Introduction

– in the Scottish Parliament on 23rd June 1999.

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Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 23 June 1999

(Afternoon)

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:31]

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament 2:31 pm, 23rd June 1999

Before we move to the first item of business this afternoon I would like to repeat a request from the chair: that any member who wishes to speak on any item of business press the request-to-speak button at the start of that debate, regardless of whether they have put their names on party lists that have been submitted in advance. That will ensure that both the occupant of the chair and the broadcasting staff are fully aware of all requests to speak.

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

Thank you. Last week I attempted to submit an emergency question on the case of the Chhokar family. You said that it was not an emergency question, Mr Presiding Officer.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

I am sorry, but we cannot have debates on emergency questions.

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

If I can finish my question my point will become clear. You then suggested that I submit the question as a written question requiring an urgent response. That was fine, but my point of order is to seek clarification on when that urgent response should be given. As yet there has been no response and the chamber office has been attempting to get one. I raise this matter because I could not find anything in the standing orders and I would like some clarification about the time scale for an urgent response.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

I understand your point and will look into it as soon as I leave the chair in about an hour.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

My point of order is also about written questions. The guidance on answering parliamentary questions states that ministers should reply within two weeks. That is fair enough but, obviously, from time to time ministers will not have a reply ready within two weeks. In those circumstances, and so that we know that ministers are held accountable, could ministers state why they cannot give a reply within the two weeks and indicate when they expect to be able to give a reply-instead of giving the sort of reply that I received from Mr Wallace, which said that he would reply as soon as that was possible?

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

That is quite a reasonable point, but it is a point for the Executive that I think will have been noted. I do not like those open responses to questions as a general practice. I am not criticising ministers; I am simply saying that a fuller explanation is required by members if ministers are not able to give a response. There is another point of order.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

This is just a small point of order, Mr Presiding Officer, and it is not, perhaps, as serious as the others. Given the low attendance of Labour members, is there an important meeting that we should be aware of?