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Points of Order

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:34 pm on 8th January 2003.

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Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick Scottish National Party 2:34 pm, 8th January 2003

I have given you notice of my intention to raise the point of order, Presiding Officer.

At the end of last year, the Parliament approved the general principles of a local government bill, but the Local Government in Scotland Bill that is before us today is not the same bill that was approved then. Indeed, as the Scottish Parliament information centre background paper to the debate says,

"the general principle of the Bill was expanded to accommodate" the stage 2 amendments. Those amendments have added new parts and sections on enforcement and scrutiny, rating, waste management and capital expenditure and grants. Presiding Officer, you will have noted that in the Local Government Committee, which considered those amendments, I tried to move a motion that would have allowed the committee to take evidence on the amendments. However, the convener would not allow that motion to be heard.

I turn to the stage 3 amendments that were lodged by the Executive during the recess and not published until Monday. Amendment 59, which would repeal section 19 of the Fire Services Act 1947, is designed to ensure that the most contentious recommendation of the Bain report is not scrutinised by any committee of the Parliament. It is unacceptable that an issue of great public concern will be debated and disposed of in 15 minutes. If the amendment is passed, it will have the effect of denying the public the right in the future to be consulted about the possible closure of their fire stations. That is unacceptable.

Presiding Officer, you have publicly expressed your concern about the quality of legislation coming from the Parliament and you have suggested that the Parliament needs a second chamber. I say to you, with the greatest respect, that the imperative is to ensure that the Parliament and its committees are allowed to use the powers that are already available to them to examine and scrutinise legislation effectively and that it is for the Presiding Officers to offer the Parliament protection from the abuse of power by the Executive. In the interests of the Parliament and the people of Scotland, I invite you to reconsider the decision to accept amendment 59, in the name of Andy Kerr, and to reflect on the type of amendments that will be accepted in the future at stage 2 and stage 3 of bills.