Shared Experiences Key to Improving Parliamentary Democracy -Speaker Bagbin
Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament, Rt. Hon. Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, has underscored the need for parliaments to share experiences and learn from each other to enhance governance, sustain the confidence of the electorate in their elected representatives, and improve upon parliamentary democracy.
He was speaking at Westminster at the CPA Branch office of the House of Commons, London, at the head of a parliamentary delegation to the UK Parliament to discuss areas of cooperation between the parliaments of Ghana and the UK. Approaches to conducting parliamentary business effectively, managing hung parliaments and narrow majorities, making parliamentary scrutiny and oversight more efficient, and promoting a collaborative work environment in parliament are at the center of the discussions.
Rt. Hon. Bagbin said Ghana’s Parliament is working on a new set of Standing Orders to provide practical guidance and procedures for situations that had hitherto not been factored into its Standing Orders. He explained that the previous Standing Orders hardly anticipated a hung parliament and did not make provision for rules to govern such a situation, making it overly focused on a composition of parliament with a clear majority. The current hung parliament and years of usage have thrown into sharp focus, the need to comprehensively review parliament’s Standing Orders.
The Speaker of Parliament made reference to Parliament’s consideration of a motion of censure of a Minister of State, and the various commentaries and opinions that have been shared on that ever since. He said the debate as to whether such a motion of censure is a legal or political matter is yet to be settled.
As the Speaker of the first hung parliament in Ghana, he explained, he navigates such unchartered waters relying on his three decades of experience with the legislature, his experience as a lawyer, and what makes common sense. Consequently, drawing parallels with similar situations in other parliaments, particularly within the CPA, will help improve parliamentary democracy in Ghana.
Rt. Hon. Bagbin shared experiences of the Parliament of Ghana regarding the subject of vacation of a seat by a Member of Parliament. The Speaker posited whether the choice of the electorate as to who represents them in parliament can be overturned or wished away by a Committee of Parliament without recourse to a debate and decision of plenary session. The experience of the UK Parliament in similar instances, he believed, is worth sharing.
Mr. Jon Davies, the Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) UK Branch, described the issues raised by the Speaker as striking and familiar with some of the issues that other parliaments have had to deal with. He was confident that the UK Parliament would have an anchor for most of the issues.
Mr. Davies was happy with the visit by the Ghana parliamentary delegation, which he said will further strengthen the bilateral links between the two legislatures of the CPA.
Rt. Hon. Bagbin held discussions with members of the UK Parliament and other senior officials on parliamentary procedure in the UK Parliament, and parliamentary accountability through committees. He also had meetings with the UK Minister for Development and Africa, the Rt. Hon. Andrew Mitchell, and Stephen Twigg, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
Included in the Rt. Hon. Speaker’s delegation is the Clerk to Parliament, Mr. Cyril Kwabena Oteng Nsiah, the Assistant Deputy Clerk, Mr. Ebenezer Ahumah Djietror, Legal Counsel to the Speaker, Hon. Magnus Kofi Amoatey, the Director of Communication, Mr. Gayheart Mensah and the Deputy Director of Parliamentary Relations, Mr. Charles Dery Tenzagh.