Points of Order

– in the Scottish Parliament at 5:04 pm on 13th September 2007.

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Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat 5:04 pm, 13th September 2007

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Yesterday, the Parliament refused to endorse the Government's skills strategy—a defeat for the Government. Today, in response to Robert Brown's question, the Minister for Schools and Skills confirmed that the education ministers have submitted to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth a funding bid to allow the Government to meet in full its commitment to have maximum class sizes of 18 in primaries 1 to 3. In earlier answers to written parliamentary questions, the Government stated that it did not have such information and that it was in discussion with local authorities. Today, the Government has again been defeated. Indeed, Parliament has just resolved that a clear statement needs to be made by the Government on the paucity of information that is provided to Parliament on the delivery of its policies.

Presiding Officer, will you confirm that, if a Government minister misleads a member in a written parliamentary answer, such behaviour has the same status as if it had happened in the chamber? Moreover, will you indicate how the Presiding Officers can protect this Parliament in the event that an early statement that is requested from this Government is not brought forward?

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

I find it difficult to respond to the member's point of order, because I need more details about the matter to which he refers. If he furnishes me with those details, I will return to the issue on another occasion.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Further to Mr Purvis's point of order and, indeed, to the points of order that Mr Purvis and I raised earlier today, will you rule whether it is acceptable to this Parliament and to you as Presiding Officer that the only way that members have any opportunity of getting the information that is available to the Government is through freedom of information legislation rather than through statements or information relayed to the chamber?

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

I might be able to understand the member's frustration, but, at the end of the day, it is a matter for the Government as to how it makes such information available.

Photo of Andrew Welsh Andrew Welsh Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. This morning, I raised a point of order about parliamentary language to which you promised a response. Do you have that response?

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

I do not believe that I promised to come back to the chamber on the matter. However, I am happy to do so.

When we looked into the records, we found that similar language has been used on 16 occasions by—I think I can safely say—prominent members of all parties. As a result, although I do not like such language when it is used directly at another member, I must accept that it has been used in the past. However, I encourage all members to absolutely minimise its use.