Hon Deputy Speaker, hon Deputy President, hon Ministers, hon members, allow me quickly to remind the House of the history and the road that the Bill has followed in respect of this matter.
On Thursday 12 September 2013 the ATC published a letter that the hon Speaker received from the President about returning the Protection of State Information Bill to the National Assembly for consideration of the President's reservations about its constitutionality. The referral of the President was made in terms of section 79(1) of the Constitution.
On the same day the House met and by resolution established an ad hoc committee to consider and report on the President's reservations and the Bill in terms of Joint Rule 203 and to report to the House by 31 October. The procedure set out in Rule 203 provides that the committee must consider and confine itself to the President's reservations. The Rule further provides for conferring with the corresponding NCOP committee in certain specific circumstances.
The ad hoc committee met on 9 and 10 October 2013 to consider the reservations of the President. In this regard, the committee considered section 79 of the Constitution, which provides for the President to refer a Bill back to the National Assembly if he has reservations about the constitutionality of the Bill. The committee also considered the provisions of Joint Rule 203. In addition, the committee was briefed on the present Constitutional Court precedents that deal with section 79 referrals.
Hon Deputy Speaker, after much deliberation the committee came to the following conclusions. The referral of the President was specific and related only to the constitutionality of clauses 42 and 45 of the Bill. It was not necessary to confer with the corresponding NCOP committee because of the substance of the referral, and the Bill contained certain typographical and grammatical errors that needed attention.
The committee then considered clauses 42 and 45. There was an incorrect cross-reference in clause 42, where the clause referred to section 15, when it should have referred to and read section 13. The structure of clause 45 of the Bill needed to be rearranged in order to make it rational. Accordingly, by a majority vote, the committee agreed to amend clauses 42 and 45, and the amended clauses have been published for the consideration of the House. The committee also, by majority vote, agreed to refer the identified typographical and grammatical errors to the House for consideration.
The committee completed its work on 10 October and the committee report was referred to the House and published in the ATC on 15 October. On 22 October the House, by resolution, referred the matter back to the committee to further consider its report on the Bill. The deadline to report was extended to 7 November.
The committee met on 29 October and agreed to amend the report to include the minority views of the DA and the ACDP. Cope and the IFP were absent from the meeting. The State Law Adviser was requested to peruse the entire Bill to check for any other typographical and grammatical errors.
The committee then met on 30 October and, by majority vote, amended the committee report, which contained all the minority views, and was adopted for referral to the House for consideration. The committee, also by majority vote, agreed to submit to the House an amended list of typographical and grammatical errors, which had been identified by the State Law Adviser, for consideration.
However, the House again resolved on 7 November to refer the report back to the committee for further consideration and the deadline for the committee to report was extended to 12 November. The committee met on Friday 8 November and, by majority vote, the committee report was amended to include the reference to the textual and technical errors the Minister and I have already referred to. I might add that the majority view was that these corrections are in line with the need to ensure that the Bill is coherent and rational.
In the circumstances, the committee having considered the reservations of the President in respect of clauses 42 and 45, recommends to the House that the President's reservations be accommodated and accordingly reports the Bill with amendments. The committee also considered the provisions of Joint Rule 203 and reports that it is not necessary for the Bill to be referred to the corresponding NCOP committee since the reservations of the President do not relate to the matters which fall within the ambit of subrule 203(2)(i) and (ii).
Hon Deputy Speaker, I have heard some noises here to my left and I have previously warned the House that the Protection of State Information Bill has the tendency of seriously affecting the behaviour of reasonable people. They start to behave incoherently, and they say funny things. The House will soon observe the transformation on my left that the debate will create. [Interjections.] You hear, you hear now, Deputy Speaker; there it starts.
Hon Deputy Speaker, you wanted to know what is happening; why people are so uncomfortable. It is not because tomorrow is the last day. It is because Protection of State of the Information Bill that is in the House today. [Interjections.]
Hon Deputy Speaker, the ANC comrades in the committee are clear and not confused. They understand the need for the Bill and they have worked with distinction while dealing with the reservations of the President. Their attendance in meetings was excellent. Allow me, therefore, to thank all those who assisted in the work, especially my ANC comrades; the Minister of State Security visited our meetings and was welcomed as a guest; the Parliamentary Legal Services and the office of the Chief State Law Adviser; and all the hon members of the opposition, even those who grumbled and stumbled and disagreed just for the sake of disagreeing, taking the typical opposition stance of, we must not agree with the ANC, even if they are right.
The ANC supports the amendments. The ANC supports the report and the report is accordingly presented to the House for consideration and adoption. Thank you.