The Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee is proposing two sets of rule changes relating to legislation procedures.
The first set of changes is to implement some of the committee’s recommendations from its inquiry into legislation procedures. Many of our recommendations do not require changes to the Parliament’s rules, but better information about legislation procedures should be made available to encourage the public to engage with us. The committee will monitor how the recommendations have been implemented to ensure progress is made.
Certain other recommendations require changes to standing orders. First, we recommend a rule change to bring forward the deadline for lodging amendments at stage 2 by one day, making it four sitting days. We also recommend a similar change at stage 3, to bring forward the deadline from four to five sitting days. The purpose of the changes is to allow more time for MSPs and others to understand the amendments before a decision is taken on them.
We propose a rule change to require a wider range of delegated powers to be explained in the delegated powers memorandum. We recommend changing the rules to require all public bills containing delegated powers, and not simply Scottish Government bills, to be accompanied by a delegated powers memorandum.
We also propose to change the deadlines for producing revised or supplementary delegated powers memorandums and revised or supplementary financial memorandums. The proposed new rules mean more time will be protected for committees to scrutinise revised documents but, crucially, neither the member in charge of the bill nor the committees will be any worse off under the new rules. The rule changes will also help to improve the accessibility of the legislation process and protect more time for scrutiny.
We recommend that our successor committee monitors how the rules work in practice to ensure that they are operating as intended.
We also recommend rule changes to hybrid and private bills that affect third parties. The current rules state that any amendment to a hybrid bill that affects a private interest is not admissible if the holder of that interest has not had the opportunity to comment on it. That is based on identifying the need to consult new affected parties when an individual amendment is lodged and its admissibility is being determined. That simply is not always practical within the time available for lodging amendments.
We propose that there be a single deadline for all amendments at stage 2 of hybrid or private bills. The committee will reach a view on whether any amendments lodged adversely affect private interests. If the hybrid or private bill committee decides that one or more amendments adversely affect private interests, the committee will decide whether the amendments have merit. If it decides that they have such merit, the process of debating and deciding on amendments would be put on hold until those affected have had an opportunity to lodge objections to, and give evidence on, those amendments. If the committee decides that an amendment does not have merit, the amendment will fall at that point.
The advantage of that approach would be that, if there are several amendments that adversely affect private interests, they will all be identified at one point and consulted on at the same time, thus minimising the delay in the progress of the bill.
I am pleased to move motion S4M-15868, which stands in my name,
That the Parliament notes the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee’s 4th Report 2016 (Session 4), Standing Order Rule Changes - Legislation (SP Paper 927), and agrees that the changes to Standing Orders set out in Annexes A and C of the report be made with effect from 22 April 2016.
I acknowledge the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee’s thorough and measured assessment of the current legislative procedures used by the Parliament and the helpful improvements that it has identified.
To be clear, I support the changes that have been proposed by the committee as proportionate and practical ways of ensuring that we maintain an appropriate balance between efficiency and effectiveness in the scrutiny of bills. Government will play its part in ensuring that they are implemented in full in the next parliamentary session.
It will be important to monitor the practical impact of those changes to ensure that they do not give rise to any unintended consequences. I would encourage the committee’s successor to keep that matter under review.