It's all to do with the training: You can do a lot if you're properly trained.

-- Queen Elizabeth II


Commonwealth Module - Unit 9: Parliament, its Record Keeping and the Media


Learning Objectives:
The back end of parliamentary work

After studying this unit you should be able to:

  • Describe the broad aspects of the administration of parliament;
  • Appreciate the problems of record keeping;
  • Understand what sorts of research and information services are required by Members of Parliament;
  • Discuss the relationship parliament maintains with the media.

Organization and Structure

While there are broad similarities in the administrative frameworks of Commonwealth parliaments, each shows individual characteristics in its details. The authority that is responsible for the administration of the various areas or precincts of each parliament could, for instance, be a committee or an individual. Similarly there are variations in the number of departments or divisions that make up the administrative structure that the services provided to Members.

In most parliaments the Clerk or Secretary General oversees the whole operation of parliamentary administration under the guidance of the Speaker or a House committee and with the security assistance of the Sergeant at Arms. The Clerk is also the Accounting Officer for the legislature and is responsible for assuring that the budget is spent in the manner determined by parliamentary vote.

The appointment of these permanent officials of parliament may be effected in various ways according to constitutional requirements or practice. The Clerk usually holds a protected position under the constitution to permit him or her to advise and operate as an independent and impartial official. Other positions may have varying degrees of protection and, in some cases, may not even be Members of the parliamentary service but public servants serving on secondment to parliament and returning to their own service at the end of a fixed term of office.

The responsibility of the Clerk for the spending of parliamentary funds implies that in some form or another he or she becomes involved in the preparation of budgets for parliamentary expenditure. Again this may occur under the guidance of a House committee or the Speaker. Issues relating to the salaries of Members and their superannuation arrangements are resolved by parliament, though it has been suggested that legislatures should accept a self-denying ordinance whereby they make rules for the salaries and pensions of successor parliaments rather than for themselves.

The budget of parliament will also cover salaries payable to MP’s assistants and allowances, such as travel. These vary hugely in the Commonwealth in regard to their amounts as well as in the practice associated with their usage.



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