Friday, May 22, 2009

Why do we refer to “Parliamentary Practice by Erskine May”?

Some people may ask why do we refer to Parliamentary Practice by Erskine May (1815-1886) whenever discussing issues on parliamentary practice.

The direct answer to it is that Erskine May, a collection of parliamentary practice for hundreds of years, has been the foremost authority in Parliament of the United Kingdom, the blueprint of all parliaments in the Commonwealth. Over the years, Erskine May has also become the most influential reference in the Commonwealth Parliaments.

However, that reason alone is not good enough for us to quote Erskine May every now and then. As far as Selangor Legislative Assembly is concerned, unlike the Standing Order of Parliament of Malaysia, it is provided in the Standing Order No. 88, which states that:-

“All matters not specifically provided in these Orders and all questions relating to the detailed working of these Orders shall be regulated in such manner, not inconsistent with these Orders, as Mr Speaker may from time to time direct; and in giving such direction Mr Speaker shall have regard to the usages of Commonwealth Parliamentary practice so far as such usages can be applied to the proceedings of the Assembly." (The emphasis is mine)
The reason is now clear why Erskine May is the authority which has been dubbed the bible for parliamentary practice.
Some may further question the source of law that allows the Legislative Assembly to make such a regulation that permits the reference to a foreign authority. The answer is found in the Selangor Laws of Constitution, 1959. Article LXXV( 1) provides as follows:-
“Subject to the provisions of the Federal Constitution and this Constitution, the Legislative Assembly shall regulate its own procedure and may from time to time make, amend and revoke Standing Rules and Orders for the regulation and orderly conduct of its own proceedings and conduct of business.”
Although the Standing Order of Parliament of Malaysia, in particular Standing Order No. 100, has only the first limb of the provision of Selangor Legislative Assembly Standing Order No. 88, and does not specifically refer to Commonwealth Parliamentary practice, Erskine May has been frequently referred to resolve disputes arise in the proceedings over the years.

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