19 Mar 2020

Parliament discusses measures if politicians can't attend

3:22 pm on 19 March 2020

Parliament is putting in place measures to allow it to function if politicians can't make it to Wellington due to coronavirus.

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Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

A motion will be introduced to the House today to put in place changes that would alter normal standing orders in the House.

The more serious measures would be triggered only if the situation develops in a way that means that a significant number of MPs are unable to travel to Wellington to be physically present in Parliament.

Usually, a maximum of 25 percent of MPs from any one party can be away from the parliamentary precinct at any one time without affecting the number of votes that party can cast.

Under the proposal, the Business Committee will be given the power to adjust or move the 25 percent limit.

However, if numbers in the House became severely depleted, the government would not continue as usual.

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The House would be left to focus on passing any legislation that was necessary in dealing with COVID-19 and or any other urgent matter.

The Business Committee already has the power to change the sitting schedule as necessary.

The Speaker would also be given the power to put into place special arrangements for select committees to meet and conduct their business, including meeting remotely.

Leader of the House Chris Hipkins said the precautionary measure means that changes can be made even when Parliament is not sitting.

"Obviously we are going into a period where Parliament is not scheduled to sit next week, a lot can happen in a couple of days and a heck of a lot can happen in a couple of weeks, so we want to make sure whatever happens we are in position where we can bring Parliament back and make decisions if we need to," he said.

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