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 Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour 2:34 pm, 8th January 2003

I will tell the member precisely when. The issue was part of a consultation paper, "The Scottish Fire Service of The Future", which was issued by the Executive in April 2002. That consultation ran until July 2002 and the SNP made no response to it. In May 2002, the Executive sponsored a two-hour debate in the chamber on the consultation paper, during which a number of members of the SNP spoke. However, the issue that we are dealing with was not raised by the SNP at that time as an issue of contention.

The First Minister made clear to the Parliament on 19 December the Executive's intention to take an early legislative opportunity to repeal section 19 of the Fire Services Act 1947. That announcement followed confirmation that the Bain committee supported the position that the Executive had set out on the matter and the debating of the issues around the matter in Parliament. The First Minister made that announcement in response to a question on the fire service that was asked by Tricia Marwick. Tricia Marwick failed to raise any concern or to scrutinise the decision at that point, although it would have been proper for her to do so.

The key question for the Parliament this afternoon is whether it can give adequate consideration to the issue on top of the scrutiny and consultation that have already taken place. The answer is clearly that it can. We have met, as the Presiding Officer indicated, all the obligations that the Parliament places on us for lodging amendments. Indeed, the Parliament allows for the procedure specifically to permit such matters to be debated at stage 3. Tricia Marwick herself has lodged stage 3 amendments that have not been debated at stage 2.

The timetabling motion that we have just approved gives amendment 59 more time than any other single amendment today. It gives amendment 59 even more time than the other amendments that I indicated are coming. There is a guaranteed slot of time. If we get through the other amendments quickly, there will be even more time to debate the substance of the issue. The whole Parliament has an opportunity to debate the issue today, which seems proper in the circumstances. The Parliament is more than capable of asking the pertinent questions and scrutinising the issue properly this afternoon. That is perfectly obvious to all members who have witnessed the affairs of the Parliament over a number of months and years. We should get on with debating the issues and scrutinising them properly this afternoon. I suggest that we do that now.