Business Motion

– in the Scottish Parliament at 4:46 pm on 4th September 2003.

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Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 4:46 pm, 4th September 2003

The next item of business is consideration of business motion S2M-298, in the name of Patricia Ferguson, on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau, which sets out a business programme.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament agrees—

(a) the following programme of business— Wednesday 10 September 2003

2.30 pm Time for Reflection followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions followed by Executive Debate on Strategic Framework for Aquaculture followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions

5.00 pm Decision Time followed by Members' Business—debate on the subject of S2M-106 Dr Sylvia Jackson: Scotland's European Pollutant Emission Register Thursday 11 September 2003

9.30 am Scottish National Party Business 12 noon First Minister's Question Time

2.30 pm Question Time

3.10 pm Ministerial Statement on Delivering for Scotland - Funding the Partnership Agreement followed by Executive Debate on Ministerial Statement followed by Motion on Legal Deposit Libraries Bill 2003 - UK Legislation followed by Business Motion followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions

5.00 pm Decision Time followed by Members' Business—debate on the subject of S2M-145 Elaine Smith: Obesity Amongst the Scottish Population Wednesday 17 September 2003

2.30 pm Time for Reflection followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions followed by Executive Debate on Review of Licensing Laws followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions

5.00 pm Decision Time followed by Members' Business Thursday 18 September 2003

9.30 am Executive Debate on Health 12 noon First Minister's Question Time

2.30 pm Question Time followed by Continuation of Executive Debate on Health followed by Business Motion followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions

5.00 pm Decision Time followed by Members' Business and, (b) that the Environment and Rural Development Committee reports to the Communities Committee by 26 September 2003 on the Environmental Impact Assessment (Water Management) (Scotland) Regulations 2003 (SSI 2003/341) and that the Justice 2 Committee reports to the Justice 1 Committee by 16 September 2003 on the draft Advice and Assistance (Assistance by Way of Representation) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2003 and on the draft Scotland Act 1998 (Transfer of Functions to the Scottish Ministers etc.) (No.2) Order 2003.—[Patricia Ferguson.]

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

As a member has indicated a desire to speak against the motion, there will be a short debate. There can be only one speaker for and one against the motion and there will be a time limit on the speeches.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative 4:55 pm, 4th September 2003

I wish to object to the motion because an important issue of principle is involved.

Yesterday afternoon we had a debate on a Procedures Committee report about changes to the timing of First Minister's question time. There can be no doubt as to what came out of that debate. It was clear that, at one stage, the Procedures Committee was minded to recommend that First Minister's questions should be held at 2 pm on a Thursday. Strangely enough, the committee changed that view and there can be no doubt that that was done for one reason only—because it suited the Executive to change the time to 12 noon on a Thursday.

We have to ask why it suits the Executive. It suits the Executive because it can then control the media agenda for the rest of the day. It has not considered the negative effect that that change in timing would have on the rest of the Parliament. I know that the relationship between the Labour party and the BBC is somewhat fractured, but no one can deny the BBC's calculation of the viewing figures that shows that there would be less than half the number of people watching the programme at midday than would be watching at 2 pm.

Frankly, the Parliament needs a profile; it must show itself to be credible and it must be in the face of the public. That is the only way in which we are going to retain any credibility. This is a very cynical move on the Executive's part. It is anti-democratic and it is to be condemned absolutely. I underline that by objecting to the business motion.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour 4:56 pm, 4th September 2003

I speak in support of a Parliamentary Bureau motion that was discussed at a meeting of the bureau on Tuesday that Mr Aitken attended. Mr Aitken has obviously decided to set a great deal of store by what was a leaked, draft report to a committee. Instead of venting his ire in the way that he has, he might more sensibly vent his ire on the people who might have leaked the report. To see conspiracy theories of such a nature is perhaps to stretch a point a little too much, even for a Conservative.

Mr Aitken also said that the move is somehow anti-democratic. The only thing that is anti-democratic about the situation is that the Conservatives are speaking against the democratic will of the Parliament, as discussed yesterday. It gives me further cause for thought that if the Tories are going to come back to votes a second time every time they get beaten, we could be in for a very long session.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

Order. There is a slight difficulty, in that I had not anticipated that the debate would end early.

Photo of Elaine Smith Elaine Smith Labour

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I am sorry that I did not give advance notice of this point of order. However, at question time, I was rather confused about a comment that the Presiding Officer made when he seemed to indicate that the First Minister should be careful of straying into reserved areas.

