see whether they can fill it in,” McAnulty said.

Water works

First up on the Order Paper, after a motion for urgency is moved by the Government, is the debate through all stages of the Water Services Acts Repeal Bill which will dismantle the previous Government’s so-called Three Waters legislation that was passed last year.

While the Coalition Government hasn’t tabled a replacement regime yet, the Local Government Minister Simeon Brown said the Government is working on this, and that it would recognise “the importance of local decision-making and flexibility for communities and councils to determine how their water services will be delivered in future”.

Focussing on a repeal alone, rather than a replacement, is relatively straightforward, with no fiddly little sections and parts that require microscopic inspection during the Committee of the Whole House stage. Nevertheless in the case of the Water Services Acts Repeal Bill, we can expect the Opposition MPs to seize on the opportunity that stage affords in order to ask questions and propose amendments.

“We’ve got to face the fact that this will be repealed, but we also want to hold the government to account in the process, and that will take a while,” McAnulty explained.

Same bill new face

There are numerous bills on the Order Paper that have been carried over from last Parliament term when they were legislation introduced by the previous Labour Government. However these bills now have names of new government ministers attached to them. Which makes me wonder what happens to these Bills when they straddle across multiple governments, from one party to its opponent, do they remain the same in content or change nature?

“There are some bills in there that would have got broad support from the House, so the Government could just carry on with it with a different minister listed at the top of it,” McAnulty said.

Or “they might wholly oppose what was on the Order Paper, so they’re unlikely to progress that or make changes to it before they bring it to the House. Either way, that takes time, so what's on the Order Paper now might not actually come before the House. So it’ll be interesting to see what it is they actually bring forward for this four-week sitting block”.

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