Mr Speaker, there are many factors that should coalesce to project balance and poise in Members of Parliament. I think that one of the things that we should be concerning ourselves with is attendance at plenary meetings. The conduct of Members at plenary meetings, attendance at committees, and again, the conduct of Members at such committees.
People have referred to dress code and I do not want to belabour the point.
Mr Speaker, the language of this House, we have always been telling one another
that some heckling is permissible in any House of Parliament, but insulting language and wild gesticulations are reprehensible and not acceptable in any House. Yet, increasingly, we are witnessing such spectacles and we must speak to it.
Mr Speaker, discipline in plenary - we should all be concerned about the conduct of Members. I do not want to raise it now but all of us know that there is a lot to be desired about the conduct of Members in plenary. That also leads me to another matter. If we are talking about discipline in plenary, at the same time, we should also have trust and confidence in the Chair; the Chair should demonstrate impartiality. We all know that the occupants of the Chair come from various political traditions and to that extent, the occupants of the Chair cannot be described as neutral, but we expect a demonstration of impartiality from the Chair and that should resonate onto the floor.
Mr Speaker, the quality of materials in the House is something that we should also be addressing because it affects the quality of debate in the House. The Constitution provides in article 55 (5) that the various parties should be democratic in their internal organisations. But increasingly, we are witnessing the spectre of monetisation in the affairs of the various political parties. To that extent, we would all bear witness to how the elections in our various political parties are becoming increasingly monetised, not least, elections relating to parliamentary candidates.
If Members of Parliament or parliamentary candidates spend so much as we know they do in their various constituencies, what do you expect them to come and do in the House?
Mr Speaker, there are many people who just want to come to this House to use the opportunities that it offers them to establish connections, rake in funds, resource their vaults and reposition themselves for another round of elections in their parties. As a country and political parties, we know this, yet everybody is pretending that nothing is happening. We should further interrogate this, dialogue with our political parties and see the better way in us as we go forward for our democracy.
So many Colleagues have spoken about the conditions of service. So, I do not intend to talk about that.
But further to that, as a House, we should strengthen Parliament and strengthening Parliament should relate to strengthening the various Committees that we have. We should resource the committees to do their work.
Unfortunately, not much resources are usually allocated to the various committees and so, the committees go adrift oftentimes. This is because some people want them to do some work for them, or maybe, some, people would want them to go soft on them and they find ways of luring the committees to do certain things which ordinarily should not be acceptable to us as a House.
So Mr Speaker, strengthening the committees should be a principal focus of this House. Mr Speaker, Parliament is the House that has the oversight responsibility over the Executive and in order for us to be able to do this, Parliament should reposition itself. That is why I am happy that the Committee has provided us with some standards contained in page 3 of the Report, that first, Members of Parliament should reflect a high degree of selflessness,
integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness and leadership and we Members of Parliament should conform to an established professional and personal standards of life measured against the background of integrity, trust and honesty.
Mr Speaker, charity, they say, begins at home. So, before we are able to go out there to judge and oversee the conduct of the Executive, we must open ourselves up, be accountable, very transparent and be very probious to the people who elected us and to the taxpayers who are funding us. If we open ourselves up to them, trust could be cultivated.
Finally, Mr Speaker, in plenary, Parliament opens itself up to the public, in committees, we do not. There are only two committees that open themselves up to the public and those committees are the Appointments Committee and in recent times, the Public Accounts Committee. I think going forward, we should consider opening the various committees up to the public, so that they would know there is nothing to hide. If they would want to go and observe, they could go and observe.
If maybe, we could have television cameras, Mr Speaker, beaming to our people, the conduct of business, at that length, we could also begin to look at that. So, Mr Speaker, it would add to the quality of debate even in plenary. This is because if at the committee level, the television cameras are on you, and you are unable to articulate what you want to say, it would be a big minus for the constituency which you represent. Next time, they would think twice before they elect anybody to represent them in Parliament.
So, Mr Speaker, I think that we are making some headway as has been observed. It is a bit late but it is better late than never. Let us all buy into this and if we have to improve further, especially Mr Speaker, on matters relating to anti-