As a Parliamentarian who speaks and writes on a range of issues, I would like that to be clarified. I understand that the Scotland Act 1998 and the Parliament's standing orders allow individual MSPs, the Scottish Parliament and the Executive to discuss, debate and take a position on reserved issues. We have had such debates in members' business and have taken positions in debates such as those on the act of settlement and the Iraq war.

It is clearly the prerogative of the Executive to choose whether it takes a position on such issues, unless the Parliament votes and instruct the Executive to do so. We cannot change the law on reserved issues, but I understand that we can seek to influence it. It is important that we should know our rights as Parliamentarians in the interests of democracy in the Parliament.

Will the Presiding Officer clarify standing orders with regard to reserved issues? I do not believe that they call for our silence on reserved issues.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

I am happy to do so. The Parliament may debate anything, but questions to ministers must be directed to issues that fall within their competence and responsibility. That is the clear-cut difference.

There will now be a short pause while the Presiding Officer takes the chair.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

The question is, that business motion S2M-298, in the name of Patricia Ferguson, on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau, be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

There will be a division. Members wishing to support the amendment should press their yes buttons now.

[Interruption.]

I am sorry; I should have said that the division is on the motion. There is no amendment. It was one of those things, because of taking the chair so quickly. Let me make it clear that those who support Patricia Ferguson's motion should vote yes.

Division number 1

For: Alexander, Ms Wendy, Baillie, Jackie, Baker, Mr Richard, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Canavan, Dennis, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Curran, Ms Margaret, Eadie, Helen, Ewing, Fergus, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Godman, Trish, Gorrie, Donald, Grahame, Christine, Harper, Robin, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lochhead, Richard, Lyon, George, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Campbell, Martin, Paul, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Mr Jim, Matheson, Michael, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McFee, Mr Bruce, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Morgan, Alasdair, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Neil, Alex, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Purvis, Jeremy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Robison, Shona, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mike, Scott, Tavish, Sheridan, Tommy, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Stephen, Nicol, Stevenson, Stewart, Stone, Mr Jamie, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinburne, John, Swinney, Mr John, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watson, Mike, White, Ms Sandra, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan
Against: Aitken, Bill, Brocklebank, Mr Ted, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Fergusson, Alex, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McLetchie, David, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Monteith, Mr Brian, Mundell, David, Scanlon, Mary, Scott, John
Abstentions: Pringle, Mike, Tosh, Murray

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

The result of the division is: For 88, Against 15, Abstentions 2.

Motion agreed to.

That the Parliament agrees—

(a) the following programme of business— Wednesday 10 September 2003

2.30 pm Time for Reflection followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions followed by Executive Debate on Strategic Framework for Aquaculture followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions

5.00 pm Decision Time followed by Members' Business—debate on the subject of S2M-106 Dr Sylvia Jackson: Scotland's European Pollutant Emission Register Thursday 11 September 2003

9.30 am Scottish National Party Business 12 noon First Minister's Question Time

2.30 pm Question Time

3.10 pm Ministerial Statement on Delivering for Scotland - Funding the Partnership Agreement followed by Executive Debate on Ministerial Statement followed by Motion on Legal Deposit Libraries Bill 2003 - UK Legislation followed by Business Motion followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions

5.00 pm Decision Time followed by Members' Business—debate on the subject of S2M-145 Elaine Smith: Obesity Amongst the Scottish Population Wednesday 17 September 2003

2.30 pm Time for Reflection followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions followed by Executive Debate on Review of Licensing Laws followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions

5.00 pm Decision Time followed by Members' Business Thursday 18 September 2003

9.30 am Executive Debate on Health 12 noon First Minister's Question Time

2.30 pm Question Time followed by Continuation of Executive Debate on Health followed by Business Motion followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions

5.00 pm Decision Time followed by Members' Business and, (b) that the Environment and Rural Development Committee reports to the Communities Committee by 26 September 2003 on the Environmental Impact Assessment (Water Management) (Scotland) Regulations 2003 (SSI 2003/341) and that the Justice 2 Committee reports to the Justice 1 Committee by 16 September 2003 on the draft Advice and Assistance (Assistance by Way of Representation) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2003 and on the draft Scotland Act 1998 (Transfer of Functions to the Scottish Ministers etc.) (No.2) Order 2003.