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Members may recall that the commission on parliamentary reform proposed that time be set aside during meetings of the Parliament for significant announcements from committees on urgent inquiries or to set out the findings of recently published reports. As agreed by the Parliamentary Bureau, we will trial the new procedure up to Christmas. In that context, I am pleased to call Bruce Crawford, who is the convener of the Finance and Constitution Committee, to make an announcement on common United Kingdom frameworks.
I welcome this new opportunity for parliamentary committees to highlight the work that they are undertaking, and the commission on parliamentary reform is to be commended for making such a useful recommendation.
On this first use of the new procedure, I bring to members’ attention the committee’s important inquiry on common frameworks. Last October, the United Kingdom and devolved Governments agreed that it would be beneficial to establish, post-Brexit, common approaches across the UK in policy areas such as justice, the environment, health and agriculture and fisheries, which are areas where a common policy approach is being delivered by virtue of the United Kingdom being a member state of the European Union.
The Governments have agreed principles to underpin the agreements. Those include principles to enable the functioning of the UK internal market while acknowledging policy divergence, to ensure that the UK can negotiate and implement new trade agreements and international treaties and to safeguard the security of the UK.
The common frameworks should matter to us all at Holyrood, as they will impact on the policy approaches that we scrutinise and will be asked to vote on in future.
I know that colleagues on other committees have also been looking at this significant issue. It is vital that this Parliament, civic Scotland, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders have a role in helping to shape and influence the development and agreement of the common frameworks.
In June, the Finance and Constitution Committee began its inquiry by seeking written views. We have since complemented our work with a fact-finding visit to Brussels, where we learned that meaningful engagement undertaken early and often is vital to ensuring success in finding agreement.
We will hold a round-table discussion in committee on 24 October and, with other parties, will host a conference at the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 2 November. Key sectoral representatives have been invited from across the UK, as well as from the UK and devolved Parliaments and Governments.
The frameworks are being developed right now, so the Finance and Constitution Committee will look to publish its findings as early as possible to ensure that the committee and Parliament are involved in helping to shape the direction and development of the frameworks at as early a stage as possible.
I hope that members will find the committee’s on-going work and the final report that it produces useful with regard to their own involvement in the development of common frameworks.