Sanctarian House of Deputies
|House of Deputies|
|Type||Lower house of Parliament|
|House Speaker|| Eamonn Forbes, MP (SCP)|
since December 13, 2007
|Gov't Chief Whip|| Joyce Robinson, MP (SCP)|
since June 28, 2012
|Members|| 550 MPs|
|Last election||November 30, 2007|
House of Deputies Chamber, Parliament House, Temple Park, Sanctus
The House of Deputies is the lower house, but principal chamber, of the Sanctarian National Parliament, which also includes the President of Sanctaria and the Senate (the upper house). It is directly elected at least once in every seven years under the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote (STV). Its powers are similar to those of lower houses under many other bicameral parliamentary systems. Subject to the limits imposed by the Sanctarian Constitution of 1974, it has power to pass any law it wishes, and to nominate and remove the Prime Minister (head of government). From 1974 it originally met in St. George's Palace in Sanctus, however, since 2012 it has met in the purposely built Parliament House located in Temple Park, also in Sanctus.
The House of Deputies has 550 members. Members are directly elected at least once in every five years by the people of the Divine Republic. Membership of the House of Deputies is open to citizens who are 18 or older. A member of the House of Deputies is known as an MP or a "Deputy".
The electorate consists of citizens of the Divine Republic over 16 years of age who are registered to vote. An election must occur once in every five years. The Prime Minister can, by making a request to the President, effectively dissolve the House of Deputies at any time, in which case a general election must occur within thirty days.
Number of Members
Due to the massive burst in population size, there is currently 1 MP for every 8.4 million people. There is no limit to the amount of people a Deputy can represent but increasing the number of members of Parliament would lead to Parliament being unable to work efficiently. Often an MPs office staff will number the dozens to help deal with the potential work load.
This is the current composition of the chamber:
Speaker of the House of Deputies
The chairman, or presiding member, of the House of Deputies is the Speaker of the House of Deputies, also known as the House Speaker. The House Speaker is chosen from among MPs but is expected to observe strict impartiality. Despite this, the government will usually try to select one of its own for the position, if its numbers allow. The House Speaker does not vote except in the event of a tie. The current serving House Speaker is SCP MP Eamonn Forbes.
Historically, while in principle the House of Deputies was only one of three components of Parliament, the other two being the President and the Senate, in practice the powers the constitution granted to the House of Deputies rendered it by far the dominant branch. Since 2013, however, the only exclusive power the House of Deputies retains is that of introducing a money bill to Parliament. The President can only veto the bill if it is in conflict with the constitution. For this to happen, the President must refer the bill to the Supreme Court of Sanctaria to test its constitutionality.
In addition to its legislative role, it is the House of Deputies that designates the Prime Minister for referral to the President for appointment. The House of Deputies may also pass a motion of no confidence in the Government, in which case the Prime Minister must either seek a parliamentary dissolution or resign.
The House of Deputies has exclusive power to:
- Nominate the Prime Minister
- Ratify treaties which include financial provisions (Provided they do not conflict with the constitution)
- Initiate 'money bills' or bills which incur a charge on the public finances (on the recommendation of the Government only)
The House of Deputies determines its own standing orders and its members are protected by certain rights arising from parliamentary privilege. In line with other modern parliamentary systems, MPs do not generally vote in accordance with their consciences or the wishes of their constituents, but must follow the instructions of party whips. Except in exceptional circumstances, the House of Deputies meets in public.
A typical day consists of questions to various cabinet ministers, Leaders questions whereby opposition Leaders ask the Prime Minister questions and routine debates on Bills. Every Tuesday and Wednesday three hours over the two days are given to the debate of opposition motions. These normally try to embarrass the government and are widely covered in the media. The government and its Majority normally amends these suitably and the amended version is passed by the Government. The House meets six days a week.
Firstly the House Speaker puts the question to the MPs present to say if they agree or disagree with the question before them. The House Speaker then gives his opinion as to the outcome of the voice vote. Deputies can challenge the Speaker and demand a recorded vote. The House Speaker then again starts the voting process. Division bells sound and in some of its adjoining buildings calling MPs to the chamber to vote. The bells ring for six minutes and the doors to the chamber are locked after a further four minutes.
The House Speaker then appoints two tellers for each side and MPs are given one minute to vote. The vote is taken by electronic means whereby MPs press either the Aye or Nay button on their desks to vote for or against a motion. After the voting time has concluded a sheet (Division Paper) containing the result and each MPs vote is signed by the four tellers and given to the House Speaker who declares the result.
While electronic voting has become the norm the House of Deputies votes manually through the lobbies at the back of the chamber on a number of occasions, for example, motions of no confidence. A teller in an electronic vote can call a manual vote if they so wish. This has become an opposition tactic during important votes which are widely covered in the media.