I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your advice on an interesting procedural question. This morning I submitted a question to the chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee on whether the hearings on the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Amendment Bill will be secret. My question was turned down on the basis that the bill is not yet before the committee. Normally I would think that an acceptable response, except that yesterday the chair of the committee publicly said that the hearings would be secret, which indicates that the committee has discussed this matter. In that situation it would be warranted that the chair of the committee answer my submitted question. I seek your guidance. I understood that the essence of the issue is that if a matter has been discussed and a decision made within a committee, then the chair of the committee can respond on behalf of the committee.
I confess to the honourable member that I was unaware of this situation. I probably need to take some advice on the matter.
I will hear the right honourable Prime Minister before I rule on the matter.
I might be able to help clarify the matter. The Intelligence and Security Committee is established by legislation in such a way that it requires the unanimous support of committee members for a position to be adopted. Therefore, the position of holding the hearings in public would have to have unanimous support. As chair of the committee I will not be supporting that position, and therefore it will not have unanimous support.
I—[ Interruption] The Speaker is on his feet. I have listened to the exchange under a point of order because I was unaware of what had happened. The advice I have received, though, is that the bill is not before the committee, and there is no business for which the chairperson has charge. At this moment, I understand that that is why a question was not accepted. I certainly am happy to explore the matter further, because I confess that the member has caught me unprepared for this situation. That is the advice I have received: the bill is not before the committee, and therefore there is no business for which the chairperson of the committee has charge. Therefore he cannot be questioned on it at this stage.
I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. For future procedures in the House, to avoid part of the confusion we have just seen, it would be useful if the chair of a committee did not in advance state and determine his position—
The member is entering into debate on the issue. I do not think the House should do this. The facts of the matter are that the member was concerned and he raised a point of order about a question he had lodged that was not accepted. The advice I have received was that the principal reason for its not being accepted was that the bill is not before the committee, and therefore there is no business for which the chairperson has charge or is responsible. No question can be taken on the matter under those circumstances.
I seek leave to table a document in which the then Prime Minister Jenny Shipley said that hearings on the Security Intelligence Service amendment bill would be open to the public.
It goes back some years. Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.