Senate of New Ingerland

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Senate of New Ingerland
57th Parliament of New Ingerland
Type
Upper house of Parliament of New Ingerland
Leadership
Lord Chancellor      The Baroness Fairfax, (DEM)
since 13 March 2012
Leader      Jasmine Cassidy, (DEM)
since 13 March 2012
Structure
Seats 68
Structure of the 57th Parliament
Political groups
  •      Democrat (29)
  •      National (17)
  •      Independents (13)
  •      Bishops (8)
  •      SDLP (1)
Length of term Varies (see text)
Authority Chapter IV of the Constitution
Salary £50/day + per diem
Elections
Various (see text)
Last election 5 March 2016
Next election 7 March 2020
Meeting place
Debating chamber of the House of Assembly
Parliament House
Kingsbury, CENT

The Senate is the upper legislative chamber, which along with the Sovereign and the House of Assembly, constitutes the Parliament of New Ingerland. Like the Assembly, the Senate has the power to initiate and debate bills on almost any matter (the exception being the budget, which the Senate may not propose or amend), and also has the capacity to block legislation initiated by the government in the lower house. The 68 senators who make up the chamber are elected from a variety of constituent groups, utilising a number of different electoral system for terms of either four or eight years, with regular elections taking place every four years.

The Senate is the oldest political institution in New Ingerland, and was created on the 18 February 1836.

History

Function and powers

The powers of the Senate are designed to be almost the same as the House of Assembly, with the exception of a few key areas. Senators are elected to take in the "big picture" when debating legislation. Their election from special interest groups and the county level electorates instead of local constituencies was done in the hope of giving senators some ability to escape the populism of local politics.

All bills passed by the House of Assembly must be passed by the Senate before they go to the King for his assent. Likewise, bills first passed in the Senate must be passed by the House before they can become law. The only bills the Senate cannot initiate or amend are bills relating to the appropriation of funds from the treasury, although it may block them.

Unlike many upper houses around the world, the New Ingerland Senate can block any bill placed before it indefinitely. If any bill is blocked twice in not less than three months, §58 of the Constitution allows the Sovereign to convene a joint sitting of both houses to resolve any deadlock.

Membership

Current composition

Membership of the Senate is currently set at 68 members. The members of the Senate are drawn for the following constituencies and interest groups:

Qualifications

Qualification for election to the Senate is slightly different to that required for membership of the Assembly. As with the lower house, §50 of the Constitution of New Ingerland states that any prospective senator must be:

  • Be an enrolled voter;
  • Must have been resident in New Ingerland for at least three years;
  • Must be natural-born subject, or have been naturalised as a subject at least five years previously;
  • Is a person of integrity, good character, and reputation; and
  • Has not been disqualified from being a Member of the House of Assembly under the provisions of §58 of the Constitution.

In addition, §39(2)(b) requires that a person must have reached the age of 35 to be eligible to seek election to the Senate.[1]

Under the provisions of §62 of the Constitution, a person is disqualified from sitting as a senator if he:

  • Is a subject of a foreign power[2];
  • Has been found guilty of treason, or any other offence where the punishment exceeds one year in gaol;
  • Holds an office of profit under the Crown; or
  • Has any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with a government entity.

Furthermore, anyone who becomes a bankrupt loses the right to sit as a member of the Senate and must resign.

Party representation

Just like the House of Assembly, most senators are members of political parties. Whilst a government is not formed on the basis of results in the Senate, the composition of the upper house can have a dramatic impact on the fate of a government. Indeed, most governments have failed to gain a majority in the Senate, and relied on the other parties to pass bills through the chamber.

Party Seats held 2012 - Senate
Democratic 29                                                          
National 17                                    
Independents 13                            
Bishops 8                  
SDLP 1    

Oath

All senators are required to the oath of allegiance before they can assume their seats in the chamber. The present oath, as outlined in the First Schedule of the Constitution reads:

I, [AB], do swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King Geoffrey VII, his heirs and successors, according to law.

Political leadership

Leader of the Senate

Concurrently serving as the Cabinet Secretary and Treasurer of the Crown Estate, the Leader of the Senate is the minister responsible for promoting and defending the government's programme in the Senate. As a cabinet position, the Leader is appointed by the King on the advice of the Prime Minister. The position has its difficulties, with the government often lacking a majority in the Senate. It usually falls to the Leader of the Senate to negotiate the passage of legislation through the chamber through discussions with cross-bench and opposition members.

Leader of the Opposition in the Senate

The opposition counterpart to the Leader of the Senate, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate manages the oppositions response to the government, and proposes changes and amendments to the government's agenda that it believes will deliver a better outcome. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, along with other Senators, lead the negotiations for the passage of legislation when the government does not have a majority in the Senate.

Officers

Speaker of the Senate (Lord Chancellor)

The chairman and the most important officer in the chamber, the office of Speaker of Senate, whilst technically a separate office, is by prescription vested in the Lord Chancellor. As such he sits upon the woolsack, which is not strictly within the Senate, but like the throne is considered to be outside the Senate. Unlike the Speaker of the House of Assembly, the Lord Chancellor takes part in debates, speaking from his place in the Senate. He entitled to vote on all debates and motions brought before the Senate, and votes from the woolsack instead of going into the division lobby. The only function which he discharges as Speaker is putting the question; if two debaters rise together, he has no power to call upon one, nor can he rule upon points of order. Those taking part in debates address the whole House, as "Senators", and not the Lord Chancellor. Since the 1890s, the Lord Chancellor always belonged to a political party and is affected by its fluctuations. He is typically appointed by the Prime Minister for a four-year term after each election. The current Speaker of the Senate is the Right Honourable The Baroness Fairfax.

Clerk of the Senate

The speaker is assisted by a number of clerks, who advise him on the various rules and procedures of the Senate. The clerks are all legal officers with expert knowledge in not only parliamentary procedure, but also the constitution and the various unwritten conventions. The Clerk of the Senate are also responsible for ensuring information about the chamber is provided to schools and other interested bodies and often act as spokesmen for the non-political aspects of Senate business.

Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod

The officer responsible for security and enforcing order within the chamber, the Black Rod play a critical role in ensuring that the chamber operates smoothly. Whilst the office has a well-known ceremonial role, much of the Black Rod's work goes on behind the scenes overseeing the protocol, administrative and logistical details of the Senate and with the assistance of the Serjeant-at-Arms, the entire parliamentary precinct.

Committees

The Senate committee structure serves a variety of purposes. Committees consider bills in detail, and may make amendments. Other committees scrutinise various government agencies and ministries and hold their actions to account.

See also

References and notes

  1. See Chapter IV of the Constitution of New Ingerland
  2. There is no recognition of dual citizenship in New Ingerland, and any New Ingerland who takes citizenship of another country automatically loses his New Ingerland citizenship.