Point of Order

– in the Scottish Parliament at 3:32 pm on 22nd March 2006.

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Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party 3:32 pm, 22nd March 2006

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. On 9 March, during the agriculture debate, I asked the Minister for Environment and Rural Development when the guidelines for the implementation of the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2005 would be made available to members of the public, given that a charging regime was to come into force on 31 March. The minister replied:

"The announcement will be made in days, rather than weeks."—[Official Report, 9 March 2006; c 23901.]

On Monday, with only 11 days remaining before the regulations were to be implemented, I telephoned the minister's private office to find out what had happened to the announcement. I was told that the minister had decided—in consultation, I think, with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency—to delay the implementation of the regulations and to extend the deadline for the new charging period from 31 March to 30 September. I was somewhat surprised to hear that the news had been conveyed in a private letter to the president of NFU Scotland and that no attempt had been made to draw that information—which amounts to a U-turn in Government policy—to MSPs' attention. After all, on 9 March, I had asked the minister a very specific question as a result of the significant number of representations that I had received from constituents.

Presiding Officer, have you received any notification from the minister that he wishes to make a statement to Parliament to clarify this issue? We have just had a statement from his department and I am sure that we could squeeze another in before the day is out. Even the NFUS, which has benefited from this information before the rest of us, has issued a statement headed "Deadline is Extended but Lack of Information Causing Confusion and Anger". Has the minister made any request for a statement?

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

Mr Swinney, your point of order is now on the record. Any request for a statement will be made through the Parliamentary Bureau, although I should point out that it is a matter for Executive ministers, who I am sure have listened to your comments.