Parliamentary Bureau Motions

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 21st June 2000.

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Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament 2:30 pm, 21st June 2000

Our first item of business is consideration of Parliamentary Bureau motions. I call Tom McCabe to move motion S1M-1029, which proposes the order of consideration of stage 3 of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc (Scotland) Bill this afternoon.

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour 2:35 pm, 21st June 2000

If members have any concerns or questions about the motion, I am happy to try and address them.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees that the order in which the amendments to the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Bill be disposed of at Stage 3 of the Bill be altered so that the amendments to each schedule are considered immediately after the amendments to the section which introduces it.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

Not on this motion, Presiding Officer. I want to speak to motion S1M-1036.

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

You were too quick in pressing your button.

The question is, that motion S1M-1029, in the name of Mr Tom McCabe, be agreed to.

Motion agreed to.

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

The second motion is motion S1M-1030, in the name of Tom McCabe, which proposes that decision time should begin at 7.05 pm today.

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

The same format applies, Presiding Officer. If members have any concerns about the motion, I will try to address them later.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees that under Rule 11.2.4 of the Standing Orders, Decision Time of the Meeting of the Parliament on Wednesday 21 June should begin at 7.05pm.

Motion agreed to.

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

I call Tom McCabe to move business motion S1M-1036, on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau, on the timetabling of the stage 3 debate of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc (Scotland) Bill.

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

Once again, Presiding Officer, if there are any questions, I will try to address them.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees that the time for consideration of Stage 3 of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Bill be allotted as follows, so that debate on each part of the proceedings, if not previously brought to a conclusion, shall be brought to a conclusion on the expiry of the specified period (calculated from the time when Stage 3 begins)— Section 1 to section 22 - up to 2 hours Schedule 3 to after section 24 - up to 3 hours Remainder of the Bill - up to 4 hours Motion to pass the Bill - no later than 4 hours 30 minutes.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party 2:36 pm, 21st June 2000

Presiding Officer, I understand that Mr McCabe and you have been made aware of my decision to oppose motion S1M-1036. Members will remember that, two weeks ago, when we had the stage 3 debate on the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc Bill, Donald Gorrie was wise enough to suggest that such motions were unnecessary in this chamber because of the Presiding Officer's powers and the possibility that we might lose the vigour of debate. That suggestion was unanimously opposed in this chamber.

However, many of us, having shared in that initial decision and then experienced what took place that afternoon, believe now that Mr Gorrie was right. There is no doubt that the advisory nature of timetabling motions is helpful to the Presiding Officer and to members in how they use their time for debate, but the mandatory nature of such motions is not helpful. It means—as it did during the stage 3 debate on the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc Bill—that we lose the vigour of debate on many amendments. Some members were being called to speak for 30 seconds on some amendments, there was a ministerial reply and then a division.

The SNP believes that, although the consultative steering group principles called for ordered debate, they did not call for constrained debate. It is necessary to have an open period of debate on all important bills at stage 3 that is not constrained and cut up in such a way that—by the nature of the motion—were the timings to go wrong, we could lose debate on important amendments.

That is important, today of all days. For many months, people have been asking members whether they will debate section 2A. The answer has always been that the Parliament has not yet addressed it. This afternoon, we will address it; and, according to the timetabling motion, we shall have an hour to do so—not a moment more. That is letting down the people who have asked for that debate. I say that as someone who has argued for repeal of the section for many months; has said that he will vote for repeal; and who will vote for repeal.

Given those circumstances, we should oppose the timetabling motion, which in future should come as advice to the Presiding Officer. There should be a freedom, not a curtailing, of debate in the chamber.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party 2:39 pm, 21st June 2000

As a Parliament, we should be against guillotines in principle. The motion is nothing other than a guillotine. Although guillotines are justified when, for example, there has been protracted filibustering on a piece of business or when there is very good evidence that there will be filibustering, there has been no such indication of filibustering so far. I do not think that debates on any of the other bills that we have considered so far under timetabling motions would have been extended by any great extent had there been no motion.

I simply point to our experience of the previous timetabling motion in the chamber. Even after allowing for the interruption caused by the power cut, the Presiding Officer basically ignored the timetabling motion and the debate on many sections were extended so that members could speak. It strikes me that either we have a timetabling motion that is followed by the Presiding Officer to the letter or we have no such motion. We must not get into an in-between situation.

We are a new Parliament, setting off down the road of democracy. We should start with the presumption that, within the usual speaking limits, members should be allowed to have their say, rather than be arbitrarily curtailed by such a motion.

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat 2:40 pm, 21st June 2000

I have much sympathy with the points made by Alasdair Morgan and Mike Russell. However, the powers that be have produced a more realistic timetable on this occasion and perhaps we should give them a chance, to see whether they can deliver on that timetable.

The principle of whether there should be a timetable is important. Perhaps we should debate that principle separately at some other time. On this occasion, I am in conciliatory mode and I am prepared to give Tom McCabe and co a chance.

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour 2:41 pm, 21st June 2000

It should be instructive for Mr Russell if I have the endorsement of Mr Gorrie—that should be enough for him. I thank Mr Gorrie for that vote of confidence.

Mr Russell has misunderstood fundamentally the purpose of the timetabling motion. In the next few minutes, I hope to inform him better of the purpose of the motion and, after that, I am sure that he will withdraw his opposition to it.

I emphasise that the purpose of a timetabling motion is not to restrict debate. In fact, its purpose is to structure a debate and to ensure that time is available for the later amendments in the marshalled list. Therefore, far from inhibiting or restricting debate, a timetabling motion exists to structure a debate and to be of some assistance to the Presiding Officer. It has been acknowledged already that a timetabling motion assists whoever is in the chair to ensure that business is conducted properly.

The CSG recommended that the Parliamentary Bureau should timetable debates on bills to ensure that members had sufficient time to focus on the issues. The CSG was aware that it should balance that against the need to ensure that the business of the chamber was conducted efficiently. The motion provides that balance.

The timetabling motion allows four hours for debate on the amendments and half an hour for debate on the motion to pass the bill. That timetable compares with the committee debate, which lasted for around four and a half hours, when more than 130 amendments were considered. By no means can four hours of debate on stage 3 of a bill at a meeting of the Parliament be judged inhibiting when, in committee, just over four and a half hours was spent on dealing with more than 130 amendments.

The Executive has been perfectly open on the matter. We first notified the bureau on 6 June of our intention to schedule the debate on the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc (Scotland) Bill on this date. Members were aware of that, and if they had reservations, they had the opportunity to make representations to us. Seven out of the 16 groupings of amendments—half the business—are concerned with issues that were raised in committee, to which the Executive is merely responding. That should indicate that less time should be required for those amendments. All in all, we have four hours in which to deal with the amendments that have been selected, which is more than ample.

I wish to correct Mr Russell on one point. We will not debate the repeal of section 2A today. The repeal is contained in the bill and there are no amendments to the relevant section.

For one hour, we will discuss one amendment on the subject of marriage. An hour is more than ample for one amendment. Had we allowed an hour's debate on every amendment to the bill, we would still be here in the middle of next weekend.

We have demonstrated that we are more than happy to provide ample time for a particular issue to be discussed.

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

The question is, that motion S1M-1036, in the name Tom McCabe, be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 1

For: Alexander, Ms Wendy, Baillie, Jackie, Barrie, Scott, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Galbraith, Mr Sam, Gillon, Karen, Godman, Trish, Gorrie, Donald, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, MacLean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McLeish, Henry, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Thomson, Elaine, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watson, Mike, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan
Against: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Elder, Dorothy-Grace, Ewing, Dr Winnie, Fabiani, Linda, Fergusson, Alex, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Grahame, Christine, Hamilton, Mr Duncan, Harding, Mr Keith, Harper, Robin, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Johnston, Nick, Johnstone, Alex, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, MacDonald, Ms Margo, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McGugan, Irene, McIntosh, Mrs Lyndsay, McLeod, Fiona, McLetchie, David, Monteith, Mr Brian, Morgan, Alasdair, Mundell, David, Neil, Alex, Paterson, Mr Gil, Quinan, Mr Lloyd, Reid, Mr George, Robison, Shona, Russell, Michael, Salmond, Mr Alex, Scott, John, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinney, Mr John, Tosh, Mr Murray, Ullrich, Kay, White, Ms Sandra, Wilson, Andrew

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

The result of the division is: For 63, Against 47, Abstentions 0.

Motion agreed to.

That the Parliament agrees that the time for consideration of Stage 3 of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc (Scotland) Bill be allotted as follows, so that debate on each part of the proceedings, if not previously brought to a conclusion, shall be brought to a conclusion on the expiry of the specified period (calculated from the time when Stage 3 begins)— Section 1 to section 22 - up to 2 hours Schedule 3 to after section 24 - up to 3 hours Remainder of the Bill - up to 4 hours Motion to pass the Bill - no later than 4 hours 30 minutes.

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

As the motion has been agreed to, we will proceed according to the timetable that it sets out.