Presiding Officer's Ruling

– in the Scottish Parliament at 5:01 pm on 21st June 2007.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None 5:01 pm, 21st June 2007

Before I move on to the next item of business, I wish to respond to a point of order that Johann Lamont raised earlier this afternoon and to which I said that I would respond later. I have now had the opportunity to investigate the issues that she raised and I am grateful for members' forbearance.

As I hope members know by now, I take seriously the provision of information to the Parliament and I will always try to ensure that the Parliament is treated with the respect that it deserves. I believe that it is good practice for material that is relevant to debates to be issued in good time by those who sponsor debates. Doing so, however, remains a matter for those who release the information and is not governed by any formal rules or guidance.

On the specific points that Johann Lamont raised, I can find no evidence that relevant information was released to journalists or lobbying organisations before being given to the Parliament, or that any rules or guidance were breached by today's events. However, I repeat my strictures of yesterday. I suggest that the Executive reviews its practices in this regard and reflects on what I said yesterday.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

On a point of order, Presiding Officer—[ Interruption. ]

Members on the Government benches seem very upset, but this is a significant issue to do with respect for the Parliament. I seek clarification on the question that I raised about parliamentary questions and the use of holding answers. Presiding Officer, do you know when authority was given by Stewart Maxwell's office for release of the substantive answers to my questions? Had he cleared those before I made my point of order after First Minister's question time? If so, I wonder whether you have asked him why he did not explain that to the chamber. Perhaps you could seek clarification of why the substantive answer was then released at half past 1. Also, what was the response to your comments on the use of holding answers, and will you explore whether embargoed copies were issued to anyone? Will you ask the Executive why it would place an embargo on a document that it acknowledged was significant to a debate? I ask you to explore further the substantial issues to do with the lack of information that was available to members.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

Given that no rules have been broken, I do not think that that is a point of order for the chair. However, I have made it clear that there are substantive issues. I hope that we can now move on. No rules have been broken—I am clear about that.