The Legislative Assembly (Parliament) is the central institution through which both the Nobles and the People’s views are represented and expressed. Its core function is to make law. Since the Constitutional and electoral form that culminated in elections in 2010, the Legislative Assembly now elects the Prime Minister and is responsible for holding the Executive to account.

The Committee system enables members of Parliament to examine issues in more detail than is usually possible within the Legislative Assembly.

Parliamentary Committees can also provide the public with an opportunity to comment on and suggest changes to impending legislation (laws or regulations), and to participate in other parliamentary functions such as inquires.

The key objective of the committee system is to contribute to the work of the Legislative Assembly by inquiring into and reporting on a broad range of issues. Through inquiries, parliamentary committees carry out in-depth evaluation, analysis and review of work currently before or intended to be tabled and discussed in the Legislative Assembly. Its findings and recommendations on specific issues are tabled in the Legislative Assembly.

Some parliamentary committees play a critical role in scrutinizing the work of the Executive (Ministries and agencies).

Parliamentary committees are the operational arm of the Legislative Assembly, responsible for interacting with the Executive and line ministries, non-government organiza-tions and the public at large. It is also a key component of the new constitutional framework in that it provides people with a forum in which they can directly voice their concerns to the Legislative Assembly.

Committe of the Whole House

The Committee of the Whole House is made up of all the members of parliament. It sits at the same time as the Legislative Assembly.

The key distinction between the Committee of the Whole House and the Legislative Assembly is that the Committee of the Whole House has more flexible rules and less formalities and protocols. As such, the Legislative Assembly often resolves itself to the Committee of the Whole House so that issues can be discussed by members in more detailed and in a manner that is less formal.

Different types of Committees

There are two types of Parliamentary Committees, namely-

  1. Standing Committees
  2. Select Committees

Standing Committees are established at the beginning of the parliamentary term and continue until the Legislative Assembly is dissolved after 4 years for elections. As such, they are considered to be permanent or ‘standing’ committees.

There are currently 8 Standing Committees which provide continuity for related business of the Legislative Assembly.

In addition to Standing Committees, the Legislative Assembly can also establish ad hoc committees to undertake specific tasks. In 2012 there were a total of 6 Select Committees through established by the Legislative Assembly.

Select Committees are temporary committees. It will automatically dissolve when it has completed its work unless the Legislative Assembly extends the scope of its work.

Select Committees allow members to delve in-depth into a particular issue that is not captured within the terms of reference of Standing Committees.

Standing Committees

The 8 Standing Committees and their respective roles in the Legislative Assembly are as follows:

  • Finance & Public Accounts Committee

    Responsible for oversight on the expenditure of the public funds and is concerned with public revenue, public expenditure, the budget estimate, Auditor General's report and every financial report relating to parliament's expenditures.
  • Climate Change and Environment Committee

    Responsible for all issues related to the environment, sustainable development and climate change.
  • Social Services Committee

    Responsible for all issues related to the sustainable development, gender equality and health issues.
  • Legislation Committee

    Responsible for legislation (Bills and Regulations) and ensuring that Bills do not conflict with the constitution or any existing Acts.
  • Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee

    Responsible for issues related to international affairs, immigration and trade and defence of the country.
  • Privileges Committee

    Responsible for matters regarding all members of Parliament and some inquiries relating to petitions.
  • Business and Agenda Committee

    Responsible for the agenda and planning the annual parliamentary program.
  • Agriculture Committee

    This Standing Committee started as a Select Committee and changed on 6th February 2012 as a Standing Committee. The functions of this Standing Committee is to inquire into matters relating to agriculture and fisheries (including the economic status regarding agriculture and fisheries, status of exporting markets for agriculture and fisheries and the status of sectors relevant to agriculture and fisheries) in Tonga and to report upon it to the Legislative Assembly..

Select Committees

Select Committees are setup by Resolution of Parliament to focus on a particular area/issue requiring Parliament's attention. Normally, the Select Committee dissolves when it completes and submits its final report on matters referred to it from Parliament.

Select Committees in the current Parliamentary term includes-

  • Nuku’alofa Development Report Review Committee (NDC)

    Responsible for verifying the findings of the NDC reports prepared by the Independent NDC Committee.
  • Screening Committee

    Responsible for assessing petitions, motions and other papers intended to be tabled in the House. The assessment criteria are set out in the Standing Orders.
  • Population and Development Committee

    Responsible for tracking and highlighting high lighting the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) goals and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
  • Agriculture and Fisheries Committee

    Responsible for working on resolutions (passed in Parliament) to raise issues related to agriculture, fisheries and other related concerns tabled in the Legislative Assembly
  • Reply to King’s address

    Responsible for compiling the Legislative Assembly’s response to the King’s address from the Throne in the official opening of parliament.

Overview Summary
  • Committees scrutinize (watch over) the functions of the Executive and its Ministries and agencies.
  • Standing Committees are Parliament's permanent Committees.
  • Select Committees are temporary Committees of Parliament established to focus on specific and particular issues. It has a shorter duration.
  • The Committee of the Whole House is made up of all the members of parliament. The Legislative Assembly often resolves itself to the Committee of the Whole House so that it can discuss issues in more detailed and in a manner that is less formal.

 

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