Thank you, colleagues, for taking a little time to discuss this.
You may recall that when we first started meeting we established the order of speaking and the time that was allocated for each round. You may recall at that time I had suggested that we go with seven minutes in the first round of questioning. I believe there was a general agreement that even though we settled on six minutes the committee was open to revisiting the issue.
I've noticed, and I think you will probably have noticed, that in our questioning often we're just at that critical point in the process of questioning a witness and our time is up at six minutes. I would propose that we extend that first round of questioning to seven minutes. My motion lays out how it would play out after that.
The second part of my motion, and I'm prepared to sever that if it becomes contentious, is to address the issue of non-members asking questions at this table. I want to be very clear, we're not opposed to non-members asking questions at this table.
However, out of courtesy to each of the full-time members of this committee, the very least we can do is provide each full-time member of this committee an opportunity to speak before we allow a non-member to ask questions.
Each one of us comes prepared for these meetings. We spend a considerable amount of time briefing ourselves on the issues that will be discussed at this table. We come briefed to ask specific questions of specific witnesses. What I would not want to see happen is that one of our permanent members actually find himself or herself in a position where they were unable to ask a question because a non-member pre-empted us. My motion also includes that element of it.
If you look at what has happened over the last few months that we have met, at most of our meetings there is ample time at the end to ask supplementary questions. I believe that's the appropriate time for a non-member to then have an opportunity to intervene and ask questions.
I think that lays out what my motion does. The only thing I would suggest we delete—and it wasn't my intention, this was an oversight—is, in the very last part of that motion, the words “or associate members.” That should be deleted. It would read:
and, that all committee members speak and ask questions of witnesses before a non-committee member present may speak and ask questions of witnesses.
I believe that's fair to the permanent members of this committee, but also allows in most cases a non-member to ask a question at the end of our meeting.