Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:50 pm on 8th March 2007.

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Photo of Brian Monteith Brian Monteith Independent 3:50 pm, 8th March 2007

Three minutes? Thank you, Presiding Officer.

I oppose the Standards and Public Appointments Committee motion for three reasons. First, I was denied natural justice in this process. Secondly, I did not disregard the Glasgow Airport Rail Link Bill Committee, as the standards commissioner and the Standards and Public Appointments Committee allege. Thirdly, the penalty that will be imposed, should members believe the charges, is disproportionate for such a breach.

In not being allowed to appear before the Standards and Public Appointments Committee to answer the complaint against me, I believe that I was denied the natural justice that this Parliament rightly insists that members of the public should expect. I could not answer in person any allegations or questions or correct any misunderstandings. Would members who are either members of trade unions or sponsored by trade unions accept it if people whom they represent were accused of a breach of their employment terms by their employer but had no opportunity to address any committee dealing with the incident? Is it not right to expect that person to be able to present their own defence or to have someone represent them?

Instead, the process was conducted in writing. When I submitted my written response, I fully expected to be called to a subsequent committee meeting. In respect of natural justice, the system and the decision are flawed and the motion should be rejected.

Secondly, I do not believe that I disregarded the Glasgow Airport Rail Link Bill Committee. It is clear from the convener of the Standards and Public Appointments Committee's speech, that people still completely misunderstand the term "embargo." I have said constantly in my defence that I believe that there was a misunderstanding or confusion in the Glasgow Airport Rail Link Bill Committee. I certainly do not recall the clerk saying that nothing should be circulated, whether with an embargo or not. In fact, the paper on the release of the report that was circulated to members—I have it here—suggested that the release, which was to be issued the next day, would be embargoed until 8 o'clock. An embargo means that a paper is in circulation, but cannot be used.

It was my belief that in issuing my separate release—which was subject to the same embargo—to explain why I had dissented from the committee's decision, I was doing nothing more than ensuring that the information would be in the public domain to allow people to understand why I had dissented. I would not be so daft as to break the publication of the committee's report, or to misinform the public or the media, by putting out a news release in my name. That just does not make sense.

If I—or the clerk or the Glasgow Airport Rail Link Bill Committee—had fully understood the terms of the embargo, there would have been no confusion. Given that no evidence from the private meeting is minuted, the corroborating evidence from the convener of the Glasgow Airport Rail Link Bill Committee is thrown into doubt, because she had to seek clarification at a later date from the same clerk. She was not sure what the clerk had meant by the embargo.