THE TRIVIALITIES which parliamentary committees deal with never ceases to amaze. Almost anything that is given coverage by the media is considered a subject worthy for discussion at committee level. No laws are passed and no action is taken, as the legislature does not have the authority to take executive decisions, about the issue discussed, so the only purpose the committee meeting serves is as party talking shop.
Why is it done? Publicity is the main reason. Deputies are always clamouring for media exposure and by expressing an opinion about a current affair, in a supposedly formal setting, they hope they would feature in news reports in the papers and on television. Contacting a single news medium to express their view would gain very limited coverage, whereas a sound-bite uttered at a House committee would be covered by the majority of the news media.
Apart from the publicity, deputies like to show that they are in touch with people’s concerns by discussing these issues at committee meetings. It also allows them to pose as the guardians of ordinary people’s interests, even if they do nothing other than voice a few platitudes to advertise that they care. We were given a demonstration of what our deputies consider important earlier this week when the House environment committee dealt with the issue of junk mail – flyers and brochures which market products and shop discounts.
There was an increasing number of complaints, said George Perdikis, who blamed municipalities for not doing anything to stop people shoving flyers into people’s mailboxes. There should be respect for people’s right not to receive these promotional leaflets, said committee chairman Adamos Adamou who was also concerned about the impact on the environment of wasting so much paper. Environment Commissioner Ioanna Panayiotou said there should be meetings with the relevant ministries and local authorities to reach a consensus about what should be done. If this did not yield results, the House would pass its own regulations.
Is this really an issue worth bothering about? People who do not want junk mail can just take it out of their mailbox and throw it in their rubbish bin or, if they can be bothered put a sticker on their mailbox saying ‘no flyers’. It would be interesting to know how many complaints Perdikis had received regarding junk mail, because there are people who appreciate receiving flyers with special offers through their mail box. And what should local authorities do about the matter – appoint junk mail officers to patrol neighbourhoods or issue licences for the distribution of flyers?
Interestingly, this issue never comes up when there are parliamentary elections and candidates are stuffing mailboxes with flyers urging us to vote for them. Perhaps election leaflets would not be considered junk mail in the regulations that the commissioner would draft by consensus